Sacking slackers – it’s unAustralian

The front page of the AFR had a great piece yesterday on the Toyota redundancies.

Unions said workers were marked on a range of criteria that included:
■ the “Toyota way” and corporate values;
■ safety, including wearing of uniform and proper equipment;
■ attendance;
■ work quality, performance, problem solving and troubleshooting;
■ skill and teamwork;
■ work standards and diligence;
■ technical skills.

Looks to me that the criteria was ‘do you turn up and do your job?’. Unsurprisingly some union officials got caught out by that requirement. Union members and union officials are required to work for a living the same as everyone else. If Toyota is paying your pay check then you work for them.

So that was yesterday.

Today the AFR has more. Paul Gollan writes

Such highly developed organisationally based systems fit uncomfortably with Australia’s traditional industrial relations system. Historically, Australia’s system is built on conflict of interests and the imbalance of power in the employment relationship, and strong collective bargaining and industrial-based unions and awards.

The notion of having some objective value-add measure of whom to employ and who to let go is foreign to Australian IR? If so, the IR system is inconsistent with value-adding employment. As the AFR editorial says

Toyota Australia’s move to make redundant workers who it believes have not performed or do not share its values is a direct challenge to the worst aspects of Australia’s industrial relations culture. It should be a cause for national embarrassment that it has taken a paragon of worker co-operation to blow the whistle. Toyota’s decision to select workers at its Altona manufacturing plant for redundancy, based on a series of criteria including performance ability, attitude and attendance, is certainly without extensive precedent in the Australian workplace. Nor is it typical behaviour for the car maker, which is known internationally for its co-operative, quality-focused approach to management and production which depends on a harmonious and non-adversarial relationship with its workforce.

By and large, the redundant Toyota workers are victims of an adversarial workplace culture and an inflexible industrial relations system. Toyota says it consulted extensively with its unions, which it says agreed to the selection criteria for the redundancies. Typically, redundancies are either voluntary or are decided on a last-in-first-off basis – a convention which has allowed union insiders to keep control of workplaces. This time, however, the company has asserted its right to manage and to build the more productive workforce which is crucial to its viability.

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59 Responses to Sacking slackers – it’s unAustralian

  1. pete m

    Spot on.

    ps “cheque”, not “check”, DUDE!

  2. JamesK

    It’s a terrible shame that in modern western democracies that nobody can tell the truth of all western democracies.

    You need to work hard sometimes to decipher reality between the lines

    Voluntary redundancy is too expensive for the employer d/t unions.

    They need real workers if they downsize to survive and so the redundancies are for wasters.

    It’s all as a result of laws to legislate for leftist utopia

  3. Samson Agonistes

    So redundancies should be use to crack down on free speech by sacking people who belong to voluntary organisations?

  4. dakingisdead

    “This time, however, the company has asserted its right to manage and to build the more productive workforce which is crucial to its viability.”

    Great.

    However Paul Gollan seems to have a short memeory because there is precedent.

    The Robe River dispute back in the 80′s. Robe finally decided that it wanted the ability to manage it’s employees rather than the unions doing it for them. I believe this was the start of the move from collective bargaining to individual work contracts in the mining industry which ultimately ended up as workchoices. Robe lead and then Hammersley and BHP followed along.

    So finally an employer in the manufacturing sector has gotten the balls to start down this road.

    Maybe we will see productivity actually begin to mean something rather than the lip service it has been paid in the car manufacturing industry.

  5. MACK1

    It has always been a fundamental aspect of good management to train and support your workers, but if some continue to not deliver the goods adequately, you get rid of them. When downsizing, not getting rid of the poor performers first is simply bad management.
    The fact that Toyota’s methodology is being criticised is an indication of the low level of understanding in the union movement and parts of the media in Australia.

  6. JC

    Ok, let me ask anyone here if they know.

    When was the last fucking time in the past 40 years that you’ve ever read a piece like this… A large multinational setting up a seriously large manufacturing plant in Australia. Ask why.

    This just happened in the US and is going on all the time.

    French tire maker Michelin is breaking ground on a new North American tire plant that likely will make South Carolina the tire-making capital of the U.S. by next year.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304587704577335602200937084.html

    On Tuesday, Michelin disclosed it would invest $750 million to build a new factory in Anderson County, S.C., and expand an existing Lexington, S.C., plant to build heavy tires used in the construction and mining industries.

    It may not have to be Michelin obviously, but Capital is always looking around for a home around the world…. even plain old manufacturing and it’s a lie that only goes to low wage countries.

