The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has urged Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter to intervene in a NSW Supreme Court case that will leave workers at printing giant Ovato stranded over Christmas with no pay.
Ovato applied to the court for a corporate restructure which would allow it to strip its assets leaving no money in newly restructured companies to pay redundancies and entitlements to 300 working people, forcing them to apply to be paid under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG).
During a difficult year these workers have made every effort to support Ovato through the pandemic but now they’re being left in the lurch. This is not a case of corporate collapse - Ovato are solvent now and will be solvent after a restructure.
The AMWU is calling for Porter to urgently intervene to stop the FEG being abused as a loophole for big businesses like Ovato to not pay working people what they’re owed. This dangerous case sets a precedent for big business to shirk their responsibilities to pay working people by deferring the cost to the FEG, therefore the taxpayer.
Quotes attributable to AMWU National Secretary Steve Murphy
“Forcing workers who have bent over backwards for Ovato to stay operational, then abandoning them with no pay over Christmas and the prospect of having to get paid via the FEG is adding insult to injury, it’s shameful.
“Porter needs to intervene immediately to ensure that a dangerous precedent isn’t set allowing big businesses to restructure and force working people to get paid via the FEG when they can afford to pay them their redundancies and entitlements.
“We cannot standby as Ovato blatantly abuse the system that was set up to try and protect working people. 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.
“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.”
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil
“Workers have carried this country through the pandemic. Ovato has obligations to its employees and those should be honoured.
“This is a clear case of a business trying to use accounting tricks to avoid paying what is owed to its workers, and the fact that this comes over Christmas after an incredibly trying year is incredibly cruel.
“We stand with these workers and the AMWU and call on Minister Porter to do the right thing and protect the rights of these workers.”