Holden has been forced to issue involuntary redundancies at its Elizabeth assembly plant in South Australia for the first time in 28 years after it failed to convince enough workers to voluntarily accept redundancy packages announced in April.
Last month, Holden confirmed plans to cut 270 full-time workers from its production line by May 25 and had hoped the majority of redundancies would be voluntary rather than forced.
But the car maker has today confirmed that it “unfortunately had to carry out a number of involuntary redundancies”, forcing workers who did not want to leave the company out the door.
Holden has not revealed how many of the 270 redundancies issued this week were forced, though yesterday the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) estimated the number could be up to 90, representing one third of the latest round of job cuts.
In a statement, the car maker described the process of issuing both voluntary and involuntary redundancies as a “very difficult” one.
“Our overriding goal is to treat our people with the respect and dignity they deserve and we appreciate the impact decisions like this have on employees and their families.
“Holden is committed to supporting staff through this transition process. Through Holden’s $15 million contribution to the Federal Government Growth Fund, all our people have access to career counselling, training and job-search assistance, and will continue to have access to this support network after they leave Holden.
“Our people are passionate committed, skilled and hardworking and we will support them to find employment outside of Holden.”
The latest round of redundancies cuts Holden’s Elizabeth plant workforce to approximately 1260 employees, and from next week daily production will be scaled back from 290 to 240 vehicles per day.
AMWU South Australian secretary John Camillo described the situation as “a sad day for workers, for Adelaide and for Australia”.
“We knew this day was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier for workers or the community,” Camillo said.
“Our focus today is helping members and their families get through this difficult time.
Camillo said the union was also concerned about the immediate flow-on effects from the Elizabeth plant’s reduced production rate into the components sector, which he believes will “now no doubt see job losses”, affecting “the entire Adelaide community”.
He called on the Federal Government to boost its funding to help create new jobs and to secure the components sector by assisting parts makers with plans to expand into new products and markets.
The AMWU is critical of the Federal Government’s allocation of just $57 million for its New Generation Manufacturing Investment Program given that it has been flooded with applications for funding worth almost 10 times that amount.
“The opportunity is there for the Federal Government to help these firms expand, create new jobs, but they are sitting on $800 million in Automotive Transformation Scheme funds,” Camillo said.
“But so far we’ve seen almost no action – and most of the ATS funds unspent, and unallocated.
“South Australia has put $10 million into assisting components firms with a viable business case, but federal funding is woefully inadequate. It shows Canberra’s mindset is far from Adelaide’s reality.”
Sales of locally produced Holden vehicles are down 14.1 per cent so far this year, falling to 15,765 to the end of April. Holden Cruze sales are down 11.5 per cent to 5236 (includes South Korean-made Cruze wagon), Commodore sedan and Sportwagon sales are down 16.8 per cent to 8780, Caprice sales are down 1.6 per cent to 434, and Holden Ute sales are down 16.2 per cent to 1624.
Despite the downward trend, Holden today reaffirmed it remains committed to building cars at its Elizabeth plant until the end of 2017, and selling imported cars in the Australian market for many years after that.