Ford Australia faces days of lost production after a strike at a components supplier forced the car giant to stand down 1250 employees at its two Victorian plants.
Eight hundred Ford workers at Broadmeadows and 450 staff at Geelong were stood down yesterday after workers at Venture Industries went on an indefinite strike, claiming they were owed $25 million in entitlements.
Ford uses a range of parts produced by Venture, including bumper bars, dashboard consoles, interior panels and door trims.
“The cessation of parts delivery from Venture will result in the company standing down part of its assembly, stamping and engine plants from close of business (yesterday) until the supply of parts from Venture resumes,” Ford said.
“This is a temporary action only, and their jobs at Ford are not at risk.”
However, senior union officials warned last night the strike at Venture could stretch into next week, with concerns the company intended to shut the business without paying out millions of dollars in entitlements.
Ian Jones, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's vehicle division, said the 500 employees intended to strike is indefinite until they receive commitments about the $25.5 million in entitlements they were owed.
Mr Jones said the union had agreed to the company's demand that 230 Venture employees, more than 40 per cent of the Campbellfield workforce, be made redundant but only if they were paid out their entitlements.
He said the union was extremely concerned about the company's intentions, claiming Venture had recently sold the land where the plant was located, had mortgaged the company equipment, and that its tools were owned by Ford.
Mr Jones said that during talks with the union, Venture management had threatened to shut the plant if the employees took industrial action.
He said management had also suggested it would be cheaper for the company to close the Campbellfield operation and reopen elsewhere rather than pay out the entitlements.
Venture management declined to comment yesterday. But Steve Dargavel, the union's Victorian secretary, said last night that Venture had agreed to talks today.
Mr Jones said a hearing had been scheduled for the Industrial Relations Commission on Tuesday but Venture was likely to come under pressure from the car industry to obtain return-to-work orders as soon as possible.
“We're prepared to wear that 200 will be made redundant,” Mr Jones said. “This is the manufacturing industry; we are no strangers to these sorts of things.
“But it's got to be on the basis that people get paid what they're owed and those that remain are guaranteed to get paid what they're owed if, in fact, the company goes broke.”
The union is seeking four weeks' notice and 3.1 weeks' pay for every year of service for workers made redundant.
Ford said the 1250 employees had been stood down without pay but the company said they could access their annual leave entitlements if necessary.