Denis Napthine to host key players for crisis talks on Toyota's future

Premier Denis Napthine will host a crucial round-table meeting with unions, car makers and the federal and state governments next month in an effort to save Toyota as a local car manufacturer.

Dr Napthine has also written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott asking for a meeting about Toyota, and the future of manufacturing in Victoria, before the February 13 round-table talks.

Dr Napthine plans to bring together representatives of the federal government and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union to thrash out their differences behind closed doors.

On Friday, federal Treasurer Joe Hockey accused the AMWU of being at ''war'' with Toyota and threatening the viability of Australia's last car maker by blocking attempts to cut high costs.

AMWU vehicle division national secretary Dave Smith hit back, saying he was ''not confident Toyota would stay in Australia, and that has nothing to do with the enterprise bargaining agreement''.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the federal government of wanting a low-wage economy and for people to have insecure work hours. "The way they're trying to blame car workers for the Abbott government's inaction in the car industry, I have no doubt that the Abbott government has a vision where they see our wages go down and we see inflation going up at the same time, which is a horrible double for working Australians,'' he said.

Mr Shorten said Mr Hockey had "sold out" Holden workers and was "now turning his bully pulpit upon Toyota car workers and saying that people on $70,000, $80,000, $60,000 who work in shifts, who work in furnaces and foundries, who make quality products … somehow a car worker's the problem".

Amid the debate, and the potential loss of 30,000 jobs from the sector, Dr Napthine will chair the round-table meeting in Melbourne. The 30 invited guests include federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, his parliamentary secretary Bob Baldwin, the AMWU's Mr Smith and Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd.

Toyota will be represented by Mike Rausa, director of corporate affairs and strategy.

The timing is crucial as, by mid-February, Toyota will have learnt of the date of an appeal against a Federal Court ruling that the company cannot negotiate changes to an EBA with employees. In addition the Productivity Commission on January 31 will release its ''position paper'' on automotive manufacturing in Australia, which will ''consider potential options for government assistance to the automotive manufacturing industry''.

Toyota will decide later this year whether Australia will manufacture the next generation Camry.

Mr Macfarlane said the company was doing everything it could to keep making cars in Australia, but the single biggest threat was the Federal Court case over changes to the EBA.

Cuts to labour costs are part of a move by Toyota to reduce production costs in Australia by $3800 a car by 2018.

Mr Macfarlane singled out provisions in Toyota workers' contracts that allow four hours paid time off to give blood and sick leave without a medical certificate.

Mr Smith said the union was willing to sit down and discuss changes to pay and conditions, but Toyota should in turn guarantee it would keep making cars in Australia beyond 2018.

"If the government doesn't address industry assistance beyond 2020, if it doesn't have a proper look at the industry and restructuring, then it is not worth sitting down with the company because they will close,'' Mr Smith said.

With Nick Toscano

The story Denis Napthine to host key players for crisis talks on Toyota's future first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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