Bosses at Drivetrain Systems have used “divide and conquer” tactics to stop workers resisting mass sackings at an Albury-Wodonga gearbox factory.
The company dismissed all 338 workers without pay on February 25. Workers organised a protest outside the factory as management, retained on full wages, proceeded to strip the factory of an estimated $17 million in assets.
Management then advised that it would rehire a third of the workers on short-term contracts, and refused to say which third of the workers that would be.
If those offered temporary work declined and continued to protest to demand their jobs back, they would jeopardise their ability to claim Centrelink benefits.
The bosses knew that “dangling the carrot” of the extra work to those with mortgages and mouths to feed would be an effective way to undermine a united fight by the whole workforce. Sadly, their ugly tactics worked. Around 120 workers accepted the short-term positions.
The company is now going into liquidation, and has confirmed that the $25 million owed in entitlements will not be paid to any of the workers. Bankers and financial institutions will come first. The AMWU is hoping that a buyer will come to the rescue—but even if the company is sold, that is no guarantee of jobs or entitlements.
The federal government has allowed the workers to access its General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS). But this only covers 17 weeks’ pay—some of the workers are owed 100 weeks’ pay in entitlements. Money they expected for their retirement has now disappeared.
Sacked workers from Drivetrain received a visit from NSW Premier Nathan Rees on March 5, where workers demanded the government do more to guarantee jobs and force the company to meet its obligations to pay entitlements. Workers asked him where Julia Gillard was “she was here when we marched for her a couple of years ago but she’s not here now.”
As unemployment skyrockets, the story of the workers at Drivetrain Systems is becoming more and more common. We need to build up the strength and confidence to fight if we are to defeat these kind of ruthless tactics.
By Amy Thomas

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