The Australian Workers’ Union has attacked US laundry giant Alsco’s decision to sack around 155 loyal workers without any warning as one of the cruellest and most shameful acts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the staff had already been stood down without pay or were working reduced hours but thought their jobs were safe as Alsco had told them, “If we made the sacrifice now, it would help us keep our jobs later”.
But, last Monday 155 workers were told to clean out their lockers and given just a couple of hours to leave their premises at sites across Australia. Around 10 per cent of Alsco’s workforce in Australia received letters telling them they were being made redundant, there would be no voluntary redundancies and they had no recourse to challenge the decision.
The AWU has been fighting Alsco at the Fair Work Commission this week arguing that Alsco breached workers rights by not giving them enough time to consult over the redundancies which was due to come into affect this Monday (June 1). The Fair Work Commission agreed with the AWU today (Friday May 29) and has now extended the consultation process till June 9th.
The AWU will be holding meetings at all Alsco sites on Wedneday, June 5th to talk with workers about the redundancy process and how it will impact them. Whilst the decision means that around 155 workers will still lose their jobs, it will now mean that workers who may have wanted to take voluntary redundancy can do so, and that the AWU can now reach out to everyone affected and get their feedback.
Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU, said Alsco should be ashamed of the way it has treated some of the most low-paid workers in the country. “These are people who are paid around $20 an hour and have been struggling to make ends meet since they were stood down or put on reduced hours when the lock-down started.
“Many have eaten into their annual leave to get by and believed they would get their jobs back after being told to take a hit for the team.
“But, it’s clear Alsco never had any intention of reemploying these workers. No-one is denying that there are many companies around the world who have been affected by COVID-19 but it doesn’t mean you have to treat your staff like dirt. It’s hard to think of any other employer in Australia that has committed a more shameful or cruel act.”
AWU member Elaine Evans, 65, was one of 18 workers at Alsco’s Campbelltown site who found out they were being made redundant last Monday.
Mrs Evans said: “It was a horrible shock. I have worked for Alsco for 15 years and couldn’t believe I was told I would no longer be working there and there was no consultation about it at all.
“I was planning on retiring in the next year or so, so I have opted for redundancy but one of the ladies I work with was really, really upset and worried about how she would pay her mortgage and get another job. It also seems very strange to us as hotels and restaurants are starting to open again and and things will be busy again soon.”
Alsco provides laundry services to the hospitality and medical industries. The company says it applied for the JobKeeper program but being US based it had to demonstrate their profits were down by half and were turned down as a result. They are currently in the midst of trying to buy out its biggest competitor, the Spotless Group’s garment business, which is being reviewed by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
Mr Walton added: “If they have enough money to go through with a huge acquisition, you would think they would be able to keep more workers on their books, especially as we are coming out of lockdown and returning to normality. If this is how they treat long-serving staff, it should set off warning bells over their takeover plans of Spotless.”
If you are affected by this please contact your union representative who is fighting this decision on your behalf.