In July Ford announced it would cut 440 jobs as it slowed production from 209 cars a day to 148 to match falling demand for the Falcon sedan and Territory SUV.
Ford was able to prevent 110 of those job cuts – to bring the total job cuts to 330 – after finding placements for some workers in product development, and taking Ford Performance Vehicles in-house from next year. However, as predicted by unions, Ford still did not get the number of voluntary redundancies it was after.
Only 118 employees applied for retrenchments meaning that more than half of the target number – a total of 212 workers – will be forced to leave the company by the end of the year. A statement from Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said: “Redundancies were offered on a voluntary basis in the first instance, with approximately 118 employees applying. Unfortunately, as we didn’t achieve the required number of redundancies voluntarily, the company is moving ahead with a compulsory redundancy program.”
Ford says its goal for Friday is to work through the redundancies “in as dignified and caring a manner as possible and not single out those who are leaving our business compared to those who are remaining”. The company admits it has employed extra security guards for the day, but claims they will not be escorting workers off-site, as Toyota’s security guards did when it had redundancies at Altona earlier in the year.
“Security is only there if needed, they aren’t escorting people in and out,” says Phipps. “Our security also doubles as our first-aiders so we need them there in case someone gets upset and needs care.” News Limited understands that senior Ford executives are upset that workers specifically asked media not be informed – but was then ambushed by announcements by union officials.
Ford will not operate its factory on Friday – but everyone will still be paid a full day’s wage. Ford says it has made individual appointments with redundant workers. Every manufacturing employee – those staying as well as leaving – will take part in a briefing session with their manager and human resources staff.
“If chosen to leave the organisation, employees will receive information on all their benefits, including re-training and financial counselling, and will then depart the organisation immediately,” the Ford statement says. Workers remaining with Ford will also receive an information pack during their meeting so as “to ensure that each employee departs with an envelope – again, the intent is not to single out those who are leaving the business”.
“Despite our best efforts, it will be a very difficult day for the entire Ford team,” says Phipps. “ None more so than those team members leaving our business. We ask that others respect our employees as they work through this time.” When Ford announced the job cuts in July, workers at the company’s Geelong engine factory and Broameadows car assembly line vowed to stay.
At the time, Australian Manufacturing Workers acting national secretary Dave Smith predicted Ford would not get enough people volunteering for redundancy. “People want to work for the company; these are not workers who are going to be labelled Ford's unwanted. But unfortunately they (Ford) are just not selling enough cars at the moment,'' he told News Limited at the time.
"It's highly unlikely they will get enough volunteers for redundancies. It doesn't matter how much people get in their package, it's never going to be adequate compensation for losing their jobs.'' Those who accepted voluntary redundancy got a minimum of 3.1 weeks per year of service. Workers hit with forced redundancies will get five weeks' pay per year of service, capped at 90 weeks.
Ford is slashing factory worker jobs around the world. Last week Ford announced the shutdown of three assembly lines in the UK and Europe – axing 8000 jobs in the process. It employs 1500 at Geelong and Broadmeadows.
For decades one of the “big three” car makers, Ford now ranks fifth globally behind Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen and Hyundai. In Australia, Ford has experienced seven straight years of decline and sales of the Falcon are at all-time lows. It has commited to manufacturing until “at least the end of 2016” but its future beyond that date is “under review”. News Limited understands Ford Australia has not applied for assistance to fund a new project beyond 2016.