The Guardian February 14, 2001


Hotel workers sacked
"It's a condition of sale", they said

Workers in Sydney's giant Wentworth Hotel took strike action last week 
when 20 of them were sacked as a prior condition of sale of the business.

The Hotel's present owners, the property division of the stockbroking firm 
AXA, attempted to absolve themselves from responsibility for the dismissal 
by stating that it was a requirement of the new purchaser, City Freeholds.

However, Mr Mark Boyd, the NSW Assistant Secretary of the Liquor, 
Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union (LHMU), dismissed this as an 
excuse. He stated bitterly that the staff had worked extremely hard during 
the Olympics to make the accommodation of visitors a success, and in the 
process the hotel owners had reaped enormous profits.

"Now hotel workers are being repaid for their hard work with this 
announcement of job losses. Twenty LHMU members were called in today and 
told to pack their bags", he said.

Wentworth staff retaliated by holding a 24-hour strike and demonstrated 
outside the building. Ironically, the hotel was hosting a convention of the 
Australian Hotels Association.

The sacking of large numbers of staff prior to sale of a business is 
becoming increasingly common. The process is similar in some respects

to the transfer of staff to a shelf company in order to strip workers of 
their entitlements, because in both cases the companies concerned seek to 
absolve themselves for responsibility for their anti-employee action.

With regard to the pre-sale sackings, the former managers and owners seek 
to avoid responsibility for their actions by blaming it on the new owners, 
and the new owners shrug their shoulders and say, "They did it, not us."

In point of fact, however, the arrangement benefits both firms. The former 
owners can claim a higher price for having done the dirty work for the new 
owners, who in turn can immediately concentrate on super-exploiting a 
reduced workforce. The workers, of course, lose out.

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