||Issue No. 197||26 September 2003|
Coming to the Party
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
A Sick War
Corporate "Branch Stack" in Court
AWU national secretary, Bill Shorten, is working on a redraft that will go before ALP policymakers if the Supreme Court rules chemists - owed barely $70 a head and with a dubious relationship to Pan - had the right to vote down a rescue package at a fiery creditors meeting in Sydney.
"These workers haven't broken any law. If it turns out the Pharmacy Guild and KPMG haven't broken any law either, then the law is broken," Shorten said.
"If that is the case we will push to ensure corporate law is radically reformed so the interests of ordinary Australians - workers and small business people - are not trampled over again."
Under existing law, two votes would have been required to get the Pan rescue package up. The first, by numbers of creditors, the second by value of money owed.
The administrator had stated publicly that if the two results conflicted, he would have cast his deciding vote for the rescue package.
Big corporate creditors like Mayne Health, Sigma and Horny Goat, all incidentally involved in manufacturing operations in some opposition to Pan, were always expected to vote against the operation continuing.
But workers, 90 of whom attended the meeting, would have carried the numbers vote in alliance with small creditors, if the administrator hadn't treated the Pharmacy Guild proxies, controlled by one individual, as 370 separate votes.
Shorten called the nine-hour meeting a "real farce".
"It is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide whether these votes should have been allowed or not," Shorten said. "Either way, what we saw was a farce. The proxy holders representing the Pharmacy Guild wouldn't even allow an adjournment for the court to decide the validity of the process.
"It was a classic case of corporate branch stacking that would have made any ALP operator blush," Shorten said.
He questioned whether the Pharmacy Guild should have had any vote given that its members did not deal directly with Pan but with pharmaceutical retailers.
The chances of Pan workers retaining employment would have swung on the result of a Therapeutical Goods Administration audit expected next Tuesday.
The AWU is one of several parties that have asked the Supreme Court to rule on the validity of the creditor's meeting. The case has been set down for hearing on October 13 and 14 but, by then, the administrator is expected to have used last week's vote to terminate remaining employees.
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