Printing company SEP Print sacked its work force without notice after the business was put into receivership on March 20. Sixty-five workers occupied the company's factory in south-eastern Melbourne over Easter in an attempt to secure entitlements the company owes them that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the Victorian newsletter of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the AMWU has ensured that the employees are listed as creditors in order to access assistance through the federal government's General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS).
However according to Steve Dargavel, the AMWU's Victorian secretary, long-term employees with SEP Print will not get the full benefits of their redundancies because the GEERS scheme is capped at 16 weeks' pay.
The AMWU claims that the SEP closure is not an isolated case, but is part of a broader pattern of struggling companies seeking assistance from financiers that puts them under further pressure.
The AMWU's newsletter quoted Dargavel as commenting, "We had a situation with another company recently, where a capital loan was secured for $2 million and 13 weeks later they owed $3 million … to the financiers. That's a pretty bloody awful deal for the company in the first place, but [it's] worse when you consider who ends up paying for it. If it goes wrong, it ends up further reducing what workers get in their pockets."
Dargavel said that the federal government needs "to sort this out once and for all. It's unacceptable for people who work hard all their lives to be left with nothing through no fault of their own."