Join Date: May 2001
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Glass strike hits car-makers
From The Australian
CAR-MAKERS are bracing for the fourth industrial dispute in 11 months, as workers at Pilkington, the nation's largest glass manufacturer, walk off the job today.
Pilkington is a major supplier to Australia's $4.5 billion auto industry, providing up to $70 million worth of glass a year.
The dispute puts further pressure on car-makers to rethink local component-supplier contracts, with a view to moving offshore.
Holden and Ford have previously said future contracts could be at stake if strikes continued.
Ford is the only maker not affected by the latest row, as it has sourced glass from China for at least four years.
Pilkington spokesman Russell Howard said 175 workers at its Dandenong plant would down tools from 6am over a 6 per cent wage claim, job security and an enterprise bargaining agreement.
Forty staff at the company's Alexandria, Sydney, plant plan to follow from Monday, and 130 workers at its Ingleburn plant, in Sydney's southwest, were meeting late yesterday to discuss strike action.
Mr Howard said: "We've offered 9 per cent over 27 months, which we think is fair and reasonable."
He also rejected Australian Workers Union claims there would be forced redundancies. "We have no plans for redundancies or any restructuring."
Last year, Pilkington offered voluntary redundancies to 110 workers, which were accepted, but "nothing is planned for the future", Mr Howard said.
"Look, we've spent $30 million on investment at the three plants over the past few years, to compete against cheap imports," he said.
"Something like this could be devastating and it will impact on future investment plans."
The housing and construction industry could also be affected by the dispute, Mr Howard added, because Pilkington was a major supplier in that field.
Holden spokesman Jason Laird said his company had enough glass stockpiled at its plant in Elizabeth, Adelaide, to continue production for its Commodores until next Friday.
"We're watching it closely, but we're not close to having to stop production just yet," he said.
Likewise, Adelaide-based Mitsubishi has enough stock to continue till next week on its Magna.
Toyota is preferring to take a "wait and see" approach, according to spokesman Peter Griffin. Holden's Mr Laird said Pilkington was a long-standing Holden supplier, and "it would not be easy to source glass from another supplier".
Over the past 12 months, three disputes – involving TriStar, Walker and, most recently, BHP Steel – had cost Holden $320 million in lost sales and revenue, and damaged Australia's credibility as an car producer.
Ford Australia moved offshore for glass when its AU Falcon was launched in 1998.
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.