ADJOURNMENT – Grayndler Electorate: Champion Forms
7 June 2001
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (1.00 p.m.)—Last Saturday I hosted a barbecue in my electorate for workers and their families. However, it was not a pleasant experience because these workers had just lost their jobs. Some three weeks ago, these people were told by their employer, Champion Forms Australia, that they had to leave the premises at once, and they were escorted out. One gentleman had worked loyally for this company for 21 years. The workers are owed two weeks pay and they have lost all their entitlements. The same thing happened to the workers of this company in Melbourne. In Melbourne, it has affected some 100 workers. In Sydney, some $500,000 has been lost to the workers in wages, leave payments and entitlements.
I hosted the barbecue because the workers had been on the picket line for 10 days when I visited them eight days before, but it was a picket line where nothing was happening. No-one was coming in; no-one was going out. What was interesting about that picket line was the extent of support from the people driving past on Victoria Street, Marrickville, who were honking their horns. I think Australians have had enough of corporate Australia behaving in such a reckless way. It is an outrage that when a company goes bust the workers are not at the front of the queue to receive their entitlements. I certainly understand the anger and frustration this is causing many workers and their families. I also believe that this injustice cannot be tolerated.
Just like Patricks in the 1998 waterfront dispute, Champion Forms recently undertook a corporate restructure so that it would not have to meet its obligations to its workers. The workers did not know that they were employed by a company which had no assets and no income. They found that out when they were marched out the door. Unfortunately, this is a situation which is not uncommon. Unfortunately for these workers, Stan Howard was not a director of the company. So these workers have had no assistance from the federal government—none whatsoever. At the moment, they literally do not know where the money is coming from to put food on the table for their families.
Three things need to happen. Firstly, we need to make illegal corporate restructures aimed at avoiding obligations to workers. Secondly, we need to reform superannuation so that payments are made at least quarterly. Thirdly, everyone in this House should pass the bill moved by the leader of the Labor Party, Kim Beazley. That bill would ensure that payments were available to all workers through a simple 0.1 per cent surcharge on superannuation so that no-one would miss out.
Government members interjecting—
Mr ALBANESE—The member for Robertson opposes this. The member for Moreton opposes workers and their families being paid out. I am disappointed. In this case, one gentleman had worked for this company for 21 years, yet he missed out on all his entitlements. I am very disappointed that those opposite do not think that this issue needs government action. These workers need support and government assistance. Corporate Australia behaves in this way—in this case, unabetted by government; in the case of Patricks, assisted and advised by the Howard government—to avoid obligations. (Time expired)
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.