Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1588      April 10, 2013

Union intensifies scrutiny at Holden

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) intends to have an ergonomist on site within a month at Holden’s factory in Adelaide to ensure a controversial reduction in daily job rotations for each production worker does not cause injuries to members.

Holden senior management at the Elizabeth plant have agreed to work with the union on the placement of the ergonomist, who South Australian state secretary John Camillo has insisted must be fully independent and whose services must be paid for by the company.

Mr Camillo, SA Vehicle Division secretary Jon Gee and senior delegates made it clear to management that a company-employed expert to assess the physical impact on workers of reducing job rotation from six to two tasks per shift would not be acceptable.

Holden last month abruptly started reducing the number of job tasks on the new Commodore line. But the new measure was done without proper consultation with the AMWU, with inconsistent briefings for delegates and members across the factory’s assembly body shop and paint areas, resulting in confusion.

“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 Holden executive will meet to liaise on the appointment of an independent ergonomist, with the AMWU presently looking at candidates available to service a plant of 2,000 workers.

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.

Delegate Heinz Johannes said : “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.”

“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.”   

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