One.Tel workers get showbags
by Andrew Jackson One.Tel bit the dust more quickly than expected, with most of its 1600 staff sacked last Friday. No money left in the till to pay entitlements, company managers instead handed out "showbags" containing t-shirts, caps and umbrellas emblazoned with the dead company's logo. Earlier in the day workers received a voicemail from One.Tel co-founder Brad Keeling, saying, "You should be proud of the work you've done, and when you leave here today it can be in the knowledge that you've done your very best". "You can all walk out of here with your heads held high. My heartfelt thanks goes to all of you." But warm words and new t-shirts provided little comfort to the staff, now unemployed and owed more than $19 million. Workplace relations Minister Tony Abbott clearly showed where his loyalties lay on the weekend, saying that it was the shareholders, rather than the One.Tel workers who had suffered. "One.Tel workers were quite well paid", he announced, surprising news no doubt to the 1600 workers who have not received a cent, and still have no solid guarantee of receiving their full entitlements. Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that many of Mr Abbott's "poor shareholders", including senior One.Tel executives, were completely aware of the looming disaster, and managed to protect themselves by offloading their holdings. Finance Director Mark Silbermann, who owned 4.62 million One.Tel shares in February, owned only 30,000 by the end of May. Finance Executive Steven Hodgson offloaded 300,000 shares during that time, and Mobile Executive George Savva dumped over 450,000. Rodney Adler, a former Director who left One.Tel recently, sold 9.4 million shares. As for the "well-paid employees", it has also been revealed that One.Tel failed to make its compulsory superannuation payment in May, adding another $500,000 to what they are owed. "This raises questions in our mind about what was known by senior management and directors prior to the appointment of the administrator", said Mr Stephen Jones of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). Mr Abbott has offered the One.Tel employees access to the Federal Government's employee entitlement scheme within a month, but this would only provide up to half of what they are owed. And on top of the One.Tel employees, hundreds of other jobs are also expected to be lost in the next month, as companies owed money by One.Tel - - including many small business mobile phone retailers — are expected to hit the wall. In light of this, Labor leader Kim Beazley called on the Prime Minister to stand by those workers as well. "Given that you took a one-off stand to support One.Tel's employees to work for their legal entitlements, what are you doing to ensure employees of One.Tel's creditors receive all of their entitlements?", he asked Mr Howard. "Isn't your employee entitlements scheme inadequate in this case because it does not protect 100 per cent of employee's entitlements, it runs out of funding in two years time, it is funded by taxpayers not employers, and it's not established by legislation?" Earlier this year Mr Beazley stated that "any scheme which meant that workers receive less than 100 per cent of the wages and other entitlements owing to them is inadequate. Labor has promised that when it wins government, it will introduce an entitlements protection scheme at the earliest opportunity. The scheme would be funded by an increase in the Superannuation Guarantee payments made by companies with over 20 employees.