Auto Slowdown in Australia: Ford Slashes Jobs, Toyota Scales Back

The auto industry employs almost 60,000 people in Australia.

Ford said on April 14 that it will shed 240 jobs in Australia and cut daily production by 20%, while Toyota scaled back work hours due to supply problems after Japan's quake-tsunami.

Ford said the decision was made after a slump in demand for large cars, such as the Falcon and Territory, with plans to redeploy workers at its Geelong and Broadmeadows plants in Victoria state "wherever possible."

Voluntary redundancy packages would be offered where alternative roles were not an option.

"We believe the actions we're taking now will stabilzse our (vehicle) volumes going forward," said Ford Australia president Bob Graziano.

He said 240 jobs would be cut from July, bringing the company's manufacturing workforce down from 1,800 employees to 1,560, and its total staff from 3,400 to 3,160.

Production would be cut from 260 to 209 cars a day.

"Unfortunately, commercial decisions have meant that Ford needs to re-balance its operations to meet the demands of the market," said Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr.

"The government is very concerned at any job losses in manufacturing, and especially concerned at job losses in Australia's automotive manufacturing industry."

In a double blow, Toyota said the effect of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan meant manufacturing workers at its Altona plant, also in Victoria, will work a half-day shift from May 9.

"It is important to note that this is a necessary response to a short-term supply issue and we intend to resume 100% vehicle production as quickly as possible," said manufacturing director Chris Harrod.

"Our focus is on ensuring optimum stock management to reduce the impact on customers of the immediate production shortfalls. It may be difficult to avoid some inconvenience for some customers."

"The company, workers and their unions have worked together to ensure that jobs (in Australia) will be kept, and it is my understanding that the jobs of Toyota workers are not at risk," he said. "I look forward to a speedy recovery of the Japanese suppliers and will be encouraging Australian component manufacturers to redouble their efforts to fill the gap."

Canberra extended a multi-billion-dollar lifeline to the nation's ailing auto industry at the height of the global financial crisis, after Ford cut 450 jobs.

It also offered Holden -- Australia's third major auto firm -- a Aus$200 million ($210 million) credit line in 2009 after parent General Motors filed for bankruptcy, handing 60% of the company to Washington.

Holden returned to profit this month for the first time in five years.

The auto industry employs almost 60,000 people according to the latest government data, with 14.1% of the 1.04 million new cars sold last year in Australia locally made, and exports valued at Aus$3.6 billion.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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