Super not paid, say redundant workers
Locked out … 1st Fleet employees, including these at Smithfield, could not enter their former work yesterday after administrators closed the business. Photo: Simon Alekna
STAFF at collapsed trucking and logistics company 1st Fleet say they have been paid scant superannuation for up to two years.
Administrators folded the company on Wednesday night, leaving at least 600 workers nationwide, including more than 200 in Sydney, without jobs, wages or entitlements.
The closure was a shock to employees, who gathered at depots yesterday to find they were locked out. They had known their company was in financial trouble but had been repeatedly told there was enough money to keep paying them.
Peter Cook, a storeman who was just finishing late shift at 1st Fleet's Smithfield depot on Wednesday, saw administrators arrive about midnight.
''We were just closing up the last truck and these guys walked down the driveway and said 'we're administrators, this is security, that's it, you're done','' Mr Cook said yesterday outside the depot.
''We stood around for two hours in shock.''
Directors of 1st Fleet appointed administrators deVriesTayeh last week. Those administrators told staff they would be able to keep the business operating, before Wednesday night's about face.
Newly unemployed workers at Smithfield yesterday tallied up what they were owed by the company.
Alan Pollard said he noticed two years ago his super was not being paid and complained to 1st Fleet's managing director, Stephen Brown.
''And then we had little dribs and drabs - he promised to pay it, promised to pay it, then nothing went in,'' Mr Pollard said.
Another employee, Gerry Fitzgerald, said 1st Fleet missed 15 months of his super payments. The payments started again last year, but stopped in October.
Mr Brown briefly emerged yesterday to talk to former employees. He waved away questions about missing super, and instead put the blame for the collapse of the company on the company he used to help pay bills.
''The debtor funder wouldn't fund us unless we went into VA [voluntary administration],'' Mr Brown told the Herald.
Mr Brown said he used Coface Australia to help make payments, rather than a bank overdraft. In return, Coface had taken security over the firm's assets.
''Firstly they forced us into VA and then after one week they pulled it,'' he said. ''It's just ridiculous, 600 jobs gone, gone, just like that. We haven't got time to move things around.''
A spokesman for Coface rejected Mr Brown's claim it had insisted on administration.
The Transport Workers Union called for an investigation into the collapse. ''We had a group of owner-drivers who worked for eight weeks without getting paid,'' a TWU senior official, Michael Aird, said.
''They were told by the directors of the company it was simply a cash flow problem and they'd be able to keep operating.''
Mr Aird said 1st Fleet's failure represented wider problems. ''Margins in the transport industry are a disgrace.''