The Guardian August 29, 2001


Progress on workers' entitlements

by Peter Mac and Bob Briton

The AMWU continues to make progress in its campaign for the establishment 
of a scheme to guarantee manufacturing workers' entitlements.

Details of a recent Enterprise Bargaining Agreement gives other workers 
encouragement. Tenneco Automotive, which owns shock absorber manufacturer 
Monroe Australia and an exhaust manufacturing subsidiary Walker Australia, 
has agreed to pay into a fund which has significant similarities to 
Manusafe.

The Adelaide-based company will contribute 1.5 percent of pay into a fund 
to be administered by Coverforce and underwritten by ING to cover workers' 
long service leave entitlements. 

This is precisely what is proposed under the Manusafe scheme. However, the 
agreement cannot guarantee portability of the moneys and it does not 
include the $1 a week severance contribution set down in the Manusafe 
model.

Tenneco is committed to start paying into the fund from January 1, next 
year, and to review the agreement after 12 months. This will allow Tenneco 
workers to sign up to a portable, national scheme should one be available 
at that time.

AMWU organiser Tim Murray told The Guardian that this does not 
exclude the possibility of entry into the Manusafe system.

A review would not permit workers to be abandoned to the Federal 
Government's scheme which caps entitlement payouts to $20,000 even if it 
were to be lifted to something like $30,000.

AMWU Assistant National Secretary Dave Oliver reports that two other 
Sydney-based firms are ready to enter into a similar agreement with their 
workers.

Agreement over Maintrain

After seven weeks of strike action 400 employees of Sydney rail maintenance 
firm Maintrain have won an agreement to safeguard their entitlements.

Maintrain, a subsidiary of rolling stock manufacturers Goninan, strongly 
opposed Manusafe.

The NSW Carr Government, called in former Prime Minister Bob Hawke as a 
mediator in the dispute at considerable public expense. Details of the 
settlement were not available when The Guardian went to press. 
Maintenance of rolling stock was formerly a responsibility of the State 
Government, but is now carried out by the private sector.

The reluctance of firms like Maintrain to pay the Manusafe levy has 
demonstrated not only their traditional meanness, but also a certain 
willingness to keep their options open with regard to going out of business 
and decamping with their employees' entitlements.

However, the issue would not have arisen if the work had remained as a 
government enterprise.

The struggles at Maintrain and Tenneco are part of a campaign for the 
preservation of entitlements, including Orange-Hutchinson Telecom in 
Sydney, Tip-Top Bakeries in Sydney and Newcastle, Taubmans Paints at 
Villawood in Sydney, Electrolux in Adelaide, Transfield in Sydney, and 
Polarcup in Perth.

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