Car giant Ford has announced 450 new job cuts at its two Victorian plants as the company struggles amid the global economic crisis.
Today’s announcement brings to 1400 the total number of job cuts at Ford Australia over the last 15 months. The company has slashed 40,000 jobs worldwide in that period.
It follows a warning from car component makers that more than 7,000 jobs will go unless the federal government acts now to boost domestic vehicle sales.
Ford chief executive Marin Burela said the cuts, which will be felt equally at Ford’s Geelong and Broadmeadows plants, were essential to shore up the company in the current economic climate.
“It’s absolutely critical that we take a proactive step, that we position ourselves for strength in terms of where we’re heading into 2009 and beyond,” he said.
He said slashing 1400 jobs over the last year “is the right course of action to ensure we can operate profitably, effectively and efficiently as we move forward”.
In August, it announced 350 jobs were to go from its Geelong and Broadmeadows factories in mid-November, while last July it said 600 jobs were to be cut by 2010 with the closure of the Geelong engine plant.
Burela said the cuts – which he variously called “rebalancing of our staff”, “outbalancing”, and a “separation program” – would affect both factory and office staff and would occur between now and the end of this year.
Ford has about 4700 staff at its Victorian plants.
Burela said the global economic crisis and recent poor sales had affected Ford.
He said the cuts would be done on a voluntary basis and all employee benefits and entitlements would be provided. Financial and career counselling would also be offered.
Workers at the Geelong plant said they held concerns for the future of the industry.
Shop steward Darryl Palmer, who has worked at the plant for nearly 20 years, said any further losses could be “catastrophic” for Victoria’s biggest regional centre.
“It’s the flow-on effect to suppliers,” he told AAP.
Workers had been expecting the announcement he said.
“Most guys know what’s going on … we just didn’t know the final figure.”
Many of the workers arriving for today’s evening shift said they would be prepared to take redundancy packages.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said it was concerned about Ford’s production of big cars and called on the federal government to intervene to protect the industry and jobs.
“The AMWU has been thinking for some time the job market for large sedans was problematic and we need significant intervention,” said AMWU Victorian state secretary Steve Dargavel.
“Today is disappointing to our members who work on the sites and for workers on the supply chain.”
Dargavel said Ford had also announced “down days” at its Broadmeadows plant which effectively means staff will be working two or three day weeks.
Earlier on Thursday, Victorian Premier John Brumby said he spoke to Ford on Wednesday and was very disappointed with their decision.
“I know it’s tough, I know the global circumstances are as tough as you get, but we need to hold people as long as we can otherwise this will keep spiralling onward and more and more companies will simply reduce their labour force,” he said.