|Issue No 43||24 February 2000|
Woodlawn: Two Years Is Long Enough
The Howard Government could end two years of anguish for workers retrenched from the Woodlawn Mine by agreeing to underwrite a proposal to transform the disused quarry into a rubbish dump.
With the second anniversay of the failure of the mine just weeks away, the 150 workers have not seen a cent of the $6.3 million in outstanding entitlements.
Their only hope of seeing the money is if a proposal to develop the site into a dump is approved by the Carr Government.
Proponents for the project, including the Transport Workers Union and Australian Workers Union, are currently working through environmental process to get approval, with strong community support.
But the AWU says the Prime Minister could end their pain immediately by agreeing to repay the workers their entitlements on the understanding the Commonwealth would recoup moneys if the dump proposal is approved.
"If the dump goes ahead, Howard gets his money back. If it doesn't the treatment will be no different from that accorded the National Textle workers," AWU organiser Peter Hook - who is himself owed $40,000 from the failure, told Workers Online.
Hook says the Howard Government is guilty of inaction and double standards and has consistently refused to act for the workers over the past two years.
"While many of the workers have found other jobs, the loss of the entitlements mean they are operating under constant financial pressure," Hook says. "After waiting for two years, it's a bit hard watching the special treatment given to National Textile workers."
Costa: Extend Deadline to 1996
Meanwhile, the NSW Labor Council has called on the Howard Government to extend the deadline for special assitance to employees of failed businesses to the date it took office.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says the January 1 deadline should be backdated in order for the Howard Government to take responsibility for workers who had suffered under its rule.
"It's not just Howard's consistent refusal to protect workers entitlements - many of these failures are the result of wider policies of his government," Costa says.
The call came as Howard Ministers refused to meet with representatives of the 12- employees from Parrish meats in Yallah - owed $5 million after the company went broke last year.
The Parish meat workers are the latest in a conga line of retrenched workers including the Braybrook textile workers and the Scone meatworkers wondering why they are not as deserving of government assistance as the Rutherford employees.
Costa says it was difficult to see how Howard could distinguish between their plitght and that of the national textile workers, who received their outstanding entitlements in full after the Prime Minister personally intervened.
ACTU Puts Position
Meanwhile, the ACTU has welcomed the belated recognition by the Howard Government that a national safety net scheme for the protection of employee entitlements must be established.
But ACTU secretary Greg Combet has condemned the Government's proposal for a safety net which will only provide meagre and partial compensation for employees lost entitlements.
"The operative date for the scheme is arbitrary and the overall and individual limits should be removed," Combet says.
The ACTU executive called on the Government to scrap its scheme immediately and replace it with a scheme that provides for full entitlements and removes the arbitrary date of 1 January 2000 for its introduction.
The ACTU's National Employees Entitlements Protection Scheme is designed to enable practical and effective comprehensive protection through:
- A.0.1% levy of wages/salaries on all employers to be paid into a central fund managed by independent body. To assist in start up costs, $50m would be allocated by the Commonwealth to the fund. The $50m reflects the amount the Commonwealth has indicated it would contribute its proposed Basic Payments Scheme.
- Companies to be exempted from levy where they demonstrate that they have provided for protection of all employees entitlements by: Participation in industry trust arrangement; and/or Participation in insurance arrangements which meet core ACTU principles
Mr Combet said unions were already campaigning industrially to create trust funds, which once established, are the most effective means for the protection and portability of entitlements. Many unions were considering the promotion and development of trusts in their industrial, arbitral and organising strategies.
The ACTU is also examining an industry-based mutual society insurance model underwritten by the AAA rated national and international insurers to provide coverage for accrued entitlements.
Under this model a fund, into which premiums would be paid, would be jointly run by industry providers, and any profits or surplus would benefit industry and employees, such as through reduced premiums.
This model would also ensure employees received full entitlements and guaranteed prompt payment of entitlements.
Interview: Parting Gestures
Outgoing ACTU president Jennie George looks back on her time at the helm and charts some challenges for young women in the union movement.
Unions: While We Were Sleeping
It’s been a long hot summer for Australian workers - from the showdown in the Pilbara to the victorious National Textile workers. We look at the stories Workers Online missed while we were in the banana chair.
Media: Freudian Slips
The coverage of Jennie George’s final days as ACTU President were a case study in the art of psycho-tabloid.
Legal: Cookies’ Fortune
The breakaway union led by a man personally backed by the Prime Minister has been refused registration in a ruling that raises questions over the whole enterprise.
Politics: True Deceivers
In his controversial new book, Andrew Scott argues that Labor's rhetoric has outstripped its achievements.
Review: Rebel With a Cause
A new Michael Moore has emerged at the frontline of subversive television. His technique? Combining organising with silly suits.
Satire: Victorian ALP shock: "Apparently We're in Power!"
A recent survey conducted by the Victorian State ALP has revealed that the party is in government.
International: Right Hand Drive
The rise of the extreme Right in Austria carries some important lessons for our own society.
View entire latest issue
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/43/news2_wood.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005