Toyota workers launch cross appeal to ban car maker from removing future entitlements


Two months after the Federal Court ruled that Toyota Australia cannot implement changes to its Workplace Agreement, the car maker’s workers have launched a new legal action that would safeguard themselves from further attempts made by Toyota to remove some of their entitlements.

Image: Flickr user strikeael
Image: Flickr user strikeael

Last December Toyota lost a case to give employees a vote on proposed changes to their enterprise agreement. The company has been negotiating changes aimed at removing outdated and uncompetitive terms and conditions that make it difficult to compete with its other plants around the world.

The decision from Justice Bromberg supported the four employees who have filed a complaint that Toyota Australia cannot change its agreement until it expires in March 2015. Toyota has since then appealed Judge Bromberg’s ruling, backed by the support of the Federal Government.

Toyota shop stewards have launched a cross appeal saying Judge Bromberg has erred by ruling that he would not restrain Toyota from making any future attempt to remove or vary parts of the agreement.

According to a report from the Australian, the notice of the cross appeal suggests that “the Fair Work Act should be interpreted as permitting parties to an EBA to exclude themselves entirely from variations prior to the agreement’s expiration.”

The appeal and cross appeal will consequently not be heard until May.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz has joined Toyota’s appeal as an intervener, attacking the agreement for having a number of “restrictive clauses”.

In a related article Mr Abetz was quoted as saying that the clauses should not have been in the agreement and also mentioned the 21-day shutdown at Toyota’s factories over Christmas, the half day of work on the last day before shutdown, as well as 10 days paid leave for union delegates.

”Management needs to accept responsibility. But it is deeply troubling that the employees’ right to vote on proposed variations has been frustrated … we have union bosses dictating the terms without hearing from the employees.”

Meanwhile, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Paul Bastian asked Toyota to resolve the issues through negotiations and not through the courts.

”We are not going to stand by and allow this government to seek to shift the blame for the state of the Australian automotive industry onto workers. The decline of this industry rests solely with this government and no one else,” Mr Bastian said.