More strikes over Toyota wage dispute

More than 3,300 Toyota workers are planning more strikes in Melbourne and Sydney over an unresolved wage dispute at Toyota’s Altona manufacturing plant earlier this month.

Workers are planning industrial action at Toyota’s Parts Centres in Melbourne and Sydney after rejecting an offer of 11% pay raises over 39 months.

Toyota Australia says the newest round of strikes will undermine the stability and reliability of its local vehicle manufacturing operations, and is pleading with workers and the unions to be flexible.

“The stoppages will cause significant short term pain and have long term consequences for suppliers, dealers and customers,” said Toyota president and chief executive officer Max Yasuda.

“More than 3,300 employees and up to 11,000 supplier employees and their families will be impacted.”

The company maintains that its wage increase proposal is more than fair – it has already varied the payment timings in response to concerns raised by employees.

Executives at the company are now worried that continued industrial action will harm its global competitiveness, especially since the Australian manufacturing sector is currently dealing with various other uncertainties, including the high Australian dollar, the price on carbon and rising electricity costs. 

“We have shown flexibility in seeking an agreement. The company expects that an agreement should be reached without the need to take industrial action. We just want to maintain and grow our business and offer job security for employees,” Yasuda said.

Unions reportedly rejected Toyota Australia’s pay offer during negotiations at the Altona plant on 7 September. 

Toyota’s offer of an 11% increase over 39 months with varied spilt of an initial 2% rise, followed by 2.5%, then 3% and subsequently 3.5% rise was rejected, reportedly on the percentage split.

Fairwork Australia granted an interim suspension of all industrial action at the Altona plant for the following two days because the car maker was able to prove that further industrial action would have significant economic effect for both the company and the Australian automotive industry, including suppliers and dealers who work or deal with the Toyota brand.

Toyota Australia’s Lauren Hill told Manufacturers’ Monthly that the automotive maker is disappointed that an agreement hasn’t been able to be reached but confirmed that it will continue to hold discussions with employees and unions in a bid to reach an agreement.

Toyota Australia currently exports 70% of its annual Altona plant production volume, primarily to the Middle East.

“We must compete with Toyota plants around the world for the right to build cars and to supply export markets. We are already under severe competitive disadvantage due to currency, high local costs and reduced volumes. We need to work together to reduce costs and improve our competitiveness. Industrial action at this time can only hurt Toyota Australia’s case to maintain its export program,” said Toyota president Yasuda.

“If Australian operations are uncompetitive and perceived as unreliable, these cars can be made in another Toyota plant. It puts a serious dent in Australia’s reputation as a car maker and reduces job security for our employees.”