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In February 2009, both the TCFUA and the general public were shocked when Pacific Brands announced that 1,850 people will lose their jobs across seven Pacific Brands sites in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. This was a devastating blow to the workers, their families, this industry and Australia. Most workers employed by this company are migrant women who have long years of service and their prospects of finding alternative work in the current economic crisis are grim.
On the day of the closure, the TCFUA, which represents the vast majority of workers affected, slammed the company decision and called for urgent discussions between industry minister Kim Carr, Pacific Brands and the TCFUA aimed at saving jobs. The TCFUA also launched a widespread campaign against the Pacific Brands decision, with invaluable support from other unions and the community.
In May 2009, the TCFUA, in consultation with workers, successfully negotiated an agreement with Pacific Brands to provide Training Advocacy and Support to all workers who will lose their jobs.
The Union has a long history and extensive experience in developing, coordinating and delivering successful and innovative Advocacy and Support projects for retrenched TCF workers and understands that workers face a difficult transition when they lose their jobs. While retrenchment causes considerable economic and emotional difficulty for most workers, what has also been lost is a sense of community, the shared sense of identity and focus that is gained by the experience of working together as a group on a day-to-day basis with a common goal over many years. After retrenchment many workers face the prospect of uncertain and casual work.
The Union is coordinating this national project and has employed seven Advocacy and Support project workers, each of whom are based at individual sites, for 12-15 months to offer workers advice, support and to advocate on their behalf, both before and after they become retrenched. The seven Pacific Brands sites are: Can’t Tear ‘Em in QLD, Holeproof and Kayser in VIC, King Gee in Bellambi, Bonds in Unanderra, Wentworthvile and Cessnock in NSW)
In addition to Government assistance that is already available to workers, each worker will have available $3,000 to be held in a dedicated fund. This money is for workers to use for education and training, recognition of skills, and finding suitable work and other costs related to training and looking for work as well as social inclusion activities for those workers who are due to retire. In cases where one worker does not use up the full amount, the remaining money will be available to other workers who may need additional training and support.
A joint TCFUA/Pacific Brands Committee has developed guidelines for the $3,000 that determine the categories of approved expenditure for training, job seeking and related expenses and social inclusion activities.
The Advocacy and Support officers are also helping workers get access to all the available Government assistance for education, training and support to find ongoing and stable work. They are organising for service providers to meet with workers, such as Superannuation funds, Centerlink, TAFEs, and Job Service Australia Providers.
In addition to the $3000, retrenched Pacific Brands workers can access special assistance from the Textile Clothing and Footwear Structural Adjustment Package (TCF-SAP) through Job Services Australia Providers. This entitles each worker to $1350 for employment, job search and training related expenses.
Workers are also entitled to one Free Structural Adjustment Place to study any Certificate 3 or above course on the Productivity Places Program list (see http://productivityplacesmis.deewr.gov.au/public/).
The workers at the Kayser and Holeproof sites also have an additional $800 to spend on training at any Registered Training Organisation through the Victorian Government’s Skill Up program.