Oh what a f****d feeling Toyota
Toyota: 350 sacked, thrown on the dust heap of unemployment, dumped. Security guards on site to escort the workers off the premises. Workers, some of whom had more than 30 years service, with their lives destroyed.
Those sacked have complained of being treated like dogs.
The workers and their union have known since January that 350 would be sacked. There has been no fight from the union leadership, no defence of jobs, not even a threat of a campaign let alone strikes.
According to Alison Cardwell on The World Today on ABC radio a spokeswoman for Toyota said that ’the terms of the confidential redundancy packages were agreed to by the union, the company and Fair Work Australia.’
It looks like the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union negotiated a redundancy package with Toyota instead of fighting for jobs.
The 30 pieces of silver will help some workers survive for a while. But they will have to find new jobs eventually to keep paying off the mortgage, to put food on the table.
Of course, the fact that these 350 workers were identified as ‘under-performers’ to justify sacking them makes getting a new job even harder. Leave aside the destruction of their own feelings of self-worth and confidence.
This is from the ABC news website:
Toyota says all employees at the manufacturing plant were assessed for redundancy using selection criteria agreed on by the union. Those criteria included behaviour, skills and knowledge.
The union response has been that the criteria were not followed and those sacked were people Toyota didn’t like. A later union response reported in the AFR of 17 April has been to deny being involved in negotiations over the criteria.
It looks like union delegates and activists are over-represented in the figures.
Well blow me down with a feather, that’s a surprise. Toyota not playing by the rules and targeting unionists. Who’d have thunk it?
A better question might be why did the union capitulate in the first place without a fight? Now the fight back looks like it will be legal action. That could take a while and meanwhile the workers sacked have no income.
Will the sacked workers get new jobs? Manufacturing jobs, indeed any suitable jobs, are scarce in Western Melbourne. There have been other factories in the region closing down.
For most of the workers, especially the older ones and those whose English might not be great, any job will be difficult to find. The idea of taking up mining jobs in outback Australia is ludicrous for most of those sacked.
The Labor Government has spoken of helping the sacked workers find jobs. It’s bullshit from them for the cameras. This from a government who have got rid of or will get rid of thousands of public servants, again with no fightback from the tame cat unions.
Why did this happen? Toyota blames the high Australian dollar.
This does two things. It makes imported cars cheaper. About 80 percent of new cars sold in Australia are now imported.
Second it makes Australian exports, including cars, more expensive. So Toyota can’t sell their cars in Australia and they can’t sell them overseas.
Despite the billion governments of both persuasions have pumped into the car industry in Australia, Toyota can consign 350 workers to unemployment overnight.
Real control rests not with government but with capital when it comes to production.
And it is beginning to look like the union might have been caught napping. It is early days but all of their actions – negotiating redundancy terms, supposedly agreeing to criteria for sacking workers, even, Toyota alleges, agreeing to security guards but I’d take that with a big grain of salt just yet – indicate the union has smoothed management’s way to the sackings rather than fight them.
Was there or is there an alternative? Well, not too far from where the Toyota plant is in Altona is Laverton North and a chicken processing factory called Baiada Poultry.
200 mostly migrant workers defied the company, the courts, the cops and scabs for 13 days on the picket line to win. After years of being treated like crap, they won among other things real pay increases, site rates for all workers, including casuals and new procedures for dealing with bullying and harassment.
‘No one in, no one out’ was the key to the success of the picket. This was, as Allyson Hose in a Socialist Alternative pamphlet put it, how class struggle unionism can win.
That’s what didn’t happen at Toyota. It still could if the union and remaining workforce organised such action to win back the jobs of all the 350 who have been sacked.
But, some pedants will say, people still want to buy chickens, but not Toyota lemons.
Well, the plant is still in operation, just with ten percent less staff. So if all staff stopped work and picketed, they’d stop any revenue at all for the company.
An occupation of the Toyota plant may have forced the Government to support the workers there and their jobs.
And it might have opened up new ways of doing things like workers running the factory without the bosses.
Australia is facing an environmental crisis. One part of the solution is cheap public transport in major cities. Where better to build those buses, trains and light rail than a car factory?
Or the factory could have begun planning to produce renewable energy products like wind turbines and wings and solar panels in plants across Australia.
Profit stands in the way of that sort of rational activity happening. It sees 350 workers at Toyota sacked.
Those sackings show yet again the absolute bankruptcy of capitalism as a way to organise production. They also show the need to fight for jobs, to follow the lead of the Baiada poultry workers and strike and picket and if needed go that extra step and occupy the workplace to win.