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No Canadian layoffs after production slowdown due to Japan tsunami: Automakers

TORONTO – Japanese automakers don’t anticipate any Canadian layoffs despite production cuts at some Ontario plants in the wake of last Friday’s killer earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Toyota has suspended one hour of daily overtime at its plants in North America, including Ontario, in order to conserve parts and give the company’s head office time to confirm the status of its supply chain.

Pat Clement, assistant manager of external affairs at Toyota’s Canadian plants, said it has been difficult to communicate with head office in Japan where phone lines, transportation and electricity are questionable as part of the country lies in ruin.

Plants in Japan have been shut down in order to focus on distributing relief supplies in disaster-ravaged country, which was rocked by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed thousands and swept away everything in its path.

“We have to give them some time in order to try to assess the situation. We have some parts that do come from Japan although the vast majority of our parts come from North America,” Clement said.

She added that at least one Japanese auto parts maker plans to resume production for North American customers on Monday, while the revised reopening date for Toyota’s plants in Japan is next Tuesday.

“In reality, its going to take them some time to actually assess suppliers, assess everything that’s involved with this and give us the information so that we can all make some future plans but that’s what we know at this point,” Clement said.

The automaker’s two plants in Woodstock and Cambridge, Ont., employ about 6,500 people.

Toyota said its Canadian customers will not see any delays in receiving cars because the company maintains inventory in Canada.

Meanwhile, Honda Canada said most of the company’s cars and parts sold in North America are made on the continent, so it anticipates the crisis in Japan will not lead to production cuts in Canada.

“In February, for instance, 96 per cent of what we sold was made either in Canada or the U.S., so only four per cent of our total products that we sell are Japan-sourced, so at this point we have not experienced any disruptions,” spokesman Richard Jacobs said.

He said an increase in consumer demand could have an effect on Canadian supply down the road, but the company is assessing the situation and currently anticipates no disruption.

The company employs approximately 4,600 people at two plants in Alliston, Ont., where it builds the Honda Civic sedan and Acura luxury vehicles, along with Honda Ridgeline trucks, as well as engines.

Canada’s auto parts industry has had no complaints so far about the crisis in Japan affecting production or labour, said Jerry Dias, assistant to the president at the Canadian Auto Workers union.

“I haven’t gotten one call,” he said, explaining that the CAW represents workers who make parts for the big three Detroit automakers as well as Toyota.

“If there were plants that were being negatively impacted as a result of (trouble in Japan) and our members being laid off I would’ve heard about it by now, but as of now I haven’t heard a thing, which is good news,” he said.

Several of Japan’s automakers shut production in the country after the twin catastrophes hit last week.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said it will extend production stoppages at its car plants in Japan through March 22, affecting about 95,000 vehicles. The company halted production beginning March 14.

Honda Motor Co. suspended production at six Japanese plants through the end of this week, along with a development centre and engineering office. The production cuts will affect 16,600 vehicles and 2,000 motorcycles.

Honda’s auto plants will remain closed because of a shortage of parts from northeastern Japan, near the epicentre of the earthquake and tsunami.

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