Lower US exports blamed for Holden shift change

The United States purchasing a lower-than-anticipated number of cars from GM Holden in 2011 has forced the vehicle manufacturer to cut the second shift at its assembly plant, axing 150 casual jobs.

Holden announced the shift change yesterday, claiming the Elizabeth, South Australia plant would produce less cars in less time moving forward.

Though the number of cars being produced has dropped only slightly, the vehicle manufacturer will save money by moving the permanent workers from their second shift to their first shift, where they will be able to assemble cars in 60 seconds rather than the previous 125 seconds.

According to Manufacturing Minister, Senator Kim Carr, Holden’s move highlights how difficult the situation is in the automotive industry.

“Our concern is with anybody that loses a job and particularly in these times we know how tough it is in manufacturing,” he said during an interview with Sky News.

“The situation here is a simple case of the dollar being so high that the level of exports is being reduced, and that the number of vehicles that the company was hoping to sell to the United States has been smaller than anticipated and so there’s been some changes within the organisation of the Elizabeth plant in South Australia.”

The South Australia and Australian governments are currently working with Holden’s parent company, General Motors, in Detroit, to secure more investment for the local operations. 

A similar package was secured for Ford last month, including $103 million of funding and 300 new jobs.

Senator Carr says he was aware there would need to be job losses this year, however he also says the government has a plan for the automotive industry to keep it running until at least 2012.

“Well we’ve understood the situation and the economic circumstances of the company, and we have had prior advice of just how difficult things are in the company at the moment,” he said.

“We have been discussing these issues with the company for some time and we will of course be able to work through these details as we move through this month and I’m hopeful that by next month we’ll be able to make further public statements on this matter. 

On the 2012 plan, Senator Carr said: “That’s right, and we are in the business of providing co-investment support. We have a plan that goes out to 2021, unlike the Liberal Party which has a proposition to end assistance in – at 2016, which would see the end of the automotive industry in this country, and would see the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

 

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