Employment and Migration Blog

Toyota – oh what a feeling?

Posted by Stephen Booth on 27 Apr 2012

There has been a bit of commentary since Toyota notified a large number of employees of redundancy last Monday. Employers having to sack people for redundancy, don’t generally enjoy it, and no doubt Toyota is no exception. The criticism of the methods used have a bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” about them.

 

Toyota had announced impending redundancies in January, and seems to have had extensive discussions with the unions, so it would’ve been a surprise to no-one. There has been criticism of tapping people on the shoulder when they arrived for work, and the employees being mini-bussed to a meeting where they were given the details.  But if they’d sent a letter, or made a phone call, or sent a text to tell the affected workers, they would have been criticised for not being personal about it.

 

Selecting the candidates for redundancy against a list of criteria based on usefulness to the company’s future seems rational way to go about it, once it is decided cuts have to be made:  to argue that this approach was unfair in some way implicitly involves saying “It shouldn’t be me, it should be him!”, which might be right in a given individual case, but leads to no better outcome overall.

 

There have been suggestions that union reps were over-represented in the group, and if union involvement was somehow factored into selction, that would clearly be illegitimate - it remains to be seen if that can be proved. But if reasonable and objective criteria do select people who are union reps, should they be a protected species to the detriment of other workers who are not union reps?

 

The fact that selection was based on qualitative criteria, and that this has become widely known, is problematic for those apparently less adept or committed workers now looking for a new job.  I don’t know whether the company or commentators brought that fact out, but if the company maintained silence about how it had made the selection, it would no doubt come in for stick about that too. Employers are taken to task for how they select for redundancy, so need to be able to give an explanation, and having objective criteria is a necessary defence.

 

Not good for the sacked workers, obviously, but not a pleasant or easy task on the other side, either.