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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2262 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

It seems strange to me that we can have different rules for different types of workers. We can have enticements to get certain classes of workers out of the work force, but those enticements are not available to others. What is the difference between the forestry workers and the workers at Totalcare? It is very little. Their salary levels are not great. For the forestry workers, the average was between $25,000 and $30,000 a year. For Totalcare, we are probably talking of between $25,000 and $30,000 a year. So giving them the same sort of treatment as the forestry workers is not a lot of money. Lately we have been talking about the budget and billions of dollars.

I believe we should say that none of the workers should be forced to take a redundancy. But those who want to take an offer of redundancy ought to be given the same chance and the same benefits as anybody else. Nobody should be treated any better or any worse than anybody else. Doing so puts value of their service to this community. I reject the notion that the service that people at Totalcare have provided to us is of less value to our community than the services provided by people at ACT Forests. I think they are the same. Any suggestion that these people would get less in the way of benefit is an insult to them, heaped on top of the injury, fear and trepidation they will to have to go through when they walk out the gate.

I appeal to the compassion of those people whose vote will carry the motion today. Think about the families of these workers. Low-income families , if they are lucky, have two income earners, and those two incomes added together do not match the salary paid to people in this place. To take half of that away is a particularly significant thing. I ask people to show some compassion for these workers and support Mr Berry's motion. Any lack of support for Mr Berry's motion, in my view, shows a distinct lack of compassion.

MR CORBELL (10.42): I support Mr Berry's motion. We saw this morning a strong expression of the human reality of the government's decision in relation to the contract for ACT Housing maintenance work. We saw the public gallery full of men faced with the prospect of not having any work and faced with the reality of trying to work out how they are going to adjust and cope and how their families are going to do the same.

Redundancy is not a new thing. I would hope that all members in this place appreciated the impact it has on people's lives. The territory is not a big employer of manual workers. We tend to have a lot of white-collar workers in the ACT but not that blue-collar workers. If workers at Totalcare are to be subject to redundancy, it should not be forced redundancy. That is the first point of Mr Berry's motion. People should have a choice. They should have the opportunity to stay and continue to contribute in an effective way in some other form of work. Secondly, if people do choose to take a voluntary redundancy, they should have a decent package.

I would imagine that a number of the workers present this morning had been engaged by the ACT administration in one form or another for quite some time. I think it is incumbent on the government to ensure that a fair deal is given to those employees, recognising their service, recognising the contribution they have made and trying to provide a proper and decent level of support for those who have decided that they do not want to continue to work. First and foremost, it must be their decision. Secondly, if it is their decision to leave, they should be properly and decently compensated through an effective redundancy package.

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