Transcript of radio interview with Steve Price, Radio 2UE – Tristar
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
Thursday, 1 February 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Tristar dispute
PRICE: Let’s go back to the car-parts manufacturer, Tristar. Now you remember Tristar dominating the headlines last week, after they refused to grant voluntary redundancy to that ill worker, John Beaven, who’s now dead.
Now they finally paid up $50,000. Mr Beaven was on his death bed, and he passed away the day after the cheque was written out, and we spoke to his brother-in-law on this program.
Well, now everyone’s more interested in what’s going to happen to the remaining employees. We have this ridiculous situation where the company is saying, “Well, we are not going to pay these people out their redundancies because we’ve still got work for them to do, we’ve got a factory.”
The factory’s empty – there’s not even any machinery in it, and yet these people are expected to turn up to work to do no work whatsoever. They really have pushed the boundaries on this.
Labor’s industrial relations spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, was out there today, along with Anthony Albanese, who we’ve talked to about this matter before on the program. He is on the line. Good to talk to you again.
ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Steve. Sorry I’ve got to talk to you about this issue again, actually.
PRICE: You went out there, and are they working?
ALBANESE: Of course they’re not. The first time I visited this factory was in 1995, when I was a candidate. I visited it because it was then the biggest employer in the electorate of Grayndler, it had 650 people working in it. It takes up an entire, very large block of an industrial site in the industrial belt of Marrickville. It must be some 300m long.
What they’ve done now is put the workers, the 30 plus that remain, in what is basically the front end of the factory, in sort of a tin shed. The rest of it is completely vacant, and anyone who watches the TV tonight will see that it’s a vacant factory, and that the workers have nothing to do. You have the extraordinary situation whereby they’re being kept on simply to be denied the redundancy payments that they’re entitled to.
PRICE: Can they do that, in the spirit of the law?
ALBANESE: It would appear that they can, that’s the tragedy, that the law now not only allows for the green light to be given to exploit people, but it’s taken away the independent umpire. I notice you’ve been talking a bit about cricket this afternoon, and one of the things that makes Australia the country that we are is the idea of a fair go, and that if you’ve got a dispute, you’ve got an umpire. The umpire’s gone in industrial relations under the new legislation.
Therefore, the workers there have not many options. Indeed, the Industrial Relations Commission ruled last week that the agreement was terminated, so they have essentially until the end of a couple of weeks from now to get redundancy, to leave. They have got a big decision, those remaining workers, whether to take a minimal amount of pay and leave, or to continue to battle on.
Mr Beaven, who was buried yesterday, his family has got $50,000, but it must be remembered he was actually entitled to $212,000. So not only are the workers there entitled to their full payouts, but I think Mr Beaven’s family remains very much exploited compared with what Mr Beaven was owed.
PRICE: What is the end game for this Tristar mob? What do you think they’re trying to do, are they trying to wait these people out? Eventually they’re going to have to pay them something, aren’t they?
ALBANESE: They’re starving them into submission, this is the worst example. Mental torture is what’s going on here, in Australia, in Marrickville, in suburban Sydney in 2007.
PRICE: I mean, they’re telling Joe Hockey there’s two years’ work there.
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a nonsense. They’re a company that has no customers, and no contracts, and no work is going on there. They have to clock on every day.
Back in August – as you know, because it’s people like you in the media who follow this issue and put the pressure on, and without people like you, Mr Beaven would have got nothing – way back in August, I had a meeting there with the workers. It took less than an hour, but the employers clocked them off for an hour and deducted their pay, because they’d had a meeting about this issue.
PRICE: Ridiculous. Now the government says this legislation of theirs works both ways. Ok, why don’t we get them to prove that – use it to give these people what they are owed?
ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. The problem is that the balance has been tilted too far one way.
PRICE: So of your knowledge of the legislation, is there anything in there that the government can use to belt these people around the ears and get them to do what they need to do, or is this a moral argument that can’t be won by legislation and law because the legislation and law doesn’t exist?
ALBANESE: You can always do something through legislation and law. If the government was fair dinkum, and if the Prime Minister wanted to do provide a resolution to this issue, he could. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and the government’s in a very powerful position. I mean, this is a company that, when it took over Tristar, it got the redundancy pay outs from the previous owners paid over – millions of dollars paid over – as part of the take-over of the company.
PRICE: Where’s that money?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s what we need to know. What we know is that the company’s doing alright. It made a substantial profit last year. It would appear that what’s going on here is simply asset stripping. But what we have here is not just asset stripping, this is dignity stripping.
PRICE: Well, you can’t say to people, “Turn up and sit here and do nothing.”
ALBANESE: Well, I just pay tribute to the people there. The tragedy is that we went around today – it was Julia’s first visit to the site – and there is no-one there who has been there for less than 20 years. Mr Beaven’s case of course is pretty well known, it was the only job he’d ever had: 43 years. The average time of service there was above 30 years. You have the extraordinary situation whereby all the people who have been there for less time, because they had less entitlements, have been made redundant.
The people who’ve been loyal, many of whom are people who came to this country, are the sort of people who made this country great. One fellow, Simon, he’s a Macedonian, he was a migrant, a refugee essentially; he came here under the normal processes because he didn’t like the communist system in former Yugoslavia. He came here, he’s worked hard for 40 years, and what is happening is nothing less than theft.
PRICE: Well, the TVs were out there with you again today, and let’s hope that the coverage again tonight and our discussion here again can shame these people into doing the right thing.
ALBANESE: Well, I thank you once again for continuing on this case. We’re going to be raising it again in Parliament again next week. I raised it first way back in August.
PRICE: It’s a good test for the new minister, he can fix it.
ALBANESE: Well, he can fix it. If you really want to do something, and you’re the national government of this country, you can. This is a real test of Australian values, it’s that simple.
These people have families, many of them live in my area, around Marrickville, they live around the factory there. Of the people who are left, we found out today that three of them are skilled workers. One of them is 78, he reckons he can find another job, he’s not ready to retire yet.
These are salt of the earth people who’ve made a contribution, paid taxes all their lives, contributed to the company. They’re not paid a lot, the company never put super in until it was made compulsory under the Hawke Government all those years ago, so it’s not like they have a lot of money. And all they’re asking for is what they’re entitled to, and to be treated with a bit of respect and a bit of dignity.
PRICE: Absolutely. Good on you, nice to talk to you again. Anthony Albanese, the Federal Member for Grayndler there, we’ll keep an eye on that story.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.