|Issue No 83||09 February 2001|
Workers Casualties in Wentworth Fire Sale
By Andrew Casey
Stunned. Hurt. Disgusted. Made to feel like a criminal. These were the reactions of LHMU Hotel union members at Sydney's Wentworth Hotel sacked this week because the company buying the grand hotel had insisted the sackings were part of the purchase price of the site.
After the initial shock, and pain, LHMU Hotel Union members have picked themselves up off the floor and decided to fight the decision.
Next Wednesday - at 11am - the workers and their supporters will rally outside the hotel.
Earlier this week the hotel housekeeping section was shutdown when the workforce went out on strike for 24 hours to show their disgust.
Union members were especially angry, and unimpressed, with the brutality of statements made to the media by the finance company AXA ( formerly National Mutual) - who currently own the hotel.
They said they were retrenching the workers because it was a condition of sale. Mr Simon Morgan, from AXA, said this week the company had not wanted to sack the workers but had no choice under the terms of the sale.
One of Australia's richest men - Mr David Burger - who, according to the Business Review Weekly, is worth $180 million, has bought the Wentworth Hotel.
AXA management has publicly stated that Mr Burger has insisted on the sackings as part of the purchase.
David Burger owns the Sydney investment and development company City Freeholds and is said to have hankered for a 'trophy' hotel ever since he was beaten in a bidding war for the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Double Bay.
Last year the Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Burger's purchase of the Wentworth Hotel satisfied " a long-held ambition to enter the Sydney hotel game "
LHMU Hotel Union members went on strike for 24 hours earlier this week after holding a noisy protest rally in front of the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney.
More than 40 union members from the housekeeping staff , stores, and room service went on strike leaving management to clean rooms at a time when the hotel had 95 per cent occupancy
The strike also disrupted a national conference that the Australian Hotels Association was holding at the Wentworth Hotel.
" It seems just so the recent sale of the hotel by AXA can be completed our members had to lose their jobs," Mark Boyd, the LHMU Hotel Union's NSW Assistant Secretary said.
The dispute over the sackings has gone to the AIRC. More hearings scheduled for this Monday.
AXA announced in June 2000 that they wanted to sell the Wentworth Hotel - which is managed by the Rydges group - to reduce direct property holdings from their statutory funds, in a bid to make the funds more liquid.
" With the aura of the Olympics surrounding all Sydney hotels, and the hard work of our members during the Sydney Olympics, AXA was able to maximise their profits from the sale," Mark Boyd said.
" Now Hotel workers are being repaid for their hard work with this announcement of job losses.
" Twenty LHMU members were called in and told to pack their bags. They were told they were being sacked because the new owners have made it a condition of purchase.
" One of the workers losing his job - just so AXA can make money from the sale - has worked at the Wentworth Hotel for 34 years; another has worked for the Wentworth Hotel for twenty-six years.
" Some of our members were literally frog-marched off the property - given only a few minutes to pack their personal things and told to go."
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005