I got asked today why I hadn’t yet commented on Toyota planning to fire some temporary workers in Indiana. Mike commented on it on his “Got Boondoggle?” blog. A news article can be found here and Toyota’s statement is here. Here is another newspaper article with some spirited reader debate. I guess I haven’t commented because I don’t know exactly what to think about the news.
Mike was optimistic in his reaction and I agree with his take on it and the spirit of his comments.
Although I feel saddened for the 350 families affected by the pain of losing of a job, I also feel hopeful. For one, the announcement stated a timeline “by the end of the year” for the elimination. That is a seven month horizon to ease the burden. From my manufacturing experience, temp workers are typically given little notice that their services were no longer needed. This meant same day or next day notice with the “Thanks for your work, here is your last check and don’t come back tomorrow” speech.
We often talk about how Toyota hasn’t had layoffs in over 50 years. This flies in the face of that right? But aren’t the expectations different for a temporary worker? They knew that they didn’t have permanent jobs, that as business conditions changed (sales slowing or loaned-out workers returning from the San Antonio plant startup) they might not be needed.
Accuse me of being a Toyota apologist, if you will, but if temporary was the deal promised, I don’t see how this violates the “Respect for People” principle. It all depends on how it was handled with people. If they were given notice and fair assistance in finding something new, that’s more than many temporary workers get in similar situations.
It’s impractical for any company, yet alone Toyota, to promise “lifetime employment” for all employees. By having some temporary workforce, this allows Toyota to maintain its commitment to the full timers. As long as the temporary workers are treated with respect during their employment (by managers and by permanent workers), are they really getting that raw of a deal? Is the alternative for Toyota to bring them on as permanent employees, finding things for them to do during the slow periods?
I can see both sides of the coin here – is Toyota being hypocritical in bragging about zero layoffs, but getting around that with a technicality of temporary workers? Does anyone have first-hand experience with Toyota in this way? Am I being hypocritical in attacking IBM Global Services on the one hand and being ambivalent about Toyota letting some temporary workers go?
I think what IBM is allegedly doing is a whole different game. Toyota isn’t looking to move their factory overseas.
Once again, I’m not downplaying how painful it might be to lose the temporary job at Toyota. I’m just wondering how Toyota should have or could have managed this. Your thoughts?
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