The Guardian 9 February, 2005

Walter workers jobless, owed $20m

Walter Constructions, one of Australia's major construction companies, has been placed in administration after its German parent company applied for protection from creditors under German law. More than 1000 workers employed by Walter and thousands more sub-contractors stand to lose their jobs and more than $20 million in entitlements.

Management claims the German arm of the company went under owing around $45 million to its Australian offshoot.

Workers at all Walter sites have downed tools until their entitlements are guaranteed or paid. "Our members are not going to work without pay", said the CFMEU Construction Division NSW secretary, Andrew Ferguson. Walter's Victoria Park residential site in the inner Sydney suburb of Zetland was shut when subcontractors showed up for work last Wednesday. They have not been paid for their December work.

Two Walter sites, a Sydney Water plant in Wollongong and a BHP Billiton mine in the Illawarra, closed immediately following announcement last week.

CFMEU officials are meeting with members affected by the development on construction sites across the country and consulting with them to ensure that their entitlements are protected.

"The number one priority for the union is to make sure that our members receive every cent due to them", said John Sutton, National Secretary of the CFMEU's Construction Division.

"Walter and its predecessor, Concrete Constructions, have been a leader in the construction industry for decades and the CFMEU has had a positive relationship with the company in recent decades.

"It appears that the problems stem from the German parent company, rather than the Australian operations. The company has made a major contribution to the Australian construction industry and we hope that the company can trade out of its difficulties, but we will take all necessary measures to ensure the workers are not disadvantaged."

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on the NSW Liberal Party to return a $58,000 donation received from Walter Corporation last year, so that it can be used to help meet workers' entitlements at the bankrupt construction firm.

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