Geelong lockout claims family homes
The Geelong Wool Combing lockout that has cost three local families their homes was this week branded "criminal". And now another three families have approached real estate agents about the prospects of selling their homes as 93 employees bid to hold out against company demands for massive clawbacks. Employees confirmed the lockout had also been a "significant factor" in the failure of a workmate's 36-year marriage. Geelong Wool Combing locked out its workforce under legislation introduced by the Howard Government, after they refused to agree to demands for 25 percent wage cuts, unlimited casualisation and the unilateral right of the company to change hours of work. Textile Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) Victorian Secretary Michelle O'Neill confirmed that three of her members had had to sell their homes and that three more were actively considering the prospect. "Three homes have gone", she said. "The support of other members, and other unions, down here has been great but these people have been forced to sell up. They were no longer able to meet their mortgage repayments. "For a company to be able to starve workers into submission and to cost them their family homes is criminal, whether or not is sanctioned by the Workplace Relations Act", Ms O'Neill said. A community rally in the heart of Geelong, last week, drew 3000 supporters and raised tens of thousands of dollars. Representatives of the CFMEU, MUA and AMWU handed over substantial cheques representing money raised by workplace collections. Ms O'Neill related the story of locked out workers addressing unionists at a nearby Shell plant and receiving a telephone call pledging $23,000 within an hour of leaving the site. Geelong Wool Combing workers have maintained a 24-hour, seven-day a week protest outside the company's gates since they were forced off site in May. Federal Court decisions in two cases stemming from the protracted lockout are expected next week. The TCFUA is contending the lockout is illegal, alleging it is a front for a stand-down arising from a combination of factors including the drought and the depressed wool market. Geelong Wool Combing counter filed, accusing the union of attempt to "coerce" it into an agreement. Ms O'Neill, Assistant Secretary, Jenny Kruschel and 10 Geelong members are named as co-defendants.