They insist they're not trying to tempt Australian companies to move offshore, but to bring foreign workers into the country instead.
Behind closed doors, Thai Government representatives are spruiking Thailand - not as a holiday paradise, but as the place to manufacture.
With our local car industry in crisis, the Thailand Board of Investment was today doing the hard sell on the Detroit of Asia, offering enticements such as state of the art infrastructure, generous tax incentives and dirt cheap labour costs.More stories from Today Tonight
It’s a package hard to resist, according to local welding company owner Phil Messina.
“From what I understand they’re about $1.40 an hour, and our costs here are between $45 and $50 an hour,” Messina said.
“We’re a family business and we've got a long history in Australia - 35 years for us. To continue with new generations we have no choice.”
For 15 years Tony Berry toiled on a Toyota assembly line, before he was sacked four months ago. On $28 an hour he realises we can't compete wage wise against Thai workers on as little as $1.12 an hour, or $9 a day.
“I think the Governments need to have a look at what is happening in the country before it all goes overseas, and then what’s everyone going to do,” Berry asked.
Thailand’s automotive success is staggering according to Brian Rogers who works for a Thailand based automotive manufacturer.
“For every one car manufactured in Australia there are ten manufactured in Thailand,” Rogers said.
“And there is a lot more capacity going into Thailand. I don’t see any more capacity coming into Australia,” he added.
Australia's advisor to the Thailand Board of Investment, Lindsey Siede, is making no apology for inviting board representatives to Melbourne.
“The investments that companies make overseas typically are for growth - to grow their businesses, to make their businesses more sustainable, to reduce risk in this global market, to follow their customers. So what we are seeing is that Australian companies are actually growing, not only overseas but growing in Australia,” Siede said.
And Messina agrees. “We’re looking to lower our costs, to be more competitive and have a future in Australia - otherwise we'd have no future.”
Berry has worked only as a casual cleaner since he was escorted from Toyota.
“I felt like a criminal without handcuffs,” he recalled of that day.
Berry is just one of 990 Aussie automotive workers sacked so far this year. With car manufacturing revenue in negative growth since 2007 (including parts manufacturers) our car industry has shed 1200 workers this year alone.
“There are a million people employed in manufacturing in Australia. That is a lot of jobs that we need to hang on to,” Steve Davagal from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said.
“Wages are not a big part of the overall cost of the car. We have an industry built on skills - you've got to invest in skills and you've got to support your industry.”
However Siede sees it differently. “Typically what happens is businesses either sit on their hands and do nothing, or they look for opportunities to expand, and I guess what the Thailand Board of Investment is doing is offering an opportunity to link businesses here with customers, the opportunities in Thailand to grow and expand their business globally, not to shut down locally.”
With unions predicting there’s more pain to come in the auto parts sector, in a world of free trade, a high Aussie dollar and high cost of living, there's little doubt about who will lose in the end.What do you think of the 'cheap labour' expo?
OUR SOCIAL SITES
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest