Heinemann : No pay, no safety, and no respect

‘Safety fears at overtime row firm’
Ewin Hannan
The Australian
September 12, 2006

THE Melbourne company [owned by another, South African-based company which is, in turn, owned by a TNC] that docked 56 employees a week’s pay for not working overtime has been served with eight notices for alleged breaches of health and safety laws.

WorkSafe Victoria, a division of the state’s WorkCover Authority, also found that bullying was likely to occur at Heinemann Electric, in the outer suburb of Mulgrave.

Unions are considering Federal Court action after the electrical parts company refused to pay employees for a week’s work. The company said the federal workplace laws allowed it not to pay the workers, who imposed the bans in support of an enterprise bargaining claim.

Documents show WorkSafe has issued eight separate notices since November last year instructing Heinemann Electric to improve health and safety conditions.

WorkSafe cited a range of concerns, including switchboards being tested in an “uncontrolled environment” and “inadequate control measures” relating to asbestos. Electrical cords and appliances were being used without ensuring there was no risk of electric shock or electrocution.

The WorkSafe inspector criticised the “inadequate” emergency evacuation procedures and the fact that health and safety meetings had not been held for eight months.

WorkSafe issued notices saying it reasonably believed the company was in breach of occupational health and safety laws. The notices led to a further inspection on January 30. Some issues had been addressed but the company had still not complied with four of the notices.

On July 28 WorkSafe issued another improvement notice after finding that bullying was likely to occur at the workplace.

WorkSafe found the company did not have appropriate policies or procedures to deal with bullying; that there was uncertainty about job requirements; and that workplace communication was poor. Heinemann was instructed to develop a no-bullying policy and instigate a confidential reporting system and an adequate system to deal with bullying behaviour.

Heinemann general manager Richard Ross denied bullying had occurred. He said WorkSafe had given the company extra time to address the issues.

Dean Mighell, Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, claimed employees were “frightened” of management.

The workers imposed protected industrial action in the form of overtime bans from August 22 before stopping work for 24 hours on August 25.

In a statement last week, Mr Ross said the company wanted to negotiate with employees about what hours they worked, but the union wanted to control the level of hours.

But Mr Mighell said the company was trying to “average out” working hours.

[Hat tip : Dr. Cam Sexenheimer]

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2015 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to Heinemann : No pay, no safety, and no respect

  1. Joffa says:

    I can state for a fact that the bullies are senior management and many snide remarks have been made about their workers including the reference to them as being animals. The facilities are sub-standard and the environment is clearly one of master and servant. This includes office staff as well as factory workers.

    It sounds like it no longer is an Australian company. From my dealings with Heinemann over many years it pains me to say that the management there is treating workers like second class citizens and slaves.

    I feel for the people who are caught in the middle. I have dealt with these people for years and they are not to blame. The workmanship has been exemplary and their willingness to help has always been appreciated. Recently, I got the feeling that these people were being discouraged from helping customers. Everything required approval and service has gone out the window.

    Senior management believe that treating staff like dirt increases productivity. As a loyal customer of Heinemann, I felt nervous a month ago when office staff started leaving suddenly. I have since taken my business elsewhere.

    What the South African management fail to realise is that the ETU and supporting unions will be urging their members not to deal with Heinemann. Regardless of what happens from hereon in, Heinemann are doomed under the current management/ownership. They are putting their own selfish needs ahead of the company\’s needs. Labour hire will not increase their business!

    We can blame the Government but this was never the intention of the new IR laws. This is the result of arrogant, rude and inconsiderate people stuffing around with people\’s livelihoods – managers at Heinemann.

  2. @ndy says:

    Hi Joffa,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    “Senior management believe that treating staff like dirt increases productivity.”

    Yeah, maybe. (And i’m not a bean-counter, but not actually paying workers for their labour helps too I imagine!) Or, it may be that the owners and managers have decided to re-position or liquidate the company: it is a TNC, after all.

    “As a loyal customer of Heinemann, I felt nervous a month ago when office staff started leaving suddenly. I have since taken my business elsewhere.”

    Sounds like a good idea.

    “What the South African management fail to realise is that the ETU and supporting unions will be urging their members not to deal with Heinemann. Regardless of what happens from hereon in, Heinemann are doomed under the current management/ownership. They are putting their own selfish needs ahead of the company’s needs. Labour hire will not increase their business!”

    Yeah, again, you may be right… or it may be that they’re deliberately winding the company down: it’s not an unknown practice in the world of corporate profiteering.

    How the senior management of the company that employs Heinemann’s management feels about it all is anyone’s guess.

    (Mine’s “smug and confident”.)

    “We can blame the Government but this was never the intention of the new IR laws. This is the result of arrogant, rude and inconsiderate people stuffing around with people’s livelihoods – managers at Heinemann.”

    Possibly. It’s worth noting that the Government’s new IR regime is what’s made Heinemann’s bastardry possible in the first place though. And it would seem fairly reasonable to assume that the bosses are simply going to push the new legislation as far as they can, to see just how much they can get away with in (especially in terms of increasing profits — “productivity” — by lowering workers’ wages and conditions).

    Finally, imo, it’s also worth noting that HoWARd’s mob hasn’t exacly come running to the defence of the ‘little Aussie battlers’ he keeps pissing on about; ‘battlers’ who are slaving their guts out for a company that pays them no respect and… well… doesn’t even pay them! (Far from it.) Further, the fact that Freehill‘s has assumed responsibility for crafting the hare-brained scheme in the first place means that their role in advising Heinemann’s to pursue this (potentially very costly) strategy should not be overlooked either.

    Cheers and best wishes to the workers,

    @ndy.

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