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INL individual contractors fared better

By Nick Smith

Friday 5th September 2003

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INL human resources managers may have erred in not matching union collective contracts, leading to the multimillion-dollar redundancy payout last month.

More than 100 journalists, administration and production staff accepted voluntary redundancy when John Fairfax Holdings succeeded in its $1.18 billion takeover of INL's newspaper assets.

The opportunity of a hefty redundancy payment was almost exclusively available to staff on individual contracts, agreements that did not match the collective contract's continued employment clause in the event of a buyout.

That absence led to the mass walkout, costing Fairfax millions of dollars and the loss of experienced staff, particularly at its flagship paper, the Sunday Star-Times.

Fairfax corporate affairs manager Bruce Wolpe and chief operating officer Peter O'Hara were unavailable for comment but union lawyer Tony Wilton said the mass redundancy from the contract clanger posed the question "why, if INL human resources management were so crack hot?"

"[We said] driving people on to individual contracts would turn out to bite them one day and we were proved right," Mr Wilton said.

Equally, the clause prevented most union members from seeking redundancy, some of whom would have preferred to take the money, but EPMU lawyer Tony Wilton said providing certainty of employment in the event of a buyout was "a good thing."

No redundancy is available where continued employment, previous service under the same terms and conditions, is offered by the purchaser of a business. But because of the absence of a continued employment clause in the individual contracts, staff members were technically redundant after the buyout as they were "surplus to INL's requirements."

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