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Issue # 1403      18 March 2009

Bonds Cessnock workers and their supporters rally

At midday on Friday March 13 approximately 200 people rallied outside the Bonds clothing factory in Cessnock NSW to give support to the 82 Bond employees who will be made redundant over the next 12 months. Pacific Brands, which owns the Bonds group of manufacturing companies that produces the famous Chesty Bond range of clothing, is planning to close down its Australian based operations and move offshore. This factory has been in operation in Cessnock for just on 60 years and has been a steady source of employment for generations of local people.

The meeting, called by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA), was well supported by other unions from the Lower Hunter and Newcastle who are as outraged at the disgusting way Pacific Brands has conducted itself over the past few years.

The company was floundering financially for some time and the business was being propped up by the major banks to the extent that they were owed $810 million. Along with the bank loans the federal government gave them millions of dollars of public money called “industry assistance” to purchase new equipment to produce the clothing.

The company has made it known that it intended taking this new machinery to its new overseas operation but representatives of the Transport Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia made it very clear to the people at the rally that under no circumstances will they allow any of the equipment to be moved to the wharves and loaded aboard ships taking away machinery paid for by the Australian taxpayer.

Present also at the rally were two state Labor MPs, Kerry Hickey, representing the Cessnock electorate and Sonia Hornery representing the Wallsend electorate. Both these state Labor politicians have pledged full support to the sacked workers, promising that they get will receive their full entitlements.

It was also suggested by the sacked workers’ TCFUA delegate who addressed the meeting that the union comes to an agreement with Bonds to start retraining their redundant workers so hopefully they will be able to gain employment with other garment manufacturers elsewhere.

It was also revealed to the sacked workers that the CEO of Pacific Brands Sue Morphet claimed a salary of $1.8 Million for the 2007/2008 period. Sacked workers are battling to receive their fair entitlements while company executives are walking away with their pockets awash with money. It was also said that the government was open to any suitable business operator who could take over and run the factory and save any further job losses.

During the meeting it was announced the federal member for Lower Hunter and Australia’s Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, had arrived at the nearby Cessnock airport and was expected to join the meeting and address the sacked workers but after waiting for one and a half hours it was a no show for Joel who, incidentally, is a local Cessnock boy. One would have to ask if Mr Fitzgibbon really cared about his military people’s uniforms as it was reported that there was some discontent among Australia’s defence force personnel that their clothing is not up to scratch.

The Newcastle, Lower Hunter, and Coalfields districts have seen massive job losses over the past 20 years with major manufacturing businesses closing down. The biggest was the closure of the BHP-operated steel works along with Bradmill at Maitland, throwing the lives of thousands of workers into disarray. But the ever resilient Australian worker does his best and bounces back better than ever. With all these job losses looming it is so important to be in strong with their union and above all be as supportive as possible to your workmate.

As the meeting drew to a close a resolution was passed to pursue every avenue to ensure all workers’ entitlements are met and a suitable re-training program be started as soon as possible.

Next articleCaterpillar refuses to level with workers

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