||Issue No. 333||17 November 2006|
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
Carpeted Victorians Fight AWAs
"Like everyone else, they saw the ads that said 'protected by law' on transmission of business," said textiles union (TCFUA) state secretary Michele O'Neil.
"They've had generations of hard-won collective union agreements. They can't believe that overnight their employer the company is exploiting WorkChoices to get out of giving them what they're owed."
Godfrey Hirst Australia, which is purchasing carpet-maker Feltex's operation, has insisted the workers sign AWAs which get rid of most of the award conditions included in the Feltex union collective agreement, which doesn't expire until mid-2007.
The AWAs reduce a host of entitlements including redundancy, maternity leave and annual leave; as well as giving the employer greater power to stand workers down and unilaterally change their duties.
Godfrey Hirst clams it will be free of redundancy or severance pay obligations if workers refuse to sign the AWAs.
The TCFUA is fighting Godfrey Hirst in the Federal Court and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, arguing it is unlawful to force people from a current collective union agreement onto an AWA.
Meanwhile, the workers are attracting support at home and abroad. The ACTU has thrown its weight behind the campaign, with secretary Greg Combet meeting the workers this week.
"The Federal Government promised that under its IR laws workers' pay and conditions would be protected for 12 months following the transmission of business to a new owner," he said.
"But Godrey Hirst has joined the list of an increasing number of employers using the new laws to cut workers conditions when they take over an existing business.
New Zealand Feltex workers have delivered petitions to management in support of their Australian colleagues.
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