October 31, 2013: Toyota CEO Max Yasuda informs workers that scheduled pay raises – one in April with another to follow in September — would crimp the automaker’s competitiveness and that concessions are needed to assure its future as a manufacturer in Australia. Approximately 90% of Toyota employees are members of the AMWU.
November 11, 2013: Toyota Executive Director Chris Harrod, wrote to employees detailing “the need to bring forward part of our 2015 Workplace Agreement negotiations” and remove “outdated and uncompetitive terms and conditions” from the Agreement. A laundry list of 27 proposed variations was proposed for negotiation. These were:
(i) reduction in the minimum Christmas shutdown period from 21 days to 8 days (ie from 25 December to 1 January);
(ii) reduction in the minimum notice period from 2 months to 1 month where Toyota needs to change a ‘rostered day off’ to a ‘programmed day off’ or vice versa;
(iii) instead of employees being required to be available to work a maximum of 20 hours overtime each month, employees must be available to work a minimum of 20 hours overtime each month;
(iv) reduction in paid training days for elected union representatives from 10 days per year (which can be pooled so that extra days can be taken by individuals if necessary) to 5 days in the first year of being an elected representative and 2 days per year thereafter (with no pooling allowed);
(v) removal of a 4 hour paid leave allowance to donate blood;
(vi) inclusion of a requirement for a medical certificate to be provided for each day of paid sick leave taken instead of employees having 5 days of paid sick leave without providing a medical certificate; and the inclusion of a requirement that employees notify their supervisor of an absence at least half an hour prior to the commencement of their shift instead of employees being required to notify management of their absence within the first hour after the commencement of their shift;
(vii) removal of a requirement for Toyota to hire 8 trade apprentices each year;
(viii) where an employee is required to move between areas of the Plant on the same shift, the current process for selection will remain but where agreement cannot be reached there will be no resort to the problem resolution procedure (ie issuing of a grievance) specified in the Agreement;
(ix) simplification of the counselling and disciplinary process to reduce the number of steps required to be taken by management while extending the time periods for employees to take corrective action;
(x) reduction in the number of steps to be taken as part of the problem resolution procedure, narrowing the definitions of ‘problem’ and ‘grievance’ and attempting to resolve problems within 24 hours of a problem being raised;
(xi) reduction in wash up time for particular employees with corresponding extension in rest period to standardise work practices across the Plant;
(xii) last shift prior to Christmas shutdown to be extended from a 5 hour shift to a full 8 hour shift;
(xiii) changes to shift pattern for ‘trades employees’ including a new requirement for all trades employees to work on weekends, reduction in overtime rates on weekends, restrictions on taking ‘programmed days off’ and a reduction in paid training hours;
(xiv) increased term for temporary fixed term contracts, increased scope for Toyota to retain temporary fixed term contractors and a reduction in the rate of pay for such contractors;
(xv) removal of a confined space allowance currently paid to employees working in confined spaces or in stooped or cramped positions;
(xvi) removal of a first-aid allowance currently paid to trained first-aid officers;
(xvii) removal of a respiratory allowance currently paid to paint shop employees who wear air fed respiratory equipment;
(xviii) removal of a dirt money allowance currently paid to employees who perform work that is unusually dirty or offensive;
(xix) removal of an electrical licensing allowance currently paid to licensed electrical workers;
(xx) no new competency skill payments to be paid to technical, engineering, clerical employees or supervisors;
(xxi) no new qualification payments to be paid to technical, engineering, clerical employees or supervisors;
(xxii) removal of payments currently made to employees who need to travel for work outside of ordinary work hours;
(xxiii) reduction in Sunday overtime rate of pay from double time and a half to double time;
(xxiv) reduction in overtime rates of pay for technical, clerical, engineering employees and supervisors;
(xxv) removal of annual leave loading (or shift premium, where applicable) paid to employees;
(xxvi) removal of a $700 annual reimbursement payment for employees who obtain income protection insurance;
(xxvii) removal of shift premiums paid to employees taking long service leave;
(xxviii) removal of a meal allowance paid to employees required to work overtime for more than two hours without being notified on the previous day or earlier; and
(xxix) removal of a requirement that where employees do not have a 30 minute unpaid meal break within six hours of the time they attend for work, employees working beyond six hours be paid time and a half until they receive a meal break.
December 3, 2013: Justice Mordecai Bromberg – former labour lawyer and Labor pre-selection candidate, previously best known for ruling against Andrew Bolt’s right to free speech — began hearing the unions’ application to stop Toyota workers voting for or against re-opening negotiations.
December 12, 2013: Bromberg rules that such a vote would violate the Fair Work Act, denying permission for rank-and-file union members to express their will one way or another.
February 10, 2014: As promised five months earlier by CEO Yasuda, Toyota announces that it shutter all manufacturing operations in Australia. Some 2500 workers at Toyota’s Altona plant will lose their jobs, along with an unknown number of those working for suppliers.
February 11, 2014: Opposition leader Bill Shorten blames Abbott & Co. for the closure of Australia’s last auto manufacturer. The reason, he explains, is because Australia has not subsidised car makers to the same extent as in Europe.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online