There is a lot to dislike about Mordy Bromberg – and Paul Sheehan provides the details – but blaming him for the ultimate demise of Toyota manufacturing in Australia isn’t one of them.
As the motor industry analyst Joshua Dowling observed after reading Bromberg’s judgment: ”The fate of Toyota Australia’s manufacturing operations has effectively been sealed by a decision in the Federal Court today. The court’s decision to block Toyota from asking its factory workers to vote tomorrow on changes to shift flexibility and overtime bonuses means … the entire Australian car industry is likely to grind to a halt after Ford’s factory shutdowns in 2016, Holden’s closures in 2017 and a likely end to Toyota’s operations in 2018, when the current Camry ends its run.”
On Thursday, Toyota workers begin their three-week Christmas holiday, the longest shutdown in Toyota’s global manufacturing operation. Plus there’s their 17.5 per cent holiday pay loading, plus double time-and-a-half when they work on Sundays, plus shift premiums, plus generous long-service leave, plus no medical certificates for sick days, plus time off to give blood (usually on Fridays) – all of which the chief executive of Toyota Australia, Max Yasuda, has warned is unsustainable.
Which brings us back to Justice Bromberg and his decision not to allow Toyota Australia workers to even vote to consider changes to their workplace agreement. Toyota argued that it was acting within the workplace agreement if the majority of employees voted to re-open negotiations. Bromberg disagreed, saying the law did not allow such latitude.
I don’t know if the law does or doesn’t give latitude to modify workplace agreements outside of the negotiating period. It should, but if it doesn’t that is an inflexibility that reflects the previous government’s preference that unions be given special privilege even if it results in higher unemployment.
The real issue here is why did Toyota management agree to such a generous workplace agreement? Did the unions who negotiated such a generous agreement really think they were acting in the long-term interests of their members?
Looks to me that the judge has enforced a contract. A bad contract to be sure, but its not clear to me that the judicial system should be second-guessing the choices people make when entering into contracts.