Published: 12/07/2022
Category: On The Job
Published: 12/07/2022
Category: On The Job

Don’t mess with workers who are organised and unionised.

That was the clear message rolled out to carpet industry supplier Tuftmasters on Monday as union members around Australia held a series of rallies at Carpet Court stores to say ‘No’ to attempts to dilute pay and conditions.

Tuftmasters decided to pull the rug out from under its long-time workforce by walking away from well-established Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) provisions, meaning workers could now face deep cuts to their pay and redundancy provisions.

The company’s attempt to terminate the enterprise agreement would reduce worker’s conditions back to the Award. That would see long standing redundancy packages shrink from a maximum of 70 weeks to just 12.

With a wage freeze that has been in place for three years, workers have been forced to face a further real pay cut as the inflation rate continues to rise.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus joined workers in Melbourne as part of their campaign. She backed the move by workers to take a strong stand against Tuftmasters attempts to shortchange them.

McManus called on retailer Carpet Court, which relies on Tuftmasters for its products, to make a principled stand on behalf of workers.

Carpet Court has a choice to make, between backing the workers that produce the products they sell or backing a business which is seeking to slash their wages. Consumers deserve to know where they stand. Many of these workers earn close to $25 per hour now and are struggling with the cost of living.

Sally McManus
ACTU secretary

Sally McManus  -  ACTU secretary

Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) National Secretary of the CFMEU’s Manufacturing Division Jenny Kruschel stood with union members who are leading the push back against Tuftmasters attack on their pay and conditions.

She told On the Job that this dispute has been brewing for over three years.

“Back in 2019, the union started bargaining with Tuftmasters to replace an enterprise agreement. The company told us, then and there, that they didn’t want to bargain. They wanted to terminate the agreement, go back to the award,” Krushcel said.

“We did start bargaining and had been in that process for some time, but then in November last year the company put in an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the agreement.”

Kruschel was proud of the union’s achievement in bargaining for a decent redundancy agreement. It’s been a project pursued over a number of EBA’s that have been signed between workers and the company.

Suddenly, Tuftmasters wanted rid of it.

“The redundancy provisions are three weeks per year of service capped at 70 weeks. Tuftmasters say that they don’t want to pay the redundancy, that they want to return to the NES [National Employment Standards]. For most workers, that would just be 12 weeks,” Kruschel said.

Krushcel noted that Tuftmaster has objected to clauses in the EBA designed to ensure long-term casual workers can have decent job security and not end up of fixed term contracts year in, year out.

 “We’ve worked really hard to try and really lift the conditions and the workers have been really united in that sector. They have all stuck together to win really good terms and conditions.

 “The company is just looking for workers that are expendable and they can just move them on whenever they want,” Kruschel said.

McManus is appalled by the action that Tuftmasters has taken.

“Employers should not have the power to threaten workers with cutting their pay during bargaining negotiations. The law was never supposed to work this way but seven years ago employers found a loophole and they have been using it ever since to keep wages low. This has to change if we are to stop pay cuts.”

“Striking is always a last resort, and unfortunately Tuftmasters has backed their workers into a corner. Tuftmaster workers aren’t asking for too much, they just want to support their families and keep their pay and conditions intact during a cost-of-living crisis,” McManus said.

Workers carpet company for dud deal

Workers carpet company for dud deal