Voices

Gone. Holden back the tears

Ending months, and perhaps years of speculation about its future, Holden, has announced it would cease production operations in Australia from late-2017. And while most Australians have been reminiscing about their first Holden car, Isaac Bober started to wonder about the workers.

 

If you’ve turned away from traditional media to social media you’ll have noticed, like me, that Facebook and Twitter are awash with expressions of loss at the closure of Holden – these are the same people, though, who’ve been turning their backs on The General’s offerings in favour of imported cars. Hmmm.

The mainstream media yesterday, today and tomorrow will be focussing on the political ramifications of the closure and it’s knock-on effect with Toyota, and the entire supplier network which is now at risk. But, what about the workers, and not the workers as a whole, but the workers as individuals – how must they be feeling right now?

There are literally thousands of workers (people just like you and me) who’ve been welding, painting, screwing and stamping the Commodore for years, and years, and years. Indeed, most of ‘em don’t know any other job than the one they’ve got right now and many more are angry at their treatment by the General…

While Holden has told its workers not to talk to the media or risk jeopardizing their redundancy packages, many have reached out to vent. Anonymously. And, last night, the Practical Motoring inbox was being flooded with emails by workers, mainly those from the afternoon shift who learned about the late-2017 closure of Holden while they were in their cars on the way to start their shift.

They’re even angrier that MD Mike Devereux didn’t wait around at the factory to talk to them.

“We on the afternoon shift found out about the closure through the media,” wrote one worker who started working at Holden’s Elizabeth factory in 2003, and didn’t want to be named. “I understand it’s difficult to tell all shifts at once but I believe more of an effort needed to be made to tell all the shifts at once.

“We started at 2.40pm and Mike Devereux could even bother to talk to the afternoon shift [the dayshift was informed of the closure before the media] because he wanted to front the media. He could have spoken to them after speaking with us.”

“Plant management was very patient with us tonight [last night] and our lack of motivation but, everyone was pissed off we weren’t allowed to go home early to be with our families; not even the equivalent time that the dayshift left early.”

Writing about the closure of the brand, another Holden worker said, “it frustrates me as I believe we build a great product […] if I’m honest, I’ve always believed we get/got paid far too much for our qualifications and services. But, more to the point, the Australian dollar has crippled our industry. Plus tariffs for imported cars really needed to be raised”.

Another wrote, “Holden’s had one really good statistic that does not get mentioned in the media, when Commodore was the number one car it sold 80,000 units. Now, the current number one car only sells 44,000 units. The choice of cars is huge now. People are spoilt for choice”.

While all of Holden’s public statements to the media are bullish about its intentions to continue building cars as if never nothing, right up until the final car rolls down the line in 2017, one of the workers we heard from said many at Holden’s Elizabeth factory have different ideas.

“Everyone is affected differently, but the feeling is that people want to leave when they get another job and not when Holden says there are packages available. I understand that people can leave whenever they want, package or not, but for many of us a package will go a long way to supporting our families in the transition.”

We’ll all watch this space for Toyota’s announcement.


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober