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Toyota says jobs safe at Prospecton plant

Toyota staff have complained about poor communication between them, the employers and the unions after their plant was flooded during the recent April floods in KwaZulu Natal. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

Toyota staff have complained about poor communication between them, the employers and the unions after their plant was flooded during the recent April floods in KwaZulu Natal. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 12, 2022


DURBAN - TOYOTA has said none of the company’s employees will lose their jobs.

The company was commenting after operations ceased at its Prospecton plant after last month’s floods caused extensive damage to the facility.

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On Tuesday, The Mercury’s sister newspaper the Daily News reported that Toyota staff were experiencing financial difficulties due to the shutdown of the Prospecton plant.

In a statement, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) said that from a human resource perspective, the safety and welfare of its employees remained a key priority.

It also said that no TSAM employees would lose their jobs, and they would receive support from the company throughout the process.

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TSAM said the majority of Toyota employees fell under the NBF (National Bargaining Forum) and, as such, payment was governed by the rules of the NBF, where 50% of wages were paid where there was no work.

It said it would endeavour to improve employee earnings by doing the following:

Bringing in employees on a rotational basis to assist in clean-up and restoration activities, which had already started.

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Working with the government to provide temporary relief measures (UIF benefits).

Asking financial institutions with whom employees have loans for a three-month payment holiday (many of which have already done so).

Working with local NGOs to use TSAM employees to provide community support and clean-up. Employees who volunteer for such activities will be paid by TSAM

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TSAM said it was likely to lose about 45 000 units in production, but had been encouraged by a series of small gains in its recovery process.

Andrew Kirby, the president and CEO of TSAM, said it was implementing a systematic, phased plan to return the facility to working condition.

“TSAM is pleased to announce that it has resumed operations of its export line of catalytic convertors, and will – in the next few days – open the Hino assembly line.” Kirby added that the damage had been a tremendous setback for the company, but it had extensive insurance coverage.

“We are also fortunate that our parent company Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is supporting us with all the cash flow challenges that we are likely to encounter.”

He said it would, however, take some time for the main lines – such as Hilux, Fortuner, Hiace and Corolla Cross as well as Corolla Quest – to reopen.

Kirby added that TSAM had tremendous support from local employees, the parent company TMC, as well as Toyota global President Akio Toyoda, who sent words of encouragement.

“Toyoda has sent close to 60 top specialists and engineers from Japan to support the recovery of the TSAM plant. As previously mentioned, the facility’s flood-protection measures were effective up to a point, and will be reinstated and enhanced further. TSAM is also working closely with the city of eThekwini to address some of the infrastructural shortfalls in the area to prevent the recurrence of a similar disaster in the future.”

The company added that it wanted to emphasise that all the vehicles that incurred damage at the plant would be scrapped and crushed so that no potentially compromised Toyotas would ever make it into the retail chain.

“About 12% of the (4 596) complexly built-up units on site had no damage at all, and can be sold.”

Mbuso Ngubane, the National Union of Metal Workers South Africa (Numsa) KwaZulu-Natal regional secretary, said that the union understood that workers were unhappy, but the plant had been damaged and it would take time to return to full operations.

“The entire plant was flooded and clean-up operations were hampered due to water shortage in the area which was only recently restored. There is lots of technical equipment that was damaged and needs attention. Our primary objective is that no member will be dismissed and work does return to full operations.”

Ngubane said that it was engaging with the employer and the government so that at least Ters (Temporary Employee-Employer Relief Scheme) would be paid to workers.

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