||Issue No. 287||28 October 2005|
A Sick Set of Laws
Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
PM's Fatal Flush
Sign of the Times
Labor's Love Lost
Jason Turns Leave into Leave!
Colleen Hughes, 27, has launched legal action through her union, the LHMU, in a bid to hold Coughlan to account before the federal government passes laws that would give him a free hand.
The former director of the Kids Club Kindergarten in Cronulla's Wooloowara Rd, said the new owner of the business had instructed her to sack staff who did good jobs.
"If I had gone ahead and sacked them it would have meant we did not have the proper staffing which could have endangered our ability to operate under the law," Hughes explained.
"I had no reason to sack anyone. I've been working there for seven years and would have known if there were any staff problems but everyone working there loved the children and worked hard for them."
Coughlan was fingered in federal parliament as one of people involved with the notorious Metro Shelf company that folded in 2003 and took more millions of dollars of workers entitlements, including $800,000 in unpaid super contributions, down the gurgler with it.
Metro Shelf was one of a number of companies operated by Hommous Khoshaba, and Paul and Craig Coughlan, who set up an intricate web of relationships that could see workers, at the same site, employed by different legal entities.
Four years earlier, Metro companies had been involved in a spectacular dispute with the CFMEU. Workers and picketers joined forces, on that occasion, to defend regular employees the company was trying to replace with labour hire casuals.
Local MP, Robert McClelland blew the whistle on the Coughlans' modus operandi in a parliamentary statement in August, 2003.
"In the years before he placed the Metro group of companies into voluntary administration, Paul Coughlan went to his accountant and arranged an asset protection scheme quarantining his family's extensive property interests through an intricate web of transactions," McClelland said.
"In the months before the administration, Paul Coughlan and his sons, Craig and Jason, transferred their employees to subsidiaries that had no assets. In the weeks before the administration, Paul Coughlan and his sons presented a financial report which said that the subsidiaries had promised not to call on the holding company should they themselves collapse.
"In the hours before Metro Group collapsed, Paul, Craig, and Jason Coughlan spirited their luxury cars--including Mercedes and cruisers--away from the family's million-dollar waterside mansion at Burraneer Bay.
"Despite his family's massive financial resources, when Paul Coughlan finally announced the administration on 10 July he said that there was no money to pay the more than $9 million his 300 employees were owed in entitlements--including more than $800,000 in superannuation which had gone unpaid for a year.
"Last week several of his other unsecured creditors, small businesses and tradespeople who had been supplying Metro Group, announced that they themselves would be forced into administration because of the non-payment of debts by Metro."
LHMU president, Jim Lloyd, said Hughes' unfair dismissal case could be one of the last heard by the Industrial Relations Commission.
"Once John Howard passes his laws people like Colleen Hughes will not be able to contest unfair dismissals before the Commission," Lloyd said.
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