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Holden backs down on wage cuts and redundancies

Holden workers at the Holden plant in Elizabeth, South Australia.

Holden factory workers have had a win in the closing days of negotiations over wages and conditions that will help decide the manufacturing future of the company by the end of next week.

As of late last night Holden and the unions representing the 1700 workers at Elizabeth were close to securing the planned $15 million in annual savings on the production line. Both sides, however, have given ground.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union SA secretary John Camillio says Holden has “backed down” on capping any future redundancy payouts to 12 years of service. The average length of service of the Holden workforce after last week’s 400 redundancies is 16.3 years.

Holden workers are believed to have avoided pay cuts -- but they will miss out on a planned 3 per cent pay rise in November and any subsequent pay rises over the next three years.

The details of the new deal are yet to be finalised before the proposal is formally put to workers this Friday ahead of a vote seven days later. The outcome of the vote on August 9 will determine the manufacturing future of Holden and the jobs of 1700 workers and those of Holden’s parts suppliers beyond 2016.

Holden is understood to have capped future voluntary redundancy payouts to 90 weeks instead of the proposed 52 weeks that was among 41 options put to workers during the intense negotiations over the past six weeks.

“Holden has said from the start that we need to vary the agreement with the Elizabeth workforce to achieve significant labour-related cost savings and productivity improvements,” said Holden spokesman Sean Poppitt.

“From an extensive list of potential measures, Holden and the unions have worked together to find a combination that achieves the company's cost-saving goals. Holden's aim has been to minimise or remove potential wage cuts from the outset of these discussions.”

Holden says the cost savings will be achieved through “a combination of labour-related savings, productivity and flexibility measures”.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling