Sep 4, 2007

Transcript of doorstop interview- Tristar Factory, Marrickville

Subject: Most Tristar workers get entitlements but fate of 7 workers still uncertain

ALBANESE: It’s very clear that this dispute is now coming to a close after 17 long months. These workers here have turned up to work each and every day, have clocked on but have not had anything to do. The reason why the company would not make them redundant was because they were trying to rob these hardworking Australians of their hard won entitlements. But they stuck solid, they stuck together and 25 of them have now achieved justice.

We need to achieve justice for the 7 who remain. I’m very concerned about reports that there could be negotiations without involving these workers and their representatives. We see a lot of money being spent on advertising about the Howard Government’s Workchoices legislation. In it they say that workers will retain some choice over how they are represented in the workplace. It’s pretty clear from the actions of the OWS and the actions of Mr Hockey that is not the case. That due to the ideological position of the Howard Government in determining not to allow workers to negotiate, it is prepared to exclude them and their representatives from the direct discussions which are taking place.

These redundancies have been achieved because these workers have stuck together and because they’ve had representation from their Union. I pay tribute to them. The local community here in Marrickville is behind the workers at Tristar. Many of these workers live in our local community, they’ve raised families here and they want and deserve nothing less than respect and dignity.

In John Howard’s Australia, respect and dignity has been taken away from working Australians and now John Howard would seek to deny them representation. I pay tribute to these workers and assure them that the local community here will stick with the 7 whose redundancy payments have not been made until justice is given to them.

JOURNALIST: inaudible?

ALBANESE: This dispute highlights how out of touch the Howard Government is with working families. For 6 months there was no movement from the Government whatsoever. These workers came in a bus down to Canberra, the Prime Minister refused to meet with them. We asked questions in parliament – both myself and Kim Beazley as then Labor Leader -no response, indeed a dismissal from the Prime Minister about their plight.

It was only when Workchoices started to turn bad for the Government in terms of polling that they felt they needed to respond, they felt an electoral vulnerability. They then made a belated response due to media pressure. Frankly, I cannot understand how these people have put up with this treatment over such a long period of time. Clearly had they not been so determined, had they walked away in November or December and got on with their lives, they would have missed out on all their entitlements.

That’s something that to me reflects that change in balance that has occurred between employers and employees, whereby the unscrupulous employers feel like they can do whatever they like. Most employers are good, but when you’ve got unscrupulous employers, which is what you’ve got here, then you don’t have any legislation protecting just common decency, which is all these people have been asking for.

JOURNALIST: How would this play out differently under Labor, if you still have the power to terminate a collective agreement?

ALBANESE: You would have had an entirely different culture under Labor. Part of the problem that occurred here was that there was no industrial relations commission; there was no tribunal to go to. What was occurring here was that even as they were clearing out the factory they were saying that there was work to do, that they had to turn up and clock on. And there was no redress for the workers here at all, which normally would have occurred.

There was no conciliation process or negotiation; it was essentially an ultimatum from the employer hoping originally that when the agreement stopped, which was on the 1st of October from memory, they were hoping that once that date was reached these workers would lose their entitlements. It was only because of the political pressure that occurred, that the expiry date for the existing award got extended, which is the award which is protecting these workers now.

It’s important now to remember that were they new people getting employed they wouldn’t necessarily be getting employed under an agreement where redundancy is guaranteed, under the current WorkChoices legislation.

Labor will guarantee protection of redundancy payments as one of our national employment standards for all workers.