Toyota to hire 800 contract workers

The Associated Press

Toyota said Tuesday it is hiring 800 short-term contract workers in its first such job increase in more than a year to keep up with brisk Prius sales. Former workers will have preference.

Most will start working next month at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Tsutsumi plant in Aichi Prefecture, which makes the Prius hybrid and other models for the domestic market.

Toyota now employs 1,300 contract workers, down from a peak of 11,600 in June 2005, when auto sales were booming. They are hired for limited periods, unlike the company’s 70,000 full-time workers, who are guaranteed “lifetime employment.”

Toyota reduced its contract workers amid the global slump in auto sales by not renewing their contracts or promoting them to full time. The automaker employs more than 300,000 workers worldwide.

The company has been struggling since global sales plunged last year. It stopped hiring contract workers in Japan in June last year.

Toyota racked up its worst loss ever of ¥436.9 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31. It has projected an even worse business year through next March, although analysts are expecting that to be revised to a better forecast now that there are signs sales may be picking up.

Toyota has been reducing workers in other nations to cut costs.

Last month, it said it is shutting the California factory it ran with General Motors for 25 years — its first closure of a major auto plant.

The Fremont, Calif.-based New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI, which employs about 4,600 workers, is set to be closed next March unless another company steps in to keep it going. Toyota said it will move production to its other plants in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

Toyota said the latest hiring will replace the overtime workers in Japan have had to do to keep up with demand. Recruitment will favor former employees, it said in a statement.

“The decision to hire the contract employees reflects gradually recovering global auto sales,” company spokesman Paul Nolasco announced. “We want to be prepared.”

The Prius was Japan’s best-selling car for the fourth straight month in August. Government incentives and tax breaks helped boost the cars popularity.