Cowra workers wait for entitlements after boss's $2m  		loan

News

Cowra workers wait for entitlements after boss's $2m loan

The ACTU has called on Prime Minister John Howard to apologise to 200 sacked workers at the Cowra Abattoir, after media revelations that abattoir boss David Mulligan made a loan of almost $2 million to a related company under his control in the period before the business collapsed.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

The ACTU has called on Prime Minister John Howard to apologise to 200 sacked workers at the Cowra Abattoir, after media revelations that abattoir boss David Mulligan made a loan of almost $2 million to a related company under his control in the period before the business collapsed.

The 200 workers have now lost their jobs and are waiting to be paid their entitlements, which come to more than $2 million.

Media reports today claimed Mulligan would let those entitlements be paid by taxpayers through the Government's GEERS scheme.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said, earlier this year Howard, Workplace Minister Kevin Andrews and the Government's Office of Workplace Services (OWS) 'all supported Mulligan when he used the Government's IR laws to sack 27 workers at the abattoir and offer them their jobs back with a 30% pay cut'.

Combet said that the Government had said Mulligan had done nothing wrong, and that the abattoir was facing financial difficulties.

Boss backed 100%

'The Prime Minister and Kevin Andrews have backed Mulligan 100%,' Combet said. 'They have defended him in the media and in Parliament and a so-called investigation by the Office of Workplace Services (OWS) found that the company had legitimate business reasons for sacking the workers because it was losing money.

'Now we find from the Administrators of the collapsed abattoir that there may have been breaches of the Corporations Law including possible insolvent trading.

'The ACTU is particularly interested in the loan made by the abattoir to a related company under the control of Mulligan. The ACTU calls on Mulligan to ensure that the Cowra Abattoir workers receive their full entitlements and are not disadvantaged by any of the transactions made in the lead up to the collapse of the abattoir.

'That this situation has occurred to workers while the so called "regulator" of workplace issues - the Government's OWS - was investigating them is a disgrace.'

ASIC should scrutinise breaches

The Federal Government should immediately re-examine this case to ensure that the workers receive all of their entitlements and that ASIC closely scrutinises any potential breaches of the Corporations Act, Combet said.

In Question time in Federal Parliament Howard said his position had not been to repeatedly defend the company but rather to point out that the argument made by the Labor Party and the unions that the retrenchment of these workers was due entirely to the operation of the new WorkChoices legislation was wrong.

He said if in fact there has been something wrong in the behaviour of the company the matter should be raised with ICAC.

The Labor party subsequently issued a series of quotes taken from statements by the Government, which repeatedly declared that the only reason for the sacking of the workers was the financial condition of the company due to the drought and falling livestock numbers.

Look at the books

On 31 May Howard told Parliament: 'The Office of Workplace Services got independent accounting advisers, professionals, to go in and look at the books of Cowra.

'So if the company just made a claim that [it is] suffering from some problem with financial viability, that company must know that the Office of Workplace Services will go in and thoroughly look at the financial circumstances of the company.

'Somebody who was simply making some claim which was a sham, which wasn't right, would be subject to that investigation and subject to being found out.'

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews today attacked Labor IR spokesman Stephen Smith for saying on ABC radio yesterday that the Government 'gave the Cowra Abattoir and the owner of the Cowra Abattoir a clean bill of health'.

Completely wrong

'This is completely wrong,' Andrews said. 'The fact is neither the Government nor the Office of Workplace Service did any such thing.

Andrews said documents provided by the union and the employer support the evidence of Cowra Abattoir that its primary reason for the action of 30 March 2006 [in sacking the workers] was to allow it to combine the pig and beef shifts to reduce the losses being incurred on a weekly basis.

'The documents produced by Cowra Abattoir provide evidence of Cowra Abattoir's commitment to restructure the beef and pig lines because of ongoing financial problems,' he said. 'Far from providing "a clean bill of health", the OWS clearly identified that the abattoir was in financial trouble.'

Related

Cowra abattoir goes into receivership

Cowra finding gives employers green light for 'operational sackings'



  

 

Post details