||Issue No. 171||21 March 2003|
Shock and Awe
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Viva Le Imperialists!
The First Casualty
Calling All Libs
If George W Bush was an Australian Citizen...
Kennett Delivers $2m Gas Bill
When Australian Gas Technology Services went into liquidation last month it was discovered that no provision had been made to cover the entitlements of specialist gas workers transferred over when the company was privatised in 2000.
Together, they are owed more than $2 million in annual leave, severance and long service entitlements.
When the Kennett regime privatised AGTS it sold at below market valuation on the understanding the purchasing consortium would assume responsibilities for entitlements. However, it now appears, that requirement was not written into sale documents.
The situation also underlines Federal Government's failure to honour its promise to ensure employees don't lose out on entitlements. Its GEARS safety net offers a maximum of eight weeks pay, well shy of the money owed to people whose average length of service is 22 years.
One of their number, Steve Cooper, has done 36 years with the business and is owed $138,000.
In another development, there are also concerns about the safety of AGTS super contributions.
AWU national secretary, Bill Shorten, accused Victoria's former Liberal Government of a "massive blunder - reckless disregard for people who have worked loyally for the people of this state".
He said the AGTS failure highlighted the broader dangers of "senseless privatisation".
Shorten said AGTS employees had been central figures in ensuring the safety of the Victorian gas system through roles from which private enterprise could not easily extract a profit.
"These workers were highly specialised. They helped ensure the safety of our gas system and that it complied with regulations. They did a lot of the measuring, testing and compliance work. When gas leaks were reported they were the ones who investigated," he said.
"There are a lot of contractors in Victoria who do some of their work but none who do all of it."
Shorten called on the state government and major AGTS shareholders - Envestra, Energex, Country Energy Gas and AGL Service Businesses - to make up the $2 million shortfall between them.
His union has held emergency talks with current Victorian Energy and Finance Ministers.
The failure of AGTS comes hard on the heels of Connex washing its hands of Victoria's suburban rail network. Connex said it couldn't make a profit out of the deal negotiated with the Kennett Government and handed the railways back to the state.
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