Despite union and worker pleas all the way to Toyota City, NUMMI has built its last car

Despite union and worker pleas all the way to Toyota City, NUMMI has built its last car

The last Corolla has rolled off the assembly line at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI), the Californian car manufacturing plant formed 25 years ago as a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota.

Workers at the Fremont factory expressed grave disappointment in the two carmakers after the closure - spurred by GM's bankruptcy and subsequent axing of the Pontiac brand, whose Vibe was built at NUMMI - left 4,700 people without jobs in a state with a high unemployment rate.

NUMMI had until last Thursday operated as a symbol of cooperation between Japanese and US carmakers and was Toyota's only unionised plant in the US.

Workers are angry by what they say is a lack of effort from the two automakers to provide proper severance. Randy Gonzales, who worked in the paint repair centre, told Kyodo News: “'After all of their negotiations no one spoke up for us.''

NUMMI workers were originally due to receive an average US$54,500 in severance pay, ranging from US$21,000 to US$68,000 depending on length of employment.

However, the latest agreement changed the deal from a seniority-based package to a retention package which no longer takes seniority into account, nor does it adequately accommodate the needs of workers on leave due to job-related injury, or long-serving employees with only a few years left before retirement. As a result, the average amount being paid to NUMMI workers is only $21,000.

Much of the blame from the assembly floor has been directed at GM for pulling out of the plant's joint venture last year following bankruptcy.

Toyota then decided to withdraw as well, citing the difficulty of operating the plant on a stand-alone, financially viable basis.

NUMMI is expected to be liquidated, but there is no fixed plan to reuse the site yet.

The factory was also the only Toyota manufacturing operation in the US where workers were represented by the United Auto Workers Union. The UAW was also seen by many employees as being partly to blame for GM pulling out in the first place, as the union ended up owning about 17% of 'new GM' following bankruptcy reorganisation.

GM has offered no money toward the severance of workers at NUMMI since pulling out. Toyota, however, provided $280m to support the transition of its salaried and hourly workers who were to lose their jobs.