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Susie O’Brien

April 07, 2009 12:00am
BOSSES are using the global economic crisis as a smokescreen to slash Victorian jobs, pay and conditions, worker advocates claim.

Profitable companies with healthy bottom lines were aggressively lay off workers, moving jobs offshore, freezing wages and getting rid of individual workers.

Culprits ranged from big banks and public utilities cutting staff and offering redundancies, to unscrupulous smaller companies short-changing workers.

Most vulnerable were workers who had made complaints against employers for bullying or sexual harassment, women on maternity leave and carers who needed flexible hours.

Redundancy complaints to community workers’ legal centre JobWatch have increased 85 per cent in the first three months of this year.

In many the 500 calls made, workers said bosses were using the crisis to get rid of them, JobWatch executive director Zana Bytheway said.

“Employers are taking the opportunity to shed older people and those with parental responsibilities, among others,” she said. “Some employers are just creating unfair dismissals rather than genuine redundancies.”

Financial Sector Union spokesman Rod Masson said more than 9000 jobs had gone from highly profitable banks, insurance companies and finance companies in the past six months.

“While some finance companies have gone under and job losses have been inevitable, many profitable companies are using the economic downturn as an opportunity to cut costs through job shedding when it may not be necessary,” he said.

ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow said some employers were cutting staff and wages unfairly. “The general fear of losing jobs is creating an environment where workers are frustrated but copping it — particularly in areas like hospitality and retail,” she said.

The Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Steve Dargavel, said many manufacturing companies were under genuine pressure.

“Others are hypocritical and giving themselves big bonuses at the same time as sacking workers,” he said.

But employers are denying the claims.

Medibank Private has been accused by unions of unscrupulous shift changes and redundancy threats.

But a spokesman for the company said recent moves for some staff to move from full-time to part-time work was instead part of a “transformation strategy”.

The ANZ bank has also been widely criticised for mass redundancies and hiring staff overseas.

But the bank said all businesses were facing changes to adapt to the economic climate and despite the economic slowdown, the business was continuing to grow.

Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace manager David Gregory said most businesses were reluctant to cut staff numbers and tried everything they could to hang on to workers until times improved.,21985,25300373-2862,00.html


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