Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pledged more than $50 million to support the workers, businesses and regions affected by Ford Australia’s decision to close its Victorian manufacturing plants in October 2016.
Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano this morning confirmed the company’s plan to cease local vehicle production, which will lead to the loss of 1200 jobs across the Broadmeadows assembly and Geelong engine plants.
Graziano said there would be “limited” opportunities for manufacturing workers to fill other roles within Ford Australia, admitting that the majority would be made redundant and be forced to leave the company.
Prime Minister Gillard described today as a “distressing day for the company’s workforce, suppliers and the broader communities affected”, but promised to support those impacted by the announcement.
“The Australian and Victorian governments are working together to do everything we can to look after the interests of the Ford workforce, the automotive supply chain and the communities of Geelong and Broadmeadows in Melbourne,” Gillard said.
Gillard pledged almost $40 million to “structural adjustment programs to support the economic development and diversification of the Geelong and northern Melbourne regions”, with around three-quarters of that figure to be supplied by the Federal Government.
“We will be seeking a significant contribution to this effort from Ford Australia,” she added.
The Federal Government will also support businesses and workers in the automotive supply chain by providing an additional $10 million for the Automotive New Markets Program, while Victoria will make a $2 million contribution to support its component suppliers.
Ford Australia received hundreds of million of dollars in federal and state government support over the past decade as sales of its once-dominant Falcon large car steadily dwindled to unsustainable levels.
Gillard confirmed that Ford Australia did not approach either government for additional support to keep its Australian manufacturing operations going in the lead-up to today’s announcement, however, signalling, as expected, that the end has been imminent for some time.
The Prime Minister said she had confidence in the strength and resilience of the people in the automotive manufacturing industry endure the latest major setback and come out the other side.
“Ford Australia has not announced any immediate job losses, giving workers time to plan their future and seek assistance in gaining new employment,” Gillard said.
“We will work with all of the important stakeholders, including unions, local communities and business organisations to design programs that will generate new and exciting opportunities for jobs and investment.”
Ford Australia CEO Graziano insisted the company was committed to continuing as a centre for excellence in global vehicle research and development beyond the end of local production in 2016. Ford has more than 1000 product development workers in Australia, giving it more designers and engineers than any other automotive company in Australia, including fellow manufacturers Holden and Toyota.
Despite today’s announcement, Gillard said her government had no plans to give up on the local industry.
“The Australian and Victorian Governments will continue to support Australian manufacturing, and the local car industry, as an important source of jobs, innovation and growth.”