Print workers fight to gain their entitlements
Around 30 former employees of the printing company, Champion Forms, have been picketing their plant at Marrickville in Sydney, in an attempt to get back $500,000 in entitlements that have been lost in a labyrinth of artificial companies. The Champion Forms workers, many of them long-term employees, were sacked on May 15 by administrators of the company, with no notice, redundancy pay, annual leave or other entitlements. The workers claim they are the victims of a high-finance scheme gone wrong. The company that employed them went bust because the capital created by the workers was shifted to another company to finance other projects. They say the company structure was specifically designed to protect the owners and directors from any financial fall-out, but has left them with nothing. Champion Forms is made up of at least seven related companies, in a network of financial deals reminiscent of Allan Bond's Bell Resources. One company employed the workers, and had few assets on paper. Another company received payments for work done. A different company owns the property, while other companies, which are still operating, hold the assets and continue to profit. All these companies have the same directors. While the shelf company that employed the workers at Champion has technically gone broke, there are still substantial financial and real estate assets being held by other companies within the same structure. This practice of using a complex network of "shelf" companies has long been used by corporations to rob Australian workers of countless millions of dollars in entitlements. The Australian Manufacturing Workers" Union (AMWU) says that for many years the owners and directors have profited from their employees, and that it is now time for them to pay up. Organiser from the AMWU Print Division Mark West reports that "the workers have had tremendous local support for their campaign". While the picket line has now ended, Mr West says the AMWU has sought legal advice, and will continue to pursue the directors and the assets they control using every means possible.