Planned layoffs at a Melbourne, Australia, polyurethane foam manufacturing plant have led to a week-long strike and major disruptions to Australia's automotive industry. One car manufacturer alone has estimated its production losses, caused by the strike at Melbourne-based Henderson's Automotive Group, at A$25 million (US$18.6 million).
H.A.G., the only Australian supplier of PU seats to the auto industry, has formed an A$20 million (US$14.9) joint venture with Canada's Woodbridge Foam Corp. of Ontario, to open a new PU foam plant in Adelaide in July. Workers at H.A.G.'s Melbourne plant took industrial action in an attempt to get better severance packages if they lose their jobs.
Don Blair, H.A.G. chief executive, said the long-term future of the Melbourne plant had not been determined, but as many as 160 workers could not be guaranteed jobs beyond 1995.
The workers initially rejected severance packages put forward by H.A.G., even though their trade union advised them to accept the proposal. From Oct. 9-13, 170 workers at the plant stopped work.
A spokesman for H.A.G. said workers finally voted Oct. 13 to accept the layoff provisions, and returned to work Oct. 16, but the company lost a full week of production.
Patrick Neville, general manager, public affairs, for Melbourne-based Toyota Motor Corp. Australia Ltd., said the strike resulted in combined production losses of A$50 million to A$60 million (US$37.2 million to US$44.6 million) for Australia's major automakers - Toyota, Ford, Holden and Mitsubishi.
He said Toyota lost four full days of production, or about 1,300 vehicles, costing A$25 million (US$18.6 million).
Wendy Leisham, general manager of public affairs for Melbourne-based Ford Australia Ltd., said at least one full day of production, or 400 vehicles, was lost, affecting domestic contracts and exports to New Zea-land and Asia.
A lawyer for the Melbourne-based Federation of Automotive Manufacturers, appearing in an industrial court hearing on behalf of H.A.G., said legal action could be taken against the strikers to recover the money lost by manufacturers.
But Neville believed there would be no legal action and said any such move would be unprecedented.
H.A.G. is a division of Henderson's Industries Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of National Consolidated Industries Ltd., both of Melbourne.