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Australian Union Secretary Joins Feltex Action

Press Release: National Distribution Union and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia Victoria Branch

Thursday, 16 November 2006, 9.30am

Australian Feltex Union State Secretary Joins Action at Godfrey Hirst

The State Secretary of the Australian textile union representing Feltex workers will join a protest in Auckland in support of the 300 Australian Feltex workers who face the loss of their workplace rights and redundancies, says the National Distribution Union.

60 NDU national delegates will join Feltex and Godfrey Hirst union representatives presenting a petition signed by their co-workers to a company representative at 12:45 at 142 Kerrs Rd in Wiri.

State Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia Victoria Branch, Michelle O'Neal, said that the union is fighting to stopping Godfrey Hirst Australia from "callously" forcing 300 vulnerable Feltex workers into choose between signing away their rights or having no job and no redundancy pay.

"Godfrey Hirst is one of many companies using John Howard's new industrial relation laws to cut workers' conditions when they takeover an existing business," she said. "Godfrey Hirst wants to get Feltex workers onto individual contracts to remove and weaken the rights and conditions guaranteed under their current collective agreement. Workers would be unable to negotiate or bargain together and would loose the right for union representation in disputes and grievances."

Ms O'Neil said that the Australian workers were grateful for the support of their kiwi co-workers and the NDU's unconditional support.

NDU National Secretary Laila Harre said that the union was disappointed that Godfrey Hirst had found money for a corporate marquee and for sponsoring a race at the Melbourne Cup but not to maintain the conditions and rights of the Feltex agreement.

"Having made such good process with Godfrey Hirst in new Zealand we are particular disappointed to see the approach being taken to the Australian workforce," she said.

Ms Harre said that the NDU and Godfrey Hirst are still in discussions over details of the new Feltex collective agreements which will maintain workers pay rates. Ratification of an agreed document is expected in the near future around the country, she said.

The bulk of workers at Riccarton plant have finished up their employment as of last week with forty workers remaining at the plant until the remaining carpet orders are finished.

--

Please find included the Textile, Clothing and Footware Union of Australia (TCFUA) press release distributed in Australia.

MEDIA RELEASE: November 16 2006

NZ WORKERS RALLY OVER AUSTRALIAN JOBS

NZ carpet workers rally for Australians being forced onto AWAs

TIME: 12.45 pm NZ time/10.45 am Melbourne time

PLACE: 142 Kerrs Road, Wiri, Manukau City, Auckland

New Zealand carpet workers will protest today over 320 of their Victorian counterparts being forced to sign individual AWAs on lesser conditions or lose their jobs.

The move follows a unanimous resolution at the national conference of NDU, the NZ union representing textile and distribution workers.

Carpet manufacturer Feltex, with 500 employees in Australia and 800 in New Zealand, was put into receivership in September.

The new owner, Geelong-based Godfrey Hirst, is transferring Feltex into a new entity taking advantage of a loophole in the Howard Government’s industrial relations laws that promise that workers' pay and conditions are protected for 12 months following the transmission of a business to a new owner

Despite the sale of the business as an ongoing concern, the new owner has refused to honour the existing pay and conditions of the transferring employees

The Victorian secretary of the TCFUA, Michele O’Neil, who is in New Zealand for the conference of the National Distribution Union, will join today’s protest.

“Feltex and Godfrey Hirst workers in New Zealand can’t understand how the new owner can strip their current union agreement, redundancy payments and other entitlements from their Australian colleagues,” she said.

“Godfrey Hirst – which will soon control 80 per cent of the Australian carpet market – says the families of its workers have to tighten their belts and accept less, yet the same company had a marquee at Flemington for the spring racing carnival.”

Ms O’Neil will join protesting NZ workers when they present a petition in support of their Australian colleagues.

“New Zealand workers – who have better protection than Australian workers now – are opposed to any workers being forced onto individual agreements,” Ms O’Neil said.

ENDS

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