Forgecast workers still fighting for entitlements

Dave Oliver meets with Forgecast workers who have not been paid their entitlements.

The protest outside Mitcham company Forgecast, where 57 workers are owed $4.4 million worth of redundancy, superannuation and other entitlements, has entered its 12th week.

In November last year, the 57 workers were sacked from the forgings plant and were told the company did not have the money to pay them what they were owed.

Over a long hot summer the workers have maintained a 24-hour protest to draw attention to their fight for justice.

AMWU State Secretary, Steve Dargavel, says the AMWU and AWU members at Forgecast are the latest victims of a system that allows bosses to subvert corporate law in order to avoid paying workers entitlements when companies are liquidated.

AMWU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, met with the workers on Tuesday to talk about their struggle and the Union’s campaign for a national entitlements system that protects all workers’ entitlements from company collapses.

He said the protest at Forgecast is part of the larger battle for changes to the Federal Government’s redundancy and insolvency laws.

“You are not alone,” he told the workers. “The Union is fighting for a proper workers’ entitlement scheme that will ensure this never happens again. That’s the message will be taking to the Federal Government in the lead up to the Federal election, and we’ll be highlighting your plight and the plight of other workers facing the same situation.”

AMWU delegate at Forgecast, George Pavlov, says that while most Australians have enjoyed the Christmas break, workers from Forgecast have spent a long summer protesting outside the factory and living on next to nothing.

“Some of the people here have young families and mortgages. They were left without a cent before Christmas and they’re now owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

When Foregcast went into liquidation, its millionaire director, Mr Beynon, set up another company with the aim of selling himself Forgecast and all its assets.

By doing this Mr Beynon has tried to make himself a creditor in the collapse of his own company.

George Pavlov says Mr Beynon is trying to avoid paying his workers’ entitlements.

 “He thinks he can do whatever he likes and get away with it,” he says.

With the help of the unions, workers from Forgecast have lodged claims under the Federal Government’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS).

But because the GEERS scheme is capped, the workers from Forgecast will lose out on $1.4 million in unpaid entitlements and super. It’s a devastating blow for the workers, many of whom have served the company for over 30 years.

Brian Coates was a tool maker at Forgecast for 25 years and he’s taking part in the picket-line. Brian believes he’s owed around $114,000 in unpaid entitlements and super.

At 61 years of age, Brian says he’ll be lucky to get another job and he’ll need the money he’s owed for his retirement.

He says the current entitlements system doesn’t offer enough protection for loyal workers like him.

“The owner should be held accountable,” he says.

“He (Mr Benyon) has other companies so he can afford to wait. We’ve been out here for 12 weeks but the protest might last another six months. He’s got plenty of money. But we need jobs. We need an income.”

Carlos Rendich also worked as toolmaker at Forgecast for 34 years. He believes he’s owed around $153,000 in entitlements.

Mr Rendich was a shop steward at Forgecast and he’s trying to use his role as a delegate to lift morale and keep the protest going.

“The message is clear. We need a solution and we’re committed to staying here until we get a solution.”

Contact Person: Steve Dargavel
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