Strikes hurting Australia's export future: Toyota CEO

The head of Toyota Australia has threatened that the continued industrial action over pay increases could put the future of Toyota’s local vehicle production in jeopardy.
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Toyota Australia President and CEO, Max Yasuda, said production disruptions not only caused short-term disorder for manufacturer’s 3300 employees and 11,000 suppliers, but could also have much more serious long-term implications.

"We must compete with Toyota plants around the world for the right to build cars and to supply export markets,” Mr Yasuda said.“We are already under severe competitive disadvantage due to currency, high local costs and reduced volumes. We need to work together to reduce costs and improve our competitiveness. Industrial action at this time can only hurt Toyota Australia's case to maintain its export program.

Mr Yasuda bluntly admitted that if Australia’s operations were perceived as uncompetitive or unreliable by the Toyota Motor Corporation executives in Japan, production of our Camry, Hybrid Camry and Aurion could easily be shifted overseas.

"It puts a serious dent in Australia's reputation as a car maker and reduces job security for our employees," he said.“I am disappointed that industrial action is taking place at a time when we should be building the sustainability of manufacturing in Australia.“These production stops – in addition to union action taken earlier in the month – puts further pressure on Toyota's operations and on our local automotive suppliers who are already dealing with vehicle volumes currently lower than Global Financial Crisis levels.”

Toyota Australia built 119,000 cars at its Altona plant in Melbourne in 2010. Approximately 70 per cent of the vehicles manufactured at Altona are exported, with the majority delivered to the Middle East.

The company’s “fair and reasonable” offer of an 11 per cent pay raise over 39 months is still on the table, but according to Toyota has neither be accepted nor rejected by the unions. The unions are believed to be steadfast in their pursuit of a 12 per cent increase over 36 months.

Production workers, lead by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), stopped work for 24 hours on September 2, and planned further industrial action for Thursday and Friday of the following three weeks (September 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23) and a ban on overtime from September 8.

Toyota applied to Fair Work Australia (FWA) last week to stop the industrial action, and FWA granted an interim order suspending industrial action for last Thursday and Friday.

However, FWA has since dismissed Toyota’s application for suspension or termination of the industrial action, which means the workers and unions are free to strike as planned.

Workers at the Altona production plant and the Toyota Parts Centres in Melbourne and Sydney are expected to strike tomorrow.

Toyota Australia says it is still willing to hold discussions with unions and workers to reach an agreement.