  7. Samson Agonistes

    The methodology is there to hide the thrashing of free speech.

    The lesson is ‘exercise your political freedom and you’ll be the first to go’.

  8. .

    It’s the type of manufacturing that matters. We won’t have low cost high labour intensive, unskilled assembly type manufacture…whereas elaborately transformed manufactures have been more important to our export mix over the last decade.

    Australian manufacturing is disappearing with more onerous on costs, both regulatory and tax.

    The PC have mentioned this in all of their relevant reports.

    The only notable big investor in Australia recently has been Aldi along with some property investors and legal and financial services.

  9. .

    Bob Ellis you haven’t worked a day in your life nor have you ever had skin the game as a capitalist except very, very indirectly.

    You’re in a childish la la land pal.

  10. JamesK

    The lesson is ‘exercise your political freedom and you’ll be the first to go’.

    Leftism encapsulated

  11. Samson Agonistes

    America is a low wage country and there have been scores of articles about this leading to a ‘manufacturing renaissance’ in the us so get with the program, JC, youre reading list is getting long.

  12. Token

    When was the last fucking time in the past 40 years that you’ve ever read a piece like this… A large multinational setting up a seriously large manufacturing plant in Australia. Ask why.

    All the small and medium manufacturers I’ve worked with refuse to do anything but the smallest amount of value added manufacturing in Australia due to this absolutely insane industrial culture which is summed up in these brain-dead statements:

    …Toyota’s decision to select workers at its Altona manufacturing plant for redundancy, based on a series of criteria including performance ability, attitude and attendance, is certainly without extensive precedent in the Australian workplace. Nor is it typical behaviour for the car maker…

    By and large, the redundant Toyota workers are victims of an adversarial workplace culture and an inflexible industrial relations system…

  13. JC

    STFU Bob. You don’t understand what free specch means.

    Let me ask you.

    Lets say you said something rude to your new boss, Bob Carr.

    Say you said something like, “look you ferret looking little weasel”. I’m not going to be writing one speech every two weeks as it’s back breaking work. So I’m cutting down the work load to one 2 page speech per month”.

    Bob turned around and fired you over the phone.

    How has your right to free speech been broken Bobster? Explain away.

  14. Samson Agonistes

    From a management point of view, why wouldn’t they want to get rid of free speech – but its illegal.

    I see the AFR has gotten rid of any semblance of balance and has opted for Murdoch-style journalism.

  15. Samson Agonistes

    If you join a legal voluntary organisation the law should protect you from reprisals against your exercise of free speech.

    Otherwise, you might as well make unions illegal.

  16. Token

    JC, SA has know idea about this topic and is trolling using 1950′s socialist dogma.

    Don’t waste your time with the old bloated fool.

  17. Rococo Liberal

    In most service industries people have been sacked/made redundant for poor performance for years.

    This is only new to the highly unionised industries which are few and far between these days.

  18. JC

    America is a low wage country and there have been scores of articles about this leading to a ‘manufacturing renaissance’ in the us so get with the program, JC, youre reading list is getting long.

    It’s 17 bucks an hour, Bob, you deliberate moron. That’s the going rate in a rate to work state.

    It’s $16.90 an hour more than you’re worth.

  19. Infidel Tiger

    Otherwise, you might as well make unions illegal.

    Good idea.

    Unions for government employees should most definitely be illegal.

  20. Des Deskperson

    But Samson, no one is being ‘sacked’, they are being retired with a benefit, a reportedly very large benefit that’s even larger if the retirement is compulsory.

    That’s not sacking, normally understood to be termination without a benefit for incompetence or misconduct, maybe what should have happened to at least some of these people. And where is your evidence that unionists are being unfairly targeted?

  21. Rococo Liberal

    If you join a legal voluntary organisation the law should protect you from reprisals against your exercise of free speech.

    No the law should protect your right to say anything you like, but it should not protect you from the consequences of exercising that freedom. You are free to call your boss a dickhead, but you can’t expect him to employ you afterwards, unless your contract provides for employer abuse without penalty.

  22. twostix

    The lesson is ‘exercise your political freedom and you’ll be the first to go’.

    You’re in the wrong thread. The thread about where the Gillard government is muzzling what public servants can talk about in their private time is over in the Open Forum.

  23. Samson Agonistes

    Freedom to call your boss a dickhead is not something encompassed by the legally protected right to organize.

