On July 18, Ford Australia president Tom Gorman announced that Ford's Geelong engine plant would close in 2010, putting 600 workers out of work. Geelong Trades Hall Council's Union Air radio show interviewed Australian Manufacturing Workers Union vehicle division delegate plant Tony Anderson.
Why is it that Ford motor company, after manufacturing engines for 81 years, can't manufacture engines anymore?
Ford's argument is that [the Geelong plant makes an orphan engine because] we're the only ones making the inline six-cylinder. In order to invest in modifying the inline six-cylinder to be Euro-compliant for emission controls, Ford says it's going to cost too much money.
The union put to Ford that if they bothered to get us an export contract, the volumes would go up and we would export this car overseas. But we found a reluctance from the parent company in the US and the head honchos at Ford head office to get us an export market.
We have the ability and the engineering expertise to design the new engine and draw it and put it all together. Our view is that Ford didn't want to invest in this country. The government bailed out Holden with half a million dollars to a new V6 plant but they're not prepared to help Ford to build a new V6 plant.
Why does the European emission have an impact on us here?
It's global. It's called the Euro-compliant emission but it goes across the world.
Even though Ford has been given public monies to develop an emissions-compliant engine, they chose not to do that even though the current motor is only a little bit off being emission-compliant.
We asked Ford what happened to the $28 million that they were given by the government to research and modify the [inline six-cylinder] engine to be Euro-compliant. We believe that the Ford Motor Company didn't do anything with the money. They just decided to get [the new engine from overseas] and didn't try to fix the inline six-cylinder engine so it would be Euro-compliant.
The casting plant can cast anything. Could it be sold?
The iron foundry and part of the aluminium foundry could be sold as a going concern. But can the Ford Motor Company management find anyone prepared to buy it as a going concern? At the moment there are no outside contracts. Unless they can get contracts and a buyer for the foundry, we've been told it's going to close.
How many families would that effect?
With the iron foundry and the engine plant, you're talking about 600 people overall, because you've got the engine operations. There's the aluminium foundry. Then there's the section that machines the cylinder heads for the engine.
How many extra people over and above the 600 rely on that work?
For every one Ford person, there would be about three to four workers outside [that depend on Ford work]. You've got the component suppliers, the engineering firms that supply expertise to Ford for machining and tooling, you've got the other engineering shops. For the foundry, there are the people who supply the chemicals, the resins and the sand and to make the cores.
What proposals is the union putting forward?
The number one issue coming from the foundry workers is that people want to make sure that their entitlements are there. They want to make sure that their redundancy is negotiated, just in case there's no buyer and it all falls through.
The membership, especially in the engine operations area, is really pissed off and not happy with the way that Ford handled the decision. They're not happy with having to find out through the media on Wednesday morning that the plant is going.
Tom Gorman has made it clear that the company hasn't ruled out further cuts.
Is Ford looking at retraining some of the 600 workers in other jobs?
Ford says that they're looking at redeployment, but it's doubtful that they will find work for 600 people. The state and federal governments and Ford have found $24 million to use as a retraining package within the Geelong region to try to attract new jobs. The question that we've put to them is that it needs to be real training and real job finding. We don't want some this crap about "Here's a bit of training then we'll give you a one-hour job for the week so now you're no longer unemployed under [PM John] Howard's legislation".
It's got to be real jobs and meaningful jobs and jobs where you can afford to pay your mortgage and your bills with and feed the family. We don't want Mickey Mouse training and we don't want bullshit jobs.
[Abridged. Union Air airs on The Pulse at 94.7FM every Saturday at noon. Additional coverage of the Ford closure is on page 3.]