Toyota workers face reality of bus trip to redundancy

Clay Lucas April 17, 2012

It was the one-way bus trip to a wedding reception centre Toyota employees were desperate to avoid.

But for around 200 of the company's Altona plant workers yesterday, the trip - from factory floor to a Tarago or HiAce driven slowly across Grieve Parade to Grand Star Receptions - was the grim reality.

Another 100 workers or so will likely make the same bus trip today.

The redundancies were announced in January, with sagging international sales to the Middle East triggering the decision.

But workers didn't know who was going until yesterday, when Toyota management let them know in scenes that sacked workers said were needlessly cruel.

''It's pretty upsetting,'' said Chang Kim, with Toyota for 24 years until yesterday. ''So much effort - for this.'' Robert Takacs, at the car maker for a decade, said the sackings had been handled badly, and he was now desperate to find another job. ''We just bought a house. We have got a little one on the way.'' Workers sacked yesterday got four weeks' redundancy pay for every year of service, capped at 90 weeks.

Beefed up security saw around 30 extra guards stationed both inside and outside the plant, and across the road at the reception centre.

Workers who were to be fired were escorted from their workstations on the production line to their lockers, where they were handed a bag in which to deposit their belongings.

They were then ferried over the road to the reception centre, where a media pack awaited them as they alighted their mini-van.

Inside, they were handed a folder telling them the criteria for why they were losing their job. This criteria, said Paul Difelice from the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, had included points for ''Toyota values'', safety and attendance.

It was a sham for singling people out, he said, with Toyota specifically targeting union shop stewards, health and safety representatives and people on WorkCover.

''They picked the people who spoke up. It flies in the face of the company's supposed values, which talk about treating people with respect.''

Toyota spokeswoman Beck Angel said that the offers made to redundant workers yesterday had been agreed with the union last week.

She said the decision on who went came only after the entire workforce had been assessed, and those with the lowest scores across three categories - behaviour, skills and knowledge - were fired.

Some workers vowed yesterday to fight to get their jobs back, but workplace law expert Professor Andrew Stewart from Adelaide University said this was unlikely to be successful. He said employers were in an unenviable position when sacking large numbers of workers. ''There are many jobs where, literally within minutes of being fired, you are out of the building.''Workplace relations minister Bill Shorten said there was no good way to give employees bad news, but the more sympathetically it was delivered, the easier it was for those losing jobs.