  24. Rococo Liberal

    Once and for all, I wish lefties would understand the free speech argument! Free sppeech is only of relevance in relation to the government. The government should have no right to stifle free speech. However, private people and organisations can do what they like. For example, if someone got up in the middle of a Mozart concert and started demonstrating for gay marriage, they could only be condemend as arseholes. They have no right of free speech in the concert hall, as they have surrendered that right by buying a ticket and agreeing to watch the concert without annoying others.

  25. twostix

    Freedom to call your boss a dickhead is not something encompassed by the legally protected right to organize.

    Nothing you have said so far has any relvance what-so-ever to this matter of Toyota making employees redundant with the union’s approval.

    So what the hell are you talking about?

  26. Redundancies should always be based upon performance.

    When Telstra started with redundancies in the 90s it was a running joke – plenty of longtimers in specialised areas put their hands up and got very, very nice packages.

    Only to return within months on a contract at a higher rate per hour than they left on.

    It was good times all round for quite a few people, and the deadwood remained in place.

    There’s a mob who were advertising on MTR, too. Lawyers who said they could get you your redundancy if you were laid off.

    I wasn’t aware that redundancy payouts were a “right”. I thought they were a privilege, as it’s not the company’s duty to provide you with a nest egg. You get paid for your work, and anything on top of that is a bonus. You’re responsible for your upkeep, not the business.

    No wonder this country’s in such a mess, with attitudes like that.

    I’d hate to be under 30.

  27. Samson Agonistes

    Redundancy is based on the idea of a position being no longer required, so by definition its not based on performance.

    If more than one is in the same position it can obviously be based on performance, but not on membership of a voluntary organisation.

  28. Bruce

    Toyota is a long way away from Tolpuddle, Samson. Mission creep?

  29. Viva

    I see the AFR has gotten rid of any semblance of balance and has opted for Murdoch-style journalism.

    The AFR has apparently finally realised that a green left weekly perspective doesn’t exactly match the needs of its audience.

    The union movement during the Hawke-Keating-Kelty era seemed to move away from the class warrior/adversarial model in which unions became partners in a business success. Sadly there has been lurch back to the old days under the current leadership. The same thing happened to the Labor party here and in the UK under Milliband.

  30. twostix

    I wasn’t aware that redundancy payouts were a “right”. I thought they were a privilege, as it’s not the company’s duty to provide you with a nest egg. You get paid for your work, and anything on top of that is a bonus. You’re responsible for your upkeep, not the business.

    No wonder this country’s in such a mess, with attitudes like that.

    It’s extraordinary isn’t it.

    People seem to have taken an attitude to employement that is beginning to look like a tenants attitude in some sort of neo-feudal system. Where once a large business agrees to take you on, they aren’t merely paying you as an equal for services rendered, they are actually expected to take some paternalistic responsibility for you and your family not just for now, but for ever more – even when you’re not actually producing anything for them (Maternity leave, once your service is no longer needed, etc).

  31. Oh come on

    So redundancies should be use to crack down on free speech by sacking people who belong to voluntary organisations?

    Trust Samsom to bring the stupid to the conversation.

  32. Samson Agonistes

    The right of centre Kohler seems not to approve of Toyota: and none of this was done with the agreement of unions:

    What it did was score workers on a checklist of behaviours and skills, tell the 350 with lowest scores to pack their lockers and get on buses that would take them to a reception centre where they were given their redundancy papers. It’s hard to imagine a worse way to be sacked.

    Most companies that want to be respected and admired call for voluntary redundancies or they “performance manage” people out of the business quietly in one-on-one meetings.

    In the event the company decided to stick with tapping the workers publicly and putting them in buses, so any deal was off and the AMWU was off to the lawyers to see whether there was a case for unfair dismissal or targeting of union shop stewards, which is illegal. That remains an open question, but we can assume Toyota got good advice and was careful.

  33. Des Deskperson

    ‘Redundancy is based on the idea of a position being no longer required, so by definition its not based on performance’.

    So Sam appears to be saying that the under performers should actually have been terminated without a benefit on the grounds of inefficiency, something which is perfectly legal under the FWA act provided the requirements of procedural fairness have been met.

  34. Samson Agonistes

    You can now quote the next sentence, des dishpan.

  35. Gab

    What’s all the fuss? The union, as will as Holy Billy, knew the criteria for redundancy selection – they even signed off on it. So why all the whining now?

  36. brc

    The right of centre Kohler

    You’ve got your compass upside down, chum.

