Thousands of job losses are sweeping the western suburbs as Toyota Australia stopped making cars at its Altona plant on Tuesday, signalling the end of auto manufacturing in Victoria.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union divisional secretary Dave Smith said more than 2600 direct employees and at least 3000 supply-chain workers were losing their jobs.
The factory closure signals the end of $1 billion in annual exports for cars and parts.
At Laverton North, Toyota car-seat manufacturer Toyota Boshoku is understood to have started slashing the jobs of close to 400 workers on Monday.
Components importer and manufacturer Toyota Tsusho confirmed some of its western suburbs companies would be downsized while others would close.
Croatian-born St Albans resident Damir Dakovic started work at the Altona plant in 1996, a year after it opened.
“It’s a sad time for all us, for all Victoria and all Australia,” he said.
“I learned my English here and I met all my friends – Asians, Europeans and Australians. And I got the opportunity also to be employee rep.
“All my family are driving Toyota cars and I believe I will drive Toyota for rest of my life.”
The last Toyota Camry went down the Altona production line about noon on Tuesday.
Melton South’s Matthew Kinson, an employee for nearly 19 years, said he had a feeling of pride whenever a Toyota passed, and as one of the only Aussies to have made a hybrid car.
“Something that I always reflect back on when a Camry passes me is, I could have made that car,” he said.“It’s a bloody good car to drive – made in Australia.”
Sunshine West’s Michael Spiteri, a Toyota worker for about 22 years, said he was going for a job interview in security work next week.
“Hopefully, that pans out well for myself,” he said. “I’ve got a family, married with two kids, so moving into a new job is important for me with mortgages and bills that never stop.”
Toyota Tsusho human resources general manager Ruth Anderson said the parent company would be downsizing while several subsidiaries would close.
“We have TT Steel Centre (at Laverton North) and we had our first people from there leave last Friday [September 22] and there will be ongoing redundancies now for largely the remainder of the year,” she said.
A worker at Toyota Boshoku in Laverton North said workers were shattered.
“A lot of people are still obviously in shock,” they said. “Most people were going on holidays I think, just to have a break. “The majority of people of the people that work there, I believe may be from the western suburbs, say Saint Albans, and the majority of people employed there are Vietnamese.”
Toyota Australia President Dave Buttner said 1300 workers would be retained and the Altona site would be developed into a Centre of Excellence.
“Altona will house our expanded design and engineering capabilities,” he said. “The Centre of Excellence will include a world-class training facility and other commercial initiatives that will enhance the company’s business and the community.”