Union wants quick action for 400 car-component workers

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Union wants quick action for 400 car-component workers

Four hundred workers at a an Albury car components plant have been stood down without pay after the company went into receivership yesterday — and their union wants quick action on government support.

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Four hundred workers at a an Albury car components plant have been stood down without pay after the company went into receivership yesterday — and their union wants quick action on government support.
 
The company, Drivetrain Systems International (DSI), makes automatic transmissions and is a victim of the sudden decline in the automotive industry. It recently lost a contract with Korean company SsangYong.
 
Decline in sales
 
The AMWU vehicle division assistant federal secretary, Dave Smith, said that loss, along with the decline in vehicle sales and production both in Australia and overseas, has cost the company dearly.
 
‘These workers need to be able to claim their entitlements and have fast access to Centrelink,’ Smith said. ‘They need to put food on the table and pay their mortgages and rent.'
 
‘The union will be contacting Federal and State politicians to make sure that all that can be done will be done for these workers, and that this will happen quickly.’
 
Maintain production
 
Smith said the receivers have told the union they are hopeful of making arrangements to maintain some production within the next few weeks, but much was dependent on Ford Australia and DSI’s component suppliers.
 
‘We believe that even if production does resume, about 200 workers will not have jobs to return to,’ he said. ‘We also understand that there is not enough money potentially to pay the workers their entitlements.'
 
‘These workers need the Government to take action to make sure that the usual red tape is short-circuited so that these workers are not reliant on charity.’
 
He said the union will work with the receivers, Ford and DSI’s component suppliers to make sure that the plant, one of the largest employers in Albury, is up and running.
 
Renewed call for protection scheme
 
The DSI situation caused AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver to renew his calls for a universal entitlements protection scheme that pays one hundred cents in the dollar of entitlements owed to workers at the time of redundancy.
 
Oliver said that redundancy, annual leave and superannuation payments are often treated as unsecured, interest-free loans by employers — to the detriment and financial loss of their employees.
 
‘Many loyal workers who have been at companies for up to 20 years in some cases will have substantial redundancy or annual leave payments accrued,’ he said.
 
‘But if the company goes bust, employees have no guarantee that they will receive their entitlements in the rush to pay creditors and banks as priority.'
 
Use entitlements to survive
 
‘Employees often use their entitlements to survive whilst looking for new work, to feed the family or cover the mortgage payments in the period immediately after losing their job.'
 
‘Workers should not be forced to bear the brunt of the global financial crisis, which is why the AMWU is calling for a new system of income protection that guarantees 100% of accumulated employee entitlements.’
 
Oliver said a universal employee entitlements protection system could involve:
  • a universal insurance scheme to cover employee entitlements, to be developed and managed nationally or industry-by-industry.
  • a pay as you go contribution plan like those used in building/construction industries
  • legislation that ranks employee entitlements above secured creditors.
 
‘Workers are vulnerable in these difficult times, and in cases where they lose their jobs, they should have full access to their entitlements,’ Oliver said.
 
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