Support Pacific Brands workers—defend every job

Support from Hong Kong Trade Unions for Pacific Brands workers 

Workers across the country are disgusted and outraged with the announcement that Pacific Brands bosses plan to sack 1850 workers. The bosses’ greed is astounding. A fight to save the jobs would win widespread support.

The company has taken $17 million in subsidies from the government in the last two years and while boss Sue Morphett has more than doubled her own pay packet from $685,775 to $1.86 million, which included “incentive payments”—bonuses for axing jobs. The 13 Directors now get $15.5 million between them—an average of $924,000 each.

The announced closures have all the hallmarks of an asset stripping exercise that demands immediate intervention by the government. The company was taken over by private equity funds backed by the Macquarie Bank in 2001. According to union sources in New Zealand, the private equity funds took $A100 million out in cash, loaded the company with debt and then sold it on the share market for $A1 billion. Now they are closing operations, lining their own pockets and selling off the brand names.

The sackings can be stopped

A strong stand by Pacific Brands workers will win support right across the union movement and the wider community. Already, the Transport Workers Union, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the Maritime Union have said they will block any attempt to remove machinery from the closed factories.

Protests and industrial action can galvanize support.

The company will try to wear down and divide workers by offering voluntary redundancies, crying poor and threatening wider closures, but we shouldn’t let one job go. Sacked workers can work-in while we continue the fight to save all the jobs.

If Pacific Brands tries to close factories, we should consider occupying the factories. Workers at Waterford Glass in Ireland have been occupying their factory since January to prevent it being closed. Thousands of people in that city are supporting the occupying workers.

It is this kind of action that can force a stronger stand from Prime Minister Rudd and Employment Minister Gillard. The Labor government must take a much stronger stand against the sackings and against greedy bosses who pocket the government handouts and then throw workers on the scrap heap.

The government must guarantee entitlements for every worker, but it should take action to guarantee every job. We should demand that the company open its books to the government and the union, so we can know the truth about all its financial operations. If necessary the government should nationalise the company.

Some, like the Daily Telegraph have tried to say that the fight at Pacific Brands is a fight to save “Aussie jobs”—but the truth is that the company is closing almost all its factories—in Australia, two in New Zealand and a major factory in China itself.

It is not Chinese workers who are cutting jobs. In fact Chinese workers are also fighting factory closures. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions has sent a message of support to the TCFUA and workers at Pacific Brands. Workers in New Zealand are also gearing up to fight against the sackings. It is industrial action, not “Buying Australian” that can save jobs. We have a common fight, against the same bosses in Australia, New Zealand and China.

Pacific Brands bosses thought they could use the financial crisis to get away with mass sackings. A strong stand by the unions can stop them in their tracks.



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  1. A little bit unrrelated but still pertinant to life and world in general. Reading a letter from Hong Kong (above article) coincided with friends from Taiwan and Hong Kong who have told me with the declining economy in that region so have the treatment of migrant workers declined. Close friends in that region have told me of both personal and public stories regarding the disgusting treatment of migrant (mainly filipino, some Indonesian) workers in those countries. Many arrive in the view of having domestic helper jobs. One friend spoke to a girl in Hong Kong, a filipino working as a domestic helper there for a Chinese family. My friend questioned why she had lost significant weight and looked so much worse in the months he hadnt seen her. She said she was working with a host family, She has 1 day off A MONTH (YES, A MONTH), is only fed a diet of egg and rice and sleeps on a mat in the childrens bedroom. She is cursed if she eats any of the other food (this is directly from the lady concerned). On a public note, another “married” a Taiwanese man, however, in Taiwan they receive no citizenship rights, whereby he forced her to work and kept all her money. She became pregnant and the “husband” made her work up to 8 months of her preganancy whereby she ended up having a miscarriage. The family would not pay for the birth. other headlines have included: forced blood donations, as a reward the government pay a 1kg of rice. Host families are forcing some workers to donate blood to obtain the rice. This is just the tip of the iceberg and what of the countless other stories of violence, verbal and physical abuse, forced slavery etc. of migrant workers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan.

    So one thinks .. thats in Asia but not here? Think again. I have close links to Overseas students from India/Asia and people here on working holiday visas through friend contacts. Theres some disgusting stuff happening right here in country people .. $6-$8 cash jobs in restaurants & shops, long hours, working for so called “trial” period without pay the sacked, unnecessary deductions coming out of cash paid included hidden ‘training fees”, “transport charges”, overpriced accommdoation eg. 4 to a room, 2 to a room on a rotation shift and vendors receiving twice or triple the market rent on that basis, etc. etc .. how long does this comments section allow me to go.


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