The Guardian January 23, 2001


Entitlements thefts continue

In what has become a standard form of theft by companies, the owner of 
Electruck, a heavy machinery plant at Regents Park in Sydney's west, has 
shut down operations and ducked paying the company's 50 workers their 
entitlements of $1.2 million.

The owner set up a number of other companies to horde his money away while 
he ran Electric into the ground. The company went into voluntary 
administration last December and the workers stayed only until outstanding 
orders were completed.

John Parkin from the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union said the 
cupboard is bare.

"The company's gone under leaving debts", Mr Parkin told The 
Guardian, "and the administrator is looking at how we try to recoup 
some of the money for our members. But there's nothing there to recoup it 
from."

Furthermore, the company has been structured in such a way as to block 
access for the workers to get money from any of the people responsible.

The owner has set up a number of companies in the Philippines. He also owns 
the land and the factory at Regents Park, worth around $2.5 million, but 
under another company name.

Among the issues under investigation is the owner's possible used Electruck 
as a front for purchasing materials for one of his businesses in the 
Philippines.

Mr Parkin said the means to ensure workers receive their full entitlements 
when companies go bust could be put in place.

"There's two things that need to happen. We have to set up industry trust 
funds to allow our members' legal entitlements to be placed in those trust 
funds under their own individual names."

So, instead of companies being able to use workers' entitlements as a free 
loan to run their business, they'll have to put it aside on a weekly or 
monthly basis into those people's accounts.

He said this was already the case in the building industry and such a 
system needed to be put in place in the manufacturing sector as well.

"The second part of it is that legislation has to be changed so that we can 
chase the money trail back to businesses and business people, such as the 
owner of Electruck who has assets all around the place, but they're 
protected by an elaborate company structure."

In addition, the pecking order of who gets priority access to any remaining 
assets needs to be changed so that workers go to the head of the queue, in 
front of the Taxation Office, company creditors and banks, and not be left 
until last, as is currently the case.

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