Bruck Textiles bought for just $1

ALLEGATIONS Wangaratta fabric manufacturer Bruck Textile Technologies entered into a “contrived business arrangement” to escape paying the entitlements of 60 sacked workers have been sent to the corporate watchdog.

The charge comes after the assets of Bruck were bought for a token $1 by a new company, Australian Textile Mills, registered a month earlier by its principal shareholder, Philip Bart, and chief executive Geoff Parker.

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz has referred the issue to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which has registered the matter as a complaint.

“The government is very concerned at any allegation of companies entering into contrived arrangements to avoid paying employees’ entitlements or any legal obligation,” Senator Abetz said.

“The government is disappointed for these workers who risk being out of pocket and expresses the hope that the company and its directors have done, and will continue to do, all they can to ensure workers are not ripped off.”

It is estimated outstanding entitlements are about $3.8 million.

Australian Textile Mills public relations representative Mark Wells told The Border Mail last night the company would help with the investigation.

“The liquidators already have a copy of the sale agreement,” he said.

“I am sure they will go through it appropriately.”

Mr Wells said 80 of the 130 remaining employees had so far signed a letter of employment with the new entity, which would begin operating on Monday.

Yesterday Indi MP Cathy McGowan raised the issue in Parliament, acknowledging the need to support the dismissed workers.

“My sympathy is with the 60 workers who found out suddenly last Friday that their jobs with major Wangaratta manufacturing business Bruck Textiles have been lost,” she said.

“I call on the Wangaratta community to rally behind these 60 people and their families.

“I know the community is a caring one and the support agencies, service groups and welfare organisations will do what they can to relieve the stress these people are experiencing.”

Ms McGowan yesterday met with Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Senator Abetz, requesting the federal Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme process be fast-tracked.

“I have been told how fast this can happen depends on the record keeping; if the company’s records are not up to scratch it could take a while,” she said.

“With a bit of luck, it can happen quickly.”

Textile Clothing and Footwear Union national secretary Michele O’Neil and representatives of the liquidator met sacked workers yesterday.

“The workers are shocked and they are angry,” Ms O’Neil said.

“They came along today to try and find out what’s going on.”