Four-hundred Holden employees in South Australia will clock off for the last time today as the voluntary redundancies announced by the local car maker in April take effect.
The workers at Holden's vehicle assembly plant in Elizabeth represent 80 per cent of the employees planned to leave the company as part of the April job cuts, with a further 100 engineering staff from Holden's product development operations in Port Melbourne due to join them on the way out.
While the 400 Adelaide staff accepted the terms of the voluntary redundancy packages, Fairfax Media reports less than half the required number of Victorian employees has agreed to accept the voluntary package put before them.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union South Australia secretary John Camillo told Fairfax Holden might be required to look at forced redundancies if the target could not be reached purely through voluntary agreements.
Holden corporate affairs manager for South Australia Sean Poppitt said discussions were ongoing between Holden, its Victorian employees and relevant unions, but said the company was not in a position to comment on the details of those discussions or whether Holden was considering forced redundancies.
Poppitt said Holden was continuing to hold “productive discussions” with unions on the issue of the employee pay cuts announced last month that are intended to save the company $15 million.
Camillo told numerous sources that as many as 90 per cent of workers rejected Holden’s current request and would not agree to the proposal as it stood.
Poppitt said Holden would put a revised agreement before the workforce next week ahead of the vote on August 9.
“Holden is doing everything in its power to secure the future of our manufacturing plant and lay the long-term foundations necessary to achieve the next-generation program,” he said.
“Our plan remains to introduce two new global platforms into our Elizabeth facility.
“To execute this next-generation program there are several milestones we must achieve – the most crucial being reducing structural costs and improving productivity in our factory, along with the implementation of clear, consistent and globally competitive industry policy.”
The latest round of job cuts sees the size of the workforce in Elizabeth fall to approximately 1700, while vehicle production falls from 400 cars per day to 335.
Poppitt described the mood at the plant today as “bittersweet”, confirming Holden put on a free barbecue for all employees and distributed framed photos of the production teams and cars and other mementos as keepsakes for those leaving.
Holden manufacturing executive director Richard Phillips paid tribute to the departing workers in a statement today.
“I'd like to thank each and every departing employee for their hard work over the years and wish them the very best in the future,” Phillips said.
“Changes like voluntary redundancies are never easy but this program is a critical part of our efforts to secure the future of our factory and our industry.”