||Issue No. 321||25 August 2006|
Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Unions: Fighting Back
Industrial: What Cowra Means
Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Politics: Page Turner
Economics: The State of Labour
International: Workers Blood For Oil
History: Liberty in Spain
Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
The Locker Room
Andrews on the Fiddle
Last week's move to double GEERS cover for lost entitlements, to 16 weeks, has been criticised by unions who have seen long-serving members dudded millions of dollars.
Marrickville auto component manufacturer, Tristar, is a stark example.
If Tristar closes its doors after next month's expiry of its collective agreement, Andrews' GEERS changes would mean long-serving employees could be short-changed up to $135,00, instead of $141,000.
AMWU organiser, Martin Schutz, said entitlements were central to the retirement plans of many long-serving production workers.
"A lot of these people earn $700-$800 a week. Obviously a nine percent super levy isn't going to provide much of a nest egg," he said.
"Their families rely on the entitlements they have built up over decades of service and they are entitled to, it's their money."
Tristar has slashed its workforce from around 350 in 2001 when Tony Abbott accused them of "treason" for striking in a bid to protect their entitlements, to about 60.
Those left are long-term employees, with up to 40 years of service, and the most accrued entitlements.
Tristar agreed to take out a $17 million insurance bond to cover those entitlements but it is part of the collective agreement and, under Howard's regime, a company can apply to terminate an agreement, leaving staff with only bare bones legal minimums.
Nobody is saying Tristar will try it on but the threat exists and the fear amongst those left is palpable.
Unions, including the AMWU, have lashed GEERS as corporate welfare that rips off taxpayers as well as workers.
They have pushed for insurance bonds and industry-wide insurance schemes to cover defaulting employers.
GEERS was introduced after National Textiles, headed by John Howard's brother Stan, went bust in the lead-up to a federal election, leaving employees without accrued entitlements.
ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said Andrews' adjustment to GEERS wouldn't even cover the average displaced worker until he or she found a job.
Studies show the average length of unemployment for redundant Australian workers is 22 weeks.
Combet said the federal government should be moving to protect jobs, rather than planning to lose them.
"What we are seeing is a federal government that has waved the white flag on Australian jobs and industries," Combet said.
"What displaced workers want is what they are entitled to - 100 percent of their entitlements."
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