Unions are speculating that automotive maker Holden will begin cutting jobs within two month as it moves its design work for the Commodore off-shore.
The decision to scale down Commodore production in Australian will result in approximately 350 engineers loosing their jobs at Holden. The result is expected to see thousands of jobs go across the automotive supply and manufacturing industry.
The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) chief executive Chris Walton said Holden has advised him of its plans to off-shore its Commodore design process, stuff.co.nz has reported.
Walton was reported to have said that job losses could start early 2012 in the lead-up to the move and has called on the automotive maker to confirm whether they will engineer and design post-2014 Commodore model in Australia.
According to Walton, the design process of the 2016-17 Commodore model should start early next year which means off-shoring the design process could have an immediate affect on jobs for Holden staff as well as Holden component suppliers.
"Unless that decision is made in the next couple of months, our members will start losing their jobs in the first quarter of next year,” Walton said.
Holden general manager Mike Devereux said the union’s claims were not true.
“The things that we’re talking to the union about are things that are near the end of this decade, many years from now, and frankly they’re confidential conversations which we’re supposed to have in the course of bargaining with our union,” Mr Devereux said in a report by the Sun Herald.
“The next-generation Commodore is an Australian car, we engineered and designed it in Port Melbourne, we’re going to build it in Adelaide,” he said on ABC radio.
“Holden is, for example, the Commodore, is 100 per cent designed, engineered, manufactured in Australia today and the next Commodore 100 per cent designed, engineered, manufactured in Australia for many, many, many more years.”
Devereux said Holden has an internal plan to engineer in Australia, however did not disclose what would be engineered in Australia or which specific car models will be engineered or design here after 2014.
“What I can tell you specifically is that it is difficult today to do things in Australia, to continue to manufacture things in Australia with the economic and political climate that we’ve got, and we at Holden fight every single day for the right to continue to do the three things that we do here…that is to design, build and engineer cars," he said.
“There is definitely a role for Australia in the long-term plan.”
However, no final decision has been made about the future of the Commodore.
“The issues being raised in the media relate to confidential discussions with the engineering union, APESMA, as part of the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations which are currently under way,” Devereux said.
“This speculation also relates to decisions for new products – which Australians won’t see until closer to the end of the decade – and these decisions have not been finalised yet.”
Devereux added that Holden does not comment on its EBA negotiations in the media, nor does it speculate about very long-term future models. “We certainly don’t intend to give our global competitors a free kick,” he said.
While it appears the unions have kicked up a storm before the "clouds" have actually rolled in over the future of Commodore production in Australia, the news allows industry a glimpse in to the sort of questions up for discussion by unions and manufacturers over Australia’s declining manufacturing industry.
One thing is for sure, the comments remain unsettling for the local automotive industry as the decision to off-shore production remains a real possibility.
Recently, Toyota was at the subject of similar speculations as it struggled to reach an agreement with unions over pay rises for it workers.
Toyota did not comment when asked about the rumours, however assured Manufacturers’ Monthly last month that it was working with unions to reach an agreement. The company recently reached a principle agreement with unions.
Image: Holden chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux