Up to 300 manufacturing workers will be left jobless and cashless over the Christmas break after Australia’s largest printing group Ovato applies for court permission to avoid paying redundancy.
Ovato are trying to strip four of the companies in their group assets leaving behind 300 workers in the newly insolvent companies.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) represents the 300 workers who will be made redundant. These workers entered good faith negotiations with the company earlier this year after Ovato threatened to terminate their agreement.
The workers have bent over backwards to support their company and their co-workers. When the pandemic hit, they took a 40 per cent pay cut to try and keep the company afloat. In an agreement that was approved on 6 November they agreed to limit their redundancy pay so that the company could afford to pay them their entitlements while still remaining viable. It is clear Ovato had no plan to pay those entitlements, having planned all along to put that cost on the taxpayers instead.
The AMWU say this is an outright snatch and grab. Ovato is not going out of business, it is able to make full redundancy payments to workers, but instead it’s applying to the court to make the taxpayer pick up the tab for the debts it incurred. The FEG is a last resort safety net intended to protect working people. Instead Ovato want to abuse it to fund their restructure and avoid making redundancy payments, the AMWU say.
The AMWU calls on the Morrison Government to intervene to stop big businesses like Ovato using the FEG to escape paying workers their redundancy payments.
Quotes attributable to AMWU Assistant National Secretary (Print and Packaging Membership) Lorraine Cassins
“It’s a total disgrace that these workers who’ve been dedicated and hard working during a pandemic have been tossed aside just before Christmas and now get no pay and are left cashless at a crucial time of year.
“Ovato have backed out of all the commitments they made to these workers... this is nothing less than a snatch and grab attempt, getting out of paying these workers what they are owed.
“We can’t sit by and watch the abuse the FEG which is meant to protect workers, not be a tool exploited by big business to get out of paying workers their entitlements.
“The FEG was created to ensure that workers did not miss out when a company collapses. It was not designed as a fund to underwrite corporate restructures at the taxpayers’ expense.
“This abuse of the FEG is just more proof to support the AMWU’s decades long campaign to establish entitlement trusts. This approach would see employers setting aside money into a trust (like the National Entitlement Security Trust) so that a workers’ entitlements are secure.
“If these workers’ entitlements were secure in a trust they would be paid what they were owed, when they were owed it – not forced to endure Christmas without a dollar to their names.”