    Kohler is a left wing big government nut who pretends to be a business commentator by wearing a suit. He’s all for carbon pricing, which immediately dismisses him as an opinion worth listening to.

  37. twostix

    It’s hard to imagine a worse way to be sacked.

    Getting a massive redundancy payout is one of the worst ways to be sacked?

    What else could we expect for the ABC reporter / ex-editor of The Age / SMH columnist / Melbourne University Press chairman.

    (Those are some impressive “right of centre” credentials!)

  38. Bruce

    “Look a unicorn, and its blue!
    Samson, I like your style. Very creative.
    You might like to address Sinc’s article, which effectively asks ‘how exactly does anyone survive in a business with this set of wankers in power?’ And what is it exactly that the AMWU does during the day when they’re not making an agreement then welshing on it immediately?

  39. twostix

    So why all the whining now?

    PR.

    Just like Gillard making a big song and dance about “cutting red tape” and “cutting the Dept of Climate Change”.

    This would be the same red tape and Dept that she put, or helped put there in the first place.

  40. Gab

    Yes, Twostix, and I have my suspicions about them reducing staff at DCC, or any other PS depts for that matter. I think these proposed reductions in staff numbers, to help with the “surplus”, will only ever be on paper.

  41. Dandy Warhol

    Please stop feeding the troll.

    Bob has been a blight on the landscape for decades now. Thankfully, the world is now running past him and ignoring the rubbish that he has ever spouted.

    The reason he has turned up here is relevance deprivation syndrome. A similar thing is starting with Robert Manne. Just last month Manne was begging Professor Bunyip, of all people, to debate with him, so irrelevant to the media has he now become.

    The less attention you pay to Bob, the sooner he will disappear. Please, do it for your country.

  42. twostix

    And what is it exactly that the AMWU does during the day when they’re not making an agreement then welshing on it immediately?

    Perhaps we’ll find out when the FWA “investigation” on the HSU is opened.

    I don’t think anybody will be surprised.

  43. JC

    Dandy

    You nationalist fervor is catchy. I too will now ignore it for the good of my country.

  44. Token

    Freedom to call your boss a dickhead is not something encompassed by the legally protected right to organize.

    In this picture I can see that one person thinks the other is a d*ckhead.

  45. Now as everyone supports the adversarial system here what is anyone complaining about? I am the only one who says a worker should be paid according to the work he or she does with extras paid by the boss should he or she want to. So maybe the tide is turning and the negotiation thing will never work as one party will always have more power.

  46. Mitch

    Surprised they don’t move to New Zealand. Comparable to Australia except their corporate tax rate is lower, its more export competitive with a much lower dollar, and they don’t require employers to pay severance.

  47. Rafe

    Bring back piecework. Pay workers for their productivity.

  48. Richard

    I have been around the block a few times and am now retired but I work a few days a week at Bunnings and is is a good workplace. Bunnings have their particular corporate and business related values which their staff adhere to. A deal of corporate effort and awareness is directed into this domain. The seven Toyota dot points would not contradict Bunnings values and in fact interleave quite well with them. If the trade union’s position is that Toyota’s “highly developed organisationally based systems fit uncomfortably with Australia’s traditional industrial relations system”, then this holds true for Bunnings. Who is on the money – Bunnings and Toyota or the trade union movement and Fair Work Australia?

  49. wreckage

    The methodology is there to hide the thrashing of free speech.

    As such it enjoys the Simon Agon…. isingly Stupid Stamp of Approval!

  50. wreckage

    Now as everyone supports the adversarial system here what is anyone complaining about?

    The adversarial system is crap.

  51. Captain Queeg

    So I’m sitting there watching 7 30 report last night listening to the unions and shorten bleat about the process when they were fully informed. How are they allowed to get away with that?

  52. Gab

    You should lodge a complaint with the ABC, Captain. (okay, you can stop laughing now).

  53. Splatacrobat

    Bring back piecework. Pay workers for their productivity.

    Labor has pushed through over 200 bills during Gillard’s reign….as piecework goes; productive yes but their quality is shite.

  54. Rafe

    Come on Splata, I was talking about products that people are prepared to buy:)

  55. Sean

    The manufacturing plant I’m currently working for simply contracts all work out for tradies. Whilst there is work, they get in fitters etc. and if they are slack they don’t get asked back.

  56. TheWombat

    The Australian Defence Force has been using a similar system, to that employed by Toyota, for years, and years.

  57. Cory Olsen

    @ Sean, I dont think the AMWU would approve!

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