The Guardian August 22, 2001


Globalisation steamroller:
Entitlements under a cloud

Some 360 workers at Bradmill Undare's Victorian operations have lost 
their jobs, following the sale of part of the company's operations to the 
British Millerian Company. At the same time about 80 waterfront workers in 
Brisbane are under threat of dismissal as a result of the sale to Patrick 
Stevedores of the CSX company.

Bradmills, which is in receivership, has sold its Brella and Bradmill 
outdoor plants, and the new owners have decided to close the weaving plant 
at the rural town of Ararat, with a loss of 46 jobs.

The company's manufacturing plant at Reservoir is also to be closed down, 
with the loss of 30 jobs. Its entire knitting and dying operations at 
Yarraville are to cease, thereby putting a further 285 people out of work.

The union has gained an agreement that retrenched workers will be able to 
transfer to the company's remaining operations, but given that these plants 
are now to be sold off their chances are slender.

The closures are particularly bad news for the small town of Ararat, 
already hard hit by rural recession. The Bradmill closure will end the 
town's 50-year history of textile manufacturing, and the former Bradmill 
employees will also find great difficulty finding alternative work. One 
employee commented: "If you're over 50 in Ararat, no one's going to employ 
you."

Although the company receivers have stated that the sacked workers will 
receive their entitlements of some $8 million, this is only part of the 
total of $25 million in entitlements owed to former and surviving Bradmill 
employees. The company also owes the ANZ Bank $33 million.

These and other workers are the victims of corporate globalisation. Take-
overs and mergers are being ruthlessly carried out by the big international 
corporations to serve their global interests without regard to the 
consequences for workers or the economic needs of any country.

Neither the Federal nor any of the State governments are resisting the 
globalisation steam roller or company restructurings which are being used 
to sack workers and avoid the payment of entitlements.

The issue of entitlements has been the subject of intense industrial 
dispute in the last few months. The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union 
is leading a campaign to introduce compulsory employer contributions for an 
employee entitlements fund.

Although some companies have accepted the AMWU's proposals for the fund, 
other employers have rejected the idea in principle. Others say they want 
to establish their own fund, and some have proposed an arrangement in which 
the employees themselves would have to contribute towards the purchase of 
an insurance bond to secure their own entitlements!

The Howard Government on the other hand, wants to establish a scheme in 
which the employees would only receive a maximum of two thirds of their 
entitlements in the event of a company collapse.

State governments have also in recent times been criticised for offering 
lucrative enticements to multinational companies to either establish or 
continue operations in their state, while refusing to protect established 
Australian industries against "dumping".

In commenting on the Bradmill closures, State Secretary of the Textile, 
Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFU), Michele O Neil, criticised both the 
Federal and State Governments for their failure to secure the viability of 
textile and manufacturing industries.

She described the Federal Government as having a "policy vacuum" with 
regard to these industries, and stated that the State Government had not 
done enough or acted with sufficient urgency to protect threatened 
industries.

Ms O'Neil stated that the union would campaign to ensure that there were no 
further sackings, and that the company's remaining operations would be run 
as a going concern.

Patrick in new sackings

Hard on the heels of the Bradmill retrenchments comes news that some 80 
Brisbane employees of the stevedoring firm CSX are to be sacked as a 
condition of purchase of the company by  you guessed it  Patrick 
Stevedores. 

Shocked employees were advised last week that Patrick Stevedores had bought 
the company, and that the services of the entire workforce, including both 
tradesmen and management, were no longer required.

The move has raised the possibility of a renewal of the bitter Patrick 
dispute which racked the waterfront in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere in 
1998 

The union is meeting with Patrick's management to discuss the dismissals. 
At this stage the full intentions of the company are unclear. However, it 
is likely that the CSX take-over and subsequent sackings are a variant of 
their former strategy of establishing a dummy company in order to strip 
employees of their wage levels and entitlements and to employ non-union 
labour.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has pledged to fight the Brisbane 
sackings, as they did three years ago.

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