The Guardian 30 March, 2005

Cross-over winner

A former Walter Construction manager who stood on the union picket line with building workers has won $190,000 in unpaid entitlements. Forty-two year company veteran, Col Marsh, was only entitled to a third of the $190,000 in unpaid redundancy, long service, annual leave and superannuation under the Federal government’s workers’ entitlements scheme.

But action from the Con­struction Division of the CFMEU meant a Walter client, on whose project Mr Marsh was working, agreed to provide the entitlements he was owed.

Mr Marsh said the collapse of Walter had forced him to retire, and that the minimal amount of money he was expecting to receive under the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) threatened major financial hardship.

“The Federal government needs to change the laws so all workers have their entitlements protected, because not everyone will be as lucky as me to have a strong union like the CFMEU to negotiate a full settlement for them”, he said.

CFMEU assistant secretary Brian Parker said the union had made it clear from the beginning it would fight for all workers’ entitlements. “Some white collar workers like Col joined the union, manned the picket lines and stood with us in our fight and that is how we have been able to win this victory for them.”

Over 450 white collar former colleagues of Mr Marsh are owed over $18 million dollars in pay, superannuation, long service, redundancy, annual leave, and untaken rostered days off.

Former workers from the bankrupt construction giant last week launched a mobile billboard calling for the GEERS scheme to be beefed up.

The government-funded GEERS scheme only ensures that minimal entitlements, such as eight weeks redundancy, are paid. Workers argue the scheme is too slow and that it should cover 100 percent of entitlements.

“It doesn’t work”, former Walter Construction corporate services manager, Mike Walsh, stated.

“Despite the collapse of HIH, OneTel, Ansett and now Walter there is still no provision to protect the full entitlements of Australian workers in case their employer collapses.”

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