Redundancies vindicate Feltex workers' entitlements campaign

February 9, 2007

On February 2, ABC News Online reported the laying off of 110 workers by Melbourne carpet manufacturer Feltex. A spokesperson for Godfrey Hirst, which took over Feltex late last year, said the workers' jobs would go with the closure of the Feltex factories in Tottenham and Braybrook in Melbourne's west. This "vindicated" workers and unionists who had resisted attempts by Godfrey Hirst to take away their redundancy entitlements, Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union media officer Tommy Clarke told Green Left Weekly.

Following the introduction of the federal government's Work Choices legislation, the company tried to force 300 workers onto Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) that would have meant, among other things, the removal of entitlements to redundancy payments. The union warned that the company's move may reflect its intention to lay workers off, which the company denied. This meant that workers were disappointed, but not shocked or surprised by the announcement of redundancies.

After a drawn-out dispute over the attempt to impose AWAs, the company signed a collective agreement with the union that maintained the workers' entitlements. This agreement was endorsed by a mass meeting of Feltex workers on December 20.

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