Australia Clothing Company Head Guilty Of Contempt
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia
Company owner found guilty of contempt in outworker proceeding
Mr Brian Morrison, sole director, company secretary and sole shareholder of Morrison Country Clothing Australia Pty Ltd, is facing a possible jail term after a Federal Court decision found him guilty of contempt of court.
In a decision handed down on 5 September 2008, Justice Tracey found that Morrison ‘wilfully disobeyed’ a Court order of 28 September 2007 requiring him to give discovery of documents requested by the Textile Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia in an outworker proceeding.
In November 2006, the TCFUA initiated proceedings against Morrison Country Clothing alleging that it had ‘given work out’ but had failed to comply with provisions of the Clothing Trades Award relating to outworkers, including the obligation to keep work records.
Ms Michele O’Neil, National Secretary and Victorian Branch Secretary of the Union, hailed the decision as important in the protection of outworkers.
‘This decision is a warning to operators in the clothing industry that Court proceedings over breach of award outworker provisions must be taken seriously.
"The union brings these proceedings as part of our efforts to ensure that the important award protections for outworkers are complied with.
"Operators in the industry need to understand that if they fail to comply with the award, refuse to provide the union with information and documents and prevent us from protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation the Union will take them to court and we will seek to have those who defy court orders punished.’ Ms O’Neil said.
Morrison Country Clothing often failed to appear throughout the proceedings and did not file a defence. Justice Tracey made allowance for the company’s lack of legal representation and gave the company a number of opportunities to produce the documents.
Nonetheless, the Court was not persuaded that Mr Morrison made ‘a valiant effort, or indeed, any serious effort, to search for documents.’ Justice Tracey found that Morrison was aware of what was required to comply with the Court Order and that non-compliance was not casual, accidental or unintentional.
Morrison Country Clothing went into liquidation in July 2008 but Justice Tracey held that Mr Morrison was personally liable for non-compliance with the court order.
The Court has the power to order the imprisonment of Mr Morrison.
A penalty hearing will be heard on 10 October 2008.