Claims union boss blocked Toyota wage, productivity talk

There are claims that a union official taking part in a recent emergency car industry summit dismissed Toyota Australia’s attempt to discuss labour costs and weak productivity.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the meeting in question was chaired by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It followed Ford Australia’s decision to cease manufacturing in Australia from 2016.

The claim has particular relevence since Holden's claim that it may cease manufacturing in Australia if workers don't agree to pay cuts.

According to an AFR source, Toyota executive David Buttner raised the issue of high wages and poor productivity. However, he was shut down by Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary David Oliver who refused to discuss wages and productivity at the summit.

Industry Minister Greg Combet co-chaired the summit with Ms Gillard. According to his spokesman, the issue of wages and productivity were raised but the discussion was not shut down.

In addition, the spokesman said that Combet had always encouraged car makers to improve productivity through co-operative workplace relations.

The communiqué issued from the summit made no mention of workplace relations or productivity. It was criticised for neglecting these two important issues.  

When asked about the summit Oliver told the AFR, “Unlike others, I am not going to discuss the proceedings of meetings which people have agreed to participate in on an in camera basis.”

He added that the “union movement's consistent position on productivity is that … a simplistic race to the bottom on wages and conditions is a dead-end strategy.”