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Toyota workers out of jobs as car manufacturer closes Altona plant

2 October 2017 11:22 PM
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Toyota workers out of jobs as car manufacturer closes Altona plant

Thousands of Toyota workers are facing the reality of unemployment as the company's Melbourne factory winds down today — but it's not all doom and gloom at the Altona site.

Matthew Kinson, who has been with the company for 19 years, is among long-serving workers who now face a job market that has dramatically changed since they joined Toyota.

"A lot of us haven't had a job interview here for 20-odd years, so it's changed since we came here and filled out a bit of paper and walked in the door and started the next day," he said.

"So that's going to be a little bit difficult, because the reality of that is hard. But I'm not concerned that people won't find work coming from here."

Mr Kinson said the company had provided valuable re-skilling opportunities, including training in resume writing and job interview skills.

"To Toyota's credit, they've done a really good job to make sure everybody's in the best position to find another job," he said.

"It's not going to be easy, but we've already got a reference from Toyota. We've had a lot of employers come through and see what we do here and see how much pride people put into their work."

Mr Kinson, a trained panel beater and union delegate, said he planned to pursue a career in transportation after Toyota paid for him to get his truck licences.

It said it intended to produce 61,000 cars by the year's end — 26,000 for the domestic market and 34,000 to be sent overseas.

Mr Kinson said workers, who will mark the closure with a private barbecue this afternoon, had carried themselves with pride during the company's final years.

"There's a lot of people that are sad today but from where I stand they should be proud of themselves, because over the last four years since we've known that we're closing down not one person here has thrown in the towel," he said.

"They've actually thrived in an environment where it's doom and gloom … they've actually produced a very good car all the way to the end."

Victoria's Industry Minister Wade Noonan said it was "a terribly sad day" for the state.

"This, in every way, is an end of an era for manufacturing in Victoria. It's obviously a very sad day for thousands of workers who will lose their jobs, not just at Toyota but across the supply chain," he said.

Mr Noonan said the Andrews Government had been preparing for the closure for a long time, and had provided grants to 60 businesses to help create new jobs suitable for auto workers.

"There are plenty of terrific job prospects for those that will be transitioning during this period, but of course it will be easier for some than others, so we're also funding a job placement service for those who find it particularly difficult," he said.

"We have a strong labour market in Victoria and ex-auto workers have very valuable skills and experience which will be highly sought after by many employers."

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) secretary Dave Smith said while Toyota and Ford workers were highly skilled and had taken part in re-training programs, replacement jobs were hard to come by.

"It is not so hard to find a job. What is hard is to find a permanent job — a lot of our members have gone into casual or part-time work," he said.

"At Ford, a survey done just before the closure of plant [found] 100 per cent of the workers there said that they wanted full-time employment, who were looking for work.

"I think after some six months, only 35 per cent had found full-time jobs, and of course in Australia we have massive underemployment now."

Mr Noonan was critical of a lack of support he said the Federal Government had given, saying it had made the decision to push the auto industry offshore.

He said Victoria had asked the Federal Government to match the state's local industry fund to help workers find new jobs, but was rejected.

"Not only did the Turnbull Government turn its back on the automotive industry, they're now sadly turning their back on autoworkers and their families, particularly in their hour of need," he said.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said "changes in market taste" were behind car manufacturers' decisions to close Australian operations.

"The manufacturers who've progressively closed their operations in Australia have made it clear it's not because of failure of government subsidies."

Last month, the Federal Government tabled a response to a Senate inquiry into the future of Australia's automotive industry, which noted Toyota would maintain 150 highly skilled engineering and technical roles in Victoria.

The report said these jobs were on top of 1,750 engineers, designers and technicians retained by Ford in Victoria, and up to 350 design and engineering jobs to be kept by Holden.

"The future of manufacturing in Australia lies in these kinds of value-adding activities, from product concept, research and development, design and production to distribution and after-sales service," the Government's response said.

It said the Federal Government's $100 million Advanced Manufacturing Fund would "help car-related businesses move into other industries and fund tertiary engineering courses and research into manufacturing techniques".

As technology disrupts many traditional industries and causes unprecedented workplace change, the ABC is exploring the future of work. Visit ABC News Digital, tune into ABC Radio Melbourne and watch ABC News Victoria on October 1–3.

Source: abc.net.au

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