||Issue No. 315||14 July 2006|
Give Truth A Chance
Interview: The Month Of Living Dangerously
Unions: Staying Mum
Economics: Precious Metals
Industrial: The Cold 100
History: The Vinegar Hill Mob
Legal: Free Agents
Politics: Under The Influence
International: How Swede It Was
Review: Keating's Men Slam Dance on Howard
The Locker Room
Howard vs World
Tough as ABC
Howard's $30m Rip Off
The manoeuvre came to light when Huon Group administrators sacked 122 people from factories in Bendigo, Frankston and Dandenong, last week, and announced $30 million in owed entitlements, for all 600 employees, had disappeared.
Last year, Howard altered regulations so his GEERS Scheme would only have to meet entitlements when an employer had gone into bankruptcy.
Huon went into voluntary administration, two weeks ago, and, prior to last November, its staff would have been covered by GEERS.
AMWU Victorian secretary, Dave Oliver, called the Howard sting "dishonest" and "disgraceful'.
"Two events brought GEERS into being," Oliver said, "the company run by John Howard's brother, Stan, leaving employees high and dry, and the collapse of Ansett.
"In the run-up to a general election, John Howard introduced GEERS to protect entitlements then, by regulation, he gutted it.
"As a result, we've got 600 long-serving employees who have lost everything. Basically, those entitlements were their life savings."
Even worse, Oliver said, the regulatory change encouraged administrators to rip-off long-serving staff.
"The regulation undermines the whole point of establishing the scheme," he said. "It gives administrators a major incentive to cut people loose."
Furious employees deserted all three factories after mass meetings, last Friday.
NUW and AMWU members set up picket lines and determined to let nothing in or out until sacked colleagues received their full entitlements.
"They've voted to take control of the company's assets until something is sorted out," Oliver confirmed.
The Huon Group collapse is a messy story that has seen workers, many with 20 years service, dudded by corporate shenanigans.
They worked most of their lives for Nylex and that company was responsible for the vast majority of accrued entitlements - holiday pay, redundancy, long service etc.
Nylex sold out to the Huon Group, last year, provoking union attempts to guarantee entitlements, following the default of another Nylex subsidiary.
Oliver says the company pledged to set up a bond worth more than $3 million but there is no evidence of that pledge being honoured.
Then, after the sale, Huon transferred the largest asset, the land, into a separate property trust controlled by one of its directors and his daughters.
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