'Smirking worker' co goes belly up after cutting redundancies

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'Smirking worker' co goes belly up after cutting redundancies

The Melbourne company which allegedly sacked a worker for 'smirking' in April has gone into receivership just weeks after getting its employees to sign away most of their redundancy entitlements, costing the employees hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The Melbourne company which allegedly sacked a worker for 'smirking' in April has gone into receivership just weeks after getting its employees to sign away most of their redundancy entitlements, costing the employees hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) Victorian secretary Dave Oliver said yesterday the workers were five weeks ago forced to sign individual workplace agreements that cut redundancy payments from three weeks' wages for each year worked to a flat rate of 14 weeks' wages for all employees.

Oliver said the 28 staff would lose up to $500,000 in wages and $1.2 million in total after signing the contracts.

The company is blaming the unions for sending it broke, but they accuse management of running a 'Dickensian' workplace and not investing in infrastructure.

Facing liquidation

Finlay Engineering announced yesterday it has gone into voluntary administration and faces liquidation.

In April the company sacked three workers, one for allegedly smirking at owner Jim Sutton during a meeting. The three workers were later rehired after hundreds of community activists picketed the building in protest.

Sutton later denied sacking the workers over a smirk, saying he had been set up by the union after talks over a new workplace deal broke down.

However the sackings came soon after the WorkChoices legislation came into effect exempting firms with fewer than 100 employees from unfair dismissal laws.

Disadvantaged by contracts

Oliver said the Finlay workers were subsequently presented with handwritten individual contracts cutting redundancy pay 'which has clearly disadvantaged them'.

'Not only have they lost their jobs, they have seen their redundancies wiped out,' he said.

'We have gone into administration because we decided it just wasn't worth carrying on,' Sutton told the media. He said the 50-year-old West Heidelberg company was unprofitable because of high levels of absenteeism.

He said Finlay Engineering was in administration 21 months ago and traded its way out of difficulties, but that was unlikely this time.

Union troubles

Sutton said yesterday union troubles had plagued the company for some time. He told Melbourne radio station 3AW it was not worth running the business, which employs 28 workers, and he would be destitute by the time it was sorted out.

Oliver said staff tried to keep the company going and had agreed to a five-year wage freeze.

But with liquidators likely to be appointed, he said workers could miss out on more than $1.2 million in entitlements generally.

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