Toyota workers at the Altona manufacturing plant in Melbourne on their last day or work.
Toyota workers at the Altona manufacturing plant in Melbourne on their last day or work. JOE CASTRO

Toyota closes with Holden on its tail

TOYOTA has shut its Camry factory in Altona, Victoria, ending 54 years of local manufacturing for the Japanese giant.

The last car rolled down the line at noon yesterday.

Australia was the first country outside Japan where Toyota built cars, in 1963.

The shutdown also makes Australia the first country where Toyota has closed a mass-production car and engine factory. It comes one year after Ford's closure of its Victorian factories at Broadmeadows and Geelong.

The Altona plant was opened by then prime minister Paul Keating in 1995 and built more than two million of the 3.4 million cars produced locally since 1963.

Tony Ashamalla, 62, the manager of Toyota's Altona plant for the past six years, said it was a sad day for its 2600 workers but praised the company's efforts to help them find new jobs.

"To see Toyota close, and see our highly skilled employees leaving the company, that's the saddest part,” said Mr Ashamalla, one of Toyota's longest serving employees with more than 41 years on the factory floor.

"But you cannot fault the lengths Toyota has gone to, to get people retrained and get new jobs,” he said.

As with Holden and Ford, Toyota has been running job search programs for the past three years and paying for retraining.

"Some people wanted to be a nurse, others wanted to be a pilot, truck driver, (or get into) earthmoving,” says Mr Ashamalla. "It cost a lot of money, but the company never knocked anyone back from retraining. They accepted that and helped them retrain and paid their fees.”

Mr Ashamalla estimates 35-40% cent of employees have certificates to work in specialised areas and 10-20% are due to retire.

The job prospects of the remaining workers is unclear but all will leave with generous redundancy payouts, including discounts on new Toyotas for up to five years or a lifetime, depending on their length of service.

Holden will be last to turn out the lights on the Australian car manufacturing industry when its facility in Elizabeth near Adelaide closes on October 20. - Joshua Dowling



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