LIKE good sleep, staff entitlements are rarely considered except in their absence. Sadly, they will be dominating the thoughts of many Hunter families following RCR Tomlinson’s decision to enter administration earlier this month.
More than 200 Hunter workers are among those affected by the company’s fall, which the Australian Financial Review reports came three months after RCR Tomlinson hired McGrathNicol to undertake “contingency planning” for a potential voluntary administration. RCR Tomlinson then raised $100 million from investors in late August to pay for $57 million write-downs on solar projects in Queensland, strengthening its balance sheet.
Unions have their share of critics, but the fundamental premise of protecting workers’ entitlements through organising as a group carries merit when problems arise.
It comes into particular focus when NSW Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) assistant secretary Cory Wright cannot find a worker to come forward and discuss their plight due to fears that what is rightfully theirs will be lost completely.
Entitlements like superannuation and wages hang in limbo for many RCR Tomlinson staff dotted around Hunter sites including power stations, coal loaders and workshops. They will all be hoping they can salvage their entitlements at a meeting with the firm’s administrator on Monday.
The timing for such a jolt of uncertainty is appalling for staff planning their Christmas.
Mr Wright estimates workers are owed about $1000 each in superannuation, with those who had worked more than three decades faced with long-service leave simply evaporating.
“Now workers are literally faced with not being able to buy Christmas presents,” he said.
Those out of pocket staff will be listed as creditors, and Monday’s meeting with the administrator will offer the next step in what may become a lengthy process.
No one plans for a company to fall into an administrator’s hands, but security around worker entitlements needs to be sacrosanct. It is the fruit of labours already performed, and coming through with payment for those who earned it should not be an optional proposition. Hopefully the resolution of this situation will not leave those who simply kept doing their jobs to pay a price beyond the delayed payment they already face.
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