Toyota begins shedding 350 workers from its Altona manufacturing plant

Toyota Australia has begun shedding workers from its Altona, Victoria manufacturing plant, due to “unprecedented operating conditions”.

In January, the vehicle manufacturer flagged 350 redundancies would be offered, as part of a business review following “significant pressure” on its operations.

The workers have known since January that 350 workers would get their marching orders, however no one knew who would be on the list.

According to a 7NEWS report, Toyota brought in extra security guards today to manage the sackings, of which 88 were volunteered and 262 were forced.

The report claimed workers were taken to a reception centre across the road from the car-making facility to be told the bad news.

When Toyota announced in January that its workforce would be downsized by 350 people, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) claimed the move was “unacceptable”.

AMWU Vehicle Division secretary Ian Jones said at the time that forced redundancies were unusual in the car industry.

"Toyota seems to have this view about compulsory redundancies which we are going to have to dissuade them from," he said.

"We haven't had compulsory redundancies in the car industry in this country for two decades (other than a planned closure). We're simply saying the enterprise agreement provides for voluntary, and it also provides for compulsory.

“You'd think voluntary would be the first step, and then compulsory would be a step you may move to if you don't get the requisite numbers under voluntary."

Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda said in January that the company would do its best to make the redundancies as painless as possible for the affected employees.

“It is unfortunate that we have to take this action and we will ensure affected employees are supported during this process,” he said.

"In consideration of current and anticipated market conditions this action is necessary. It is not possible to maintain our workforce at its current size.

"Toyota Australia is facing severe operating conditions resulting in unsustainable financial returns due to factors including the strong Australian currency, reduced cost competitiveness and volume decline, especially in export markets."

Toyota Australia’s vehicle manufacturing production levels have reportedly reduced from 149,000 in 2007, to 94,000 in 2011, with an expected 95,000 cars to be made this year.

A combination of the high Australian dollar and reduced export demand for vehicles has put enormous pressure on local car manufacturers this year.

Toyota refused to accept government funding to prop-up its ailing vehicle manufacturing operations earlier this year, following news that Holden and Ford would both receive funding.