Jane Holroyd and Clay Lucas April 16, 2012
Charles Allan has worked for Toyota for 18 years. Photo: Penny Stephens
At least 30 security guards have assembled in and around the entrance to Toyota’s Altona manufacturing plant this morning as the company begins sacking one in ten people who work there.
Toyota’s Australian boss Max Yasuda announced in late January that 350 jobs would be slashed from the Altona plant — Australia’s largest Toyota plant — blaming the high dollar and falling demand for its vehicles.
Workers who have waited 13 weeks to find out whether they will be sacked will be notified today and tomorrow. This morning security guards were entering the plant and massing at entrances as a large media contingent looked on. The additional security guards have been hired to escort sacked workers from the premises.
Toyota spokesman Glenn Campbell confirmed this morning that sackings at the plant had started at 7am and would be completed by tomorrow night.
He denied the security guards had been hired to intimidate angry staff and said the union representing the workers, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, had requested extra security during its negotiations with Toyota.
‘‘They are just there to oversee,’’ Mr Campbell said of the security guards. ‘‘It is not heavy-handed. It’s just part of the process we need to go through. They are there mainly to oversee and to help workers move from one part of the (plant) to other areas.’’
But AMWU organiser Leigh Diehm said the way Toyota was treating its staff this morning was "absolutely disgusting" and that the union had not made the request for security guards.
"They are driving a bus around the site and pulling people off the production line," he said.
The union had been in discussion with Toyota for 10 weeks, he said, and there was no need to remove workers in this way.
About 320 production line workers at Toyota are expected to today be told they have no job, and tomorrow about 30 trade maintenance employees are to go.
Charles ‘‘Chook’’ Allan was among the first workers told this morning he had lost his job. Mr Allan, 43, has been working at the Altona plant for 18 years and said he was still in shock.
‘‘I’m a mad Kangaroos supporter and I’m still on a bit of a high from the win last night and I don’t think it has really sunk in yet,’’ he told theage.com.au. ‘‘It’s been a tough week not knowing and not sleeping well. But this morning I just had this funny feeling that I was going.’’
Mr Allan, who has spent the past two years working on the engine line, said he and about 50 of his co-workers had been assembled at 7am and told of their sacking by a company representative. Sacked workers were then addressed by a union representative before the group was bussed to another part of the plant where they were spoken to individually and given paperwork to sign.
Mr Allan said he did not feel bitter towards the company, but ‘‘disappointed’’.
‘‘I’ve made a lot of good friends at Toyota, and to not even be given the opportunity to say goodbye (is) very disappointing ... Toyota is very good at making themselves look good with sponsorships and everything but their own workers are just ushered out the door and told, ‘Here is your money, don’t call us’.’’
Mr Allan said the presence of the security guards at the plant today was unnecessary and demeaning. ‘‘I’ve worked there for 18 years. What am I going to do? Scratch a car? Give me a break.’’
Mr Allan was told he would not be given his redundancy money until he returned his Toyota lease car to the company. He said he would have to use a portion of his severance pay to buy a car. ‘‘They could have paid for a taxi to get us home at least,’’ he said. He said he did not know what he was going to do next. ‘‘For 18 years that’s all I’ve known. Now I have to go home and tell my wife.’’
Mr Campbell said workers who had lost their jobs would be offered support services, including counselling.
He added that workers had been given the opportunity to express an interest in being made redundant over the past two weeks, and workers who had been successful in their application had been informed last Friday, the day after Toyota completed a 10-week period of negotiation with AMWU representatives.