Toyota AU workers threatened for unwillingness to strike

The 2011 labor negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit Three have been a relatively quiet affair so far, but the story is a bit different on the other side of the globe. Toyota and the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union aren't seeing eye to eye, which has lead to a strike at facilities in Melbourne and Sydney. Well, most of the union's rank and file are striking.

Australia's The Age reports that 400 of the 3,300 workers have crossed the picket line and returned to work building Camry and Aurion models, and union members are less than thrilled. In fact, striking workers have been less than subtle in threatening those 400 workers, issuing letters calling the line-crossers "f--- scabs," and adding "we know where you live."

The threats have not been well-received by union management, with national secretary Dave Smith issuing a statement saying that there was no place for threats and intimidation at work. Still, the line-crossing workers have to feel less than safe after receiving threats like "payback is a bitch three-fold" and "we know what car you drive."

Workers are striking for a 12 percent raise over three years. Toyota has offered an 11 percent raise over 39 months split into four installments. You can check out Toyota's official response to the strike in a statement available after the jump.


Toyota Australia today said that planned industrial action over a wage claim at its Altona manufacturing plant and Toyota Parts Centres in Melbourne and Sydney will undermine the stability and reliability of its Australian vehicle manufacturing operations.

Toyota President and Chief Executive Officer Max Yasuda said: "The stoppages will cause significant short term pain and have long term consequences for suppliers, dealers and customers. 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 of 11 percent over 39 months is fair and reasonable and has varied the payment timings in response to concerns raised by employees. The latest offer has not been rejected or accepted by the unions.

"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," Mr Yasuda said.

Toyota Australia currently exports 70 percent 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.

"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," he said.

Toyota Australia said that due to the industrial stoppages, lost production may not be recovered, leading to product delivery delays or cancelled customer orders.

"I am disappointed that industrial action is taking place at a time when we should be building the sustainability of manufacturing in Australia. These production stops - in addition to union action taken earlier in the month - puts further pressure on Toyota's operations and on our local automotive suppliers who are already dealing with vehicle volumes currently lower than Global Financial Crisis levels," Mr Yasuda said.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union (ETU) of Australia's members undertook a 24 hour stoppage on 2 September 2011 and notified Toyota Australia they would undertake protected industrial action every Thursday and Friday for three weeks (8,9,15,16 22 and 23 September 2011) and ban working overtime effective from 8 September 2011.

Fair Work Australia granted an interim order suspending industrial action for 8 and 9 September 2011. However, Fair Work Australia has dismissed the company's application for suspension or termination of future notified industrial action.

Toyota Australia deeply regrets any inconvenience caused to its customers, suppliers, dealers and employees who are impacted by this action.

Toyota Australia continues to be willing to hold discussions with the Unions and employees to achieve an agreement.

The Altona plant produces the 4 cylinder Camry, Hybrid Camry, and 6-cylinder Aurion models. More than 3300 employees build 559 cars per day, for domestic and export customers. Toyota Australia produced more that 119,000 vehicles in 2010.

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