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'If you’re in that much debt don’t take it out on us'

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April 11, 2018

Riverside Meats Echuca employees staged industrial action on Thursday.

UNION assistant delegate Jay Harrington has slammed Riverside Meats for wasting his, and his colleagues’, time.

‘‘There should have been more transparency because arguing our Enterprise Bargaining Agreement for the past 12 months was just a waste of time,’’ he said.

‘‘They were never going to get enough out of the workers to recover millions in debt.

‘‘It’s my opinion that taking money off the workers (under the proposed EBA) wasn’t the answer and maybe they should have looked elsewhere.

‘‘If you’re company is in that much debt, don’t take it out on the worker.

‘‘They knew the dilemma we were in. They should have said ‘We are not in a position to pay you, we’re in that much debt’. We would have then, instantly gone down government guarantees.’’

Mr Harrington has worked as a slaughterman at Riverside, off and on, for 25 years.

Without superannuation, Mr Harrington is owed more than $26,000 from the company.

‘‘But the government path we will now take to get our money back does not include superannuation,’’ he said.

‘‘I think they should have been up front from the start.’’

In the liquidator’s document, which was sent to employees last week, it states unpaid superannuation is not covered by Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG).

‘‘However, it is afforded priority in a liquidation and may be paid in priority to other creditors in the event that funds are available,’’ it says.

‘‘At this stage it appears that there will be insufficient monies in the liquidation to pay the outstanding superannuation and other employee entitlements.’’

Under the same document, Wayne John Tatt is listed as the director but Mr Harrington said he had not heard of him.

‘‘I’ve only dealt with the family that we understand owns the abattoir,’’ he said.

‘‘After the facility closed we were going out on a weekly basis discussing entitlements with Chris Peat and he continually told us they were still calculating it.’’

Mr Harrington said after his service he was also personally disappointed the company refused to let most people take entitlements.

‘‘At a group meeting we were told we weren’t allowed to take entitlements until the EBA was signed,’’ he said.

‘‘The EBA was obviously never signed so only a few were able to take holidays and therefore entitlements built up.’’

Last year workers walked out in November because Mr Harrington said the company refused to negotiate conditions under the proposed EBA.

‘‘Management had said there were no negotiations so the only way we were able to negotiate was to strike,’’ he said.

‘‘We were forced to do that.’’

The strike lasted one day. The company later came to the table and started negotiating, Mr Harrington said.

Negotiations continued until the facility was closed in March.

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