Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blame the victim

The Abbott government attempt to  blame workers for the crash of Australia’s auto manufacturing and fruit canning industries backfired.

The head of Toyota Australia denied that he had told Treasurer Joe Hockey the Toyota workers and their unions were responsible for the decision to cease manufacturing cars in Australia, and blamed the high Australian dollar for the decision.

The manager of food canning company SPC Ardmona also denied the government’s claims that the company’s impending closure was prompted by its employees’ sick leave claims and their “excessive” wages and conditions, which, the government alleged, included 104 weeks accumulated redundancy pay, “cashing in” unused sick leave on retirement, and nine weeks annual leave. In fact, the total claims for sick leave, long service leave and other entitlements last year amounted to less than 0.1 percent of the company’s cost of goods. Employees lost the entitlement to cash in unused sick leave two years ago, and they get four weeks annual leave, not nine. The maximum redundancy pay is 52 weeks, not 104 – and at the rate of two weeks pay for every six months employment, they have to work for the company for 26 years to get it!

The company management pointed out that the primary cause of its financial problems was the dumping of canned food from other countries. When faced with this problem New Zealand recently took steps to limit the practice, but Australia has not followed its example. The government is quite willing to see the last major fruit canning facility in Australia cease operation.

The government appears to see the crisis in the food canning and auto industries merely in terms of the opportunity it offers the government to force Australian workers to accept reduced pay and work entitlements.

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