Feltex blackmails workers to sign AWAs

Issue 

More than 300 workers at Feltex Carpets are being pressured to sign individual contacts (Australian Workplace Agreements — AWAs) as a condition of employment by the company's new owner. If they refuse, they will lose their jobs and receive no redundancy entitlements.

New Zealand-owned Feltex Carpets, which produces 25% of all carpet in New Zealand and Australia, went into receivership on September 22. Despite the uncertainty of the situation, the workers and their unions agreed to keep the Melbourne factory going.

On October 3, Australian carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst agreed to buy Feltex (through a $2 shelf company), and at the end of October demanded that its Australian production workers sign AWAs or be sacked. The workers and their union, the Textile, Footwear and Clothing Union (TCFUA), rejected the demand.

While the purchase of Feltex is being finalised, the TCFUA is organising a public campaign against the AWAs. On October 27, the union held a media conference outside the gates of the Feltex plant in Tottenham. TCFUA Victorian branch secretary Michele O'Neil said: "Godfrey Hirst plans to exploit John Howard's Work Choices legislation by stripping away 300 workers' current rights and protections under a collective union agreement.

"Feltex workers and their families have already had to suffer extreme insecurity over the future of their jobs and entitlements. Many of our members are migrant women who have worked a lifetime for this company ... So much for existing conditions being 'protected by law' through the Work Choices transmission of business provisions."

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.