The federal government will intervene to allow Toyota workers to vote on proposed changes to its industrial relations policy, Employment Minister Eric Abetz says.
Toyota is seeking to add various clauses in its enterprise agreement to improve productivity.
Among these are reducing the “Christmas shutdown” period from 21 days to 10 days, reducing the number of paid days’ leave to attend union delegate training from 10 days a year to five days in the first year and two days in subsequent years, and removal of paid “wash up time”.
“It is clearly in the public interest that the workers be allowed to vote on Toyota’s proposed variations and determine their own destiny,” Senator Abetz told guests at The Sydney Institute on Tuesday.
“Tonight I announce that I have decided to intervene in support of Toyota’s workers being allowed a say as soon as possible on the proposed variation.”
He said the clauses should not have been proposed for the agreement in the first place.
He said 1586 working days, or about $370,000 in wages, are lost by a clause that would allow a half day on the last day before shutdown.
If all 69 of the company’s union delegates took the full 10 days’ paid leave for education activity, this resulted in 690 working days lost, or about $150,000 in wages, he said.
“These are just two instances of how more than 2000 working days worth of productivity could be re-injected into Toyota immediately,” he said.
“Management needs to accept responsibility.
“But it is deeply troubling that the employees’ right to vote on proposed variations has been frustrated.”
Senator Abetz also used his speech – titled “Industrial Relations after the Thirty Years War” – to criticise the previous Labor government’s economic record.
He accused Labor leader and former industrial relations minister Bill Shorten of granting “an unseemly range of union wish-list claims”, while former Prime Minister Julia Gillard played “Santa Claus” to union demands.
“Every union boss, like a child writing to Father Christmas, presented their wish list to the government, which was duly granted,” he said.