17 Mar 2013

Union raises questions on Geon demise

2:35 pm on 17 March 2013

An Australian union is raising questions about the sale and winding up of Australasian printing business Geon Group.

The firm went into administration late last month and more than 650 workers in Australia now expect to be retrenched, the ABC reports.

The receiver sold the company's New Zealand assets to rival Blue Star Group, which has retained 76 staff but let 185 go. The firm kept on employees at Geon's Christchurch-based label company Kiwi Labels.

Blue Star has also bought Geon's operations in New South Wales and Victoria, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says it is refusing to offer employment to existing staff.

The impasse has prompted Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to intervene to guarantee Geon staff early access to their entitlements.

AMWU spokeswoman Lorraine Cassin said discussions are ongoing about selling Geon's operations in Tasmania and Western Australia, but the union is upset by what has unfolded at the firm's NSW and Victorian divisions.

Ms Cassin said the union had been informed through the receivers that Blue Star was going to make substantial job offers to those employees. However the union was advised by the company on Thursday that it was not going to offer any employment due to the enterprise agreement in place.

Enterprise agreements in Australian firms set out the employment conditions between staff and an employer.

Ms Cassin said the union was trying to find out what led to the viable company winding up, leaving workers virtually unemployed, and would call on the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) to look at competition issues.

Geon Group employed 678 workers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania and Western Australia.

Administrators McGrathNicol and the company had not immediately commented to the ABC.