Chris Spindler, Melbourne
Twenty-five Finlay Engineering workers might have signed away most of their redundancy entitlements when they signed individual contracts (AWAs) the day after their two union shop stewards were sacked on April 4.
Under the new federal laws, the contracts override union agreements and contain just 126 words on a single sheet of paper, 40 of them handwritten. The contracts leave process workers at least $1.50 per hour below the going rates and reduce redundancy entitlements from the award provisions of three-weeks pay for each year of service to a maximum of 14 weeks flat.
The sacking of the two union delegates, Vince Pascuzzi and Harry Rai, was undoubtedly linked to management's plan to put its workers on AWAs. At the time, Finlay Engineering boss Jim Sutton boasted that the government's new Work Choices laws had given him "control of the workplace".
A month later, on May 29, Finlay Engineering went into administration. It is unlikely to go back into full operation.
The only employees not to sign AWAs were the union shop stewards, who got their jobs back after a concerted community protest campaign in April.
Despite a five-year wage freeze, individual contracts and massive job cuts, Sutton is blaming a union "absenteeism" campaign for Finlay Engineeering's demise. However, Rai said that "there have been many more sick days of non-union employees than the union [employees] over the past few weeks. Jim Sutton is just looking for scapegoats rather than his bad management practices."
From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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