Bridgestone to End Australia, New Zealand Tyre Production
When Bridgestone Australia chairman and managing director Shawn Hara gave word in April that operations at the company’s Salisbury plant would cease between April 14 and 27, he reassured that Bridgestone is “committed to local tyre manufacturing and we are proud of providing quality Australian-made tyres to our customers.” He also stated no further closedowns were planned for 2009. Despite these soothing words, on October 23 Bridgestone Australia Ltd. announced the decision to close the plant near Adelaide, along with the company’s factory in Christchurch, New Zealand. When the closures take effect, tyre manufacture in Australasia, which commenced in 1903, will come to an end.
Around 600 employees in Australia and 275 in New Zealand will lose their jobs as a result of Bridgestone’s decision. The closure of the Papanui plant in Christchurch is expected to occur before the end of the year, while the Australian plant will close its doors no later than April 30, 2010. Bridgestone states the company’s distribution, customer service and retail networks, which employ more than 1,500 people in total, will continue their operations as before.
“Despite continued efforts to improve cost competitiveness at both plants, international competitive forces have been making tyre manufacturing in Australia and New Zealand increasingly difficult to the point where the operations in both countries are no longer viable,” said Bridgestone in a statement, adding that news of the closures was disclosed to employees and union representatives at both facilities on the afternoon of October 23.
“We would like to express our thanks to all our employees at our manufacturing facilities in both countries,” said Bridgestone Australia senior executive director Andrew Moffatt. “Their contribution over so many years is to be admired and celebrated.”
Upon releasing details of the closures to the public, Bridgestone stated its “first priority is its people,” and announced that affected employees will receive their full entitlements. In addition, the company said it is working in conjunction with relevant government departments, unions and other agencies on a range of initiatives to aid employees, including support services to assist with future employment opportunities. “It is our goal to help as many of our employees as possible gain alternative employment, either within the Bridgestone organisation or in the wider marketplace,” Moffatt explained.
In order to “recognise the enormous contributions of the communities” in Adelaide and Christchurch, Bridgestone further announced its intention to work with local government authorities in the two cities to “gift” a portion of the land currently owned by the company. “We would also like to put on record our thanks to the various levels of government in both Australia and New Zealand,” Moffatt continued. “As the last tyre manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand, we have all worked hard over many years to avoid today’s decision. However the unfortunate reality is that Bridgestone Australia Ltd. can no longer commercially justify the continued operation of these facilities.”
The Christchurch facility has been operating since 1947 and the Adelaide plant since 1965. “We are proud of the fact that we have managed to keep these two manufacturing facilities open for so long and have provided employment and economic benefits to so many people over such a long period,” concluded Moffatt.