The Collapse of First Fleet

WHEN workers of transport operator First Fleet turned up for work on Thursday, May 3, they arrived to the news that they no longer had a job.

Thousands of First Fleet's workers across Australia lost their jobs when administrators de Vries Tayeh announced that First Fleet ceased trading at 11.55pm the night before.

The directors failed to follow through on the commitments they had made to the administrators to keep the company afloat. To add insult to injury, around eight weeks of pay is still owed to owner-drivers who have families, mouths to feed, mortgages to pay off - and at the end of the day - a bleak, uncertain future.

Following the announcement two weeks ago that First Fleet had been placed into administration, our officials at the TWU went into overdrive in trying to secure the most desirable outcome.

It is of course always deeply disappointing when a company goes into administration. If anything, however, the collapse of First Fleet highlights, once again, the pressures and tight margins that the transport industry confronts on a daily basis.

Another issue that this collapse highlights are the limitations of the current GEERS system.

In relation to employees, redundancy payments and statutory entitlements, such as accrued annual leave, are capped. This means that you could be working at a company for 20 years and if the company collapses without enough money to pay these entitlements, you will not get anywhere near what you are entitled to from the GEERS system.

The situation is even worse for owner-drivers who are not entitled to any payments under the GEERS system. This is a totally unacceptable situation. The Federal Government has recently promised to look into the shortcomings of GEERS and I can only hope that the current problems are rectified.

At the first creditors meeting last week, the TWU was appointed to the creditors committee which will oversee the entitlements of the 1000 workers who lost their jobs when First Fleet ceased trading.

The next creditors meeting is scheduled for May 22 when the administrators will report on the future of First Fleet.

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