The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is working on getting an ergonomist on board this month at the Holden factory in Adelaide to ensure that the production workers remain physically fit and free from injury despite a contentious reduction in daily job rotations.
Last month Holden abruptly started reducing the number of job tasks on the new Commodore line from six to two job tasks per shift. However the new schedule was implemented without proper consultation with AMWU, and confusion soon took over as the car manufacturer held inconsistent briefings for delegates and members across the factory’s assembly body shop and paint areas.
According to a news release on AMWU, Holden’s senior management at the Elizabeth plant has agreed to cooperate with the union on the employment of an ergonomist. South Australia State Secretary John Camillo has insisted that the ergonomist must be fully independent and its services must be shouldered by the company.
Holden cannot assign a company-employed expert to the matter, stressed Secretary Camillo, SA Vehicle Division Secretary Jon Gee and senior delegates.
“Holden say they are introducing this to ensure workers can concentrate on detailed tasks as the new Commodore comes on line, but this was done in a hotch-potch fashion – it was bad communication from management,” Mr. Camillo said.
“What has not been fully considered is the increased repetitive tasks involved in many jobs, which increases the risk of strains and over-use injuries. Occupational health and safety was a big reason why the six task per group regime was introduced in the first place.”
Mr. Camillo, Mr. Gee and a senior executive from Holden will meet to discuss the appointment of the independent ergonomist. Meanwhile, AMWU is currently looking at candidates who are qualified to service the plant which has about 2000 workers.
“We fully realise the need to compete with the rest of the world and we’re willing to help, but management should have communicated it better to avoid unnecessary tension,” says delegate Heinz Johannes.
“Unlike most overseas plants, we do a big variety of vehicles on this line and it makes adapting to a new model different. The idea of an evaluation from an independent ergonomist is good.”
The new Commodore will begin production with about eight units per day for workers to get used to, then hit more than 200 by June, according to the AMWU news release.