South Grafton abattoir owner Stuart Ramsey.
South Grafton abattoir owner Stuart Ramsey.

Fight to get pays

SOUTH Grafton abattoir owner, the Ramsey group of companies, may have to put up close to $1 million to ensure soon-to-be-displaced workers get their full severance pay and entitlements.

Yesterday, the Fair Work Ombudsman applied to the Federal Court asking that the Ramsey group be required to make the payments, citing concern permanent abattoir employees will not be paid their accrued annual leave entitlements or redundancy pay.

In documents presented to the court, the ombudsman also expressed concern discriminatory work practices would be used to select people for employment at the Northern Co-operative Meat Company in Casino.

"Specifically, employment will not be offered to employees who have a workplace injury or have less seniority," the documents said.

The ombudsman said there was a real concern the South Grafton abattoir employees would not get their entitlements because the employer told them there would be no redundancy payments, that twice previously the employer failed to pay entitlements, that there was a history of using labour hire companies and placing them into liquidation where there was a requirement to pay employee entitlements and there was a history of acting in contempt of court decisions.

The ombudsman has asked that each of the respondents must, within 48 hours of being served with an order, inform the Fair Work Ombudsman's solicitors of all assets held or controlled by the each of the respondent companies, giving the value, location and detail of all assets.

The ombudsman also asked that the respondents, who were listed as; Stuart Bruce Ramsey, Brugold, Ramsey Food Processing, Ramsey Meats, Ramsey Developments, Coastal Employment Services, Explin, Ramsey Holdings, Ramsey Pastoral Company, Rawhide, Ramsey Pastoral, Ramsey Wholesale Meats, Mortimer Administration Service and Abattoir Contracting Service, pay $988,480 to cover what is estimated to be owed to workers.

The amount was calculated on the assumption that each of an estimated 200 employees would be owed an average of $4942.40.

But the ombudsman is seeking specific details on the number of workers, their award, how they were employed, length of service and annual leave owed.

The ombudsman is also seeking an order restraining the employer from directing employees to resign, because it could make it more complex for the workers to get termination entitlements.

He has also asked for an order that the respondents produce all documents relating to any contract with the Northern Co-operative Meat Company concerning any sale or transfer of work or employment, including; the amount and date of any payments made or to be made to the co-operative meat company and the number of people working at the South Grafton site who are to be offered work in Casino.

The matter was adjourned until Friday. The Ramsey group of companies was not represented in court.

Meat employees' union federal president Grant Courtney urged workers not to resign. Meanwhile, an abattoir worker told the Examiner yesterday about 60 workers had put their hands up for jobs in Casino and all would be undergoing medical testing in the next couple of days.

He said NCMC representatives told workers yesterday the company would take on workers' holiday and long service entitlements.

"I think we should be paid our entitlements and redundancy here before we go," said the worker.

"It's really got nothing to do with Casino."

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