FORMER workers at Community Connections Victoria (CCV) will receive their redundancy payments by the end of July in a deal brokered with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The announcement was made as 25 ex-workers rallied outside the social welfare agency’s Warrnambool office yesterday afternoon, with the ombudsman’s office admitting that “the ink was still wet” on the agreement.
Former staff had not been told of the deal until The Standard showed them a copy of a media statement from the ombudsman.
It means all 40 people who worked with the agency’s residential care and foster care programs will be paid outstanding entitlements including redundancies and wages in lieu of notices of termination.
They were sacked last December after the Department of Human Services (DHS) axed funding for the services following an independent investigation which uncovered a series of breaches.
Neil Campbell, the senior Fair Work inspector at Warrnambool said his office was called in to investigate a number of complaints from former CCV employees in February.
“Community Connections has co-operated with the Fair Work Ombudsman during the course of its inquiries and agreed to a payment plan,” Mr Campbell said in a statement.
“There will be six fortnightly instalments which will result in all former employees being reimbursed a total of $333,000 by the end of July.” He said the largest single amount owing to an individual was $20,888.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman acted promptly on the complaints to ensure that outstanding entitlements were paid to all staff who had been made redundant as soon as practically possible.” Waving union placards and protest signs, the workers received support from several passing motorists who honked and waved as they drove along Kepler Street.
Australian Services Union organiser Leon Wiegard said the union had warned the ombudsman that it would issue court proceedings if the money was not paid in full by close of business today.
He described yesterday’s announcement as “fantastic news” and said the union would now attempt to see if the payment plan could be brought forward.
“We’ve got some of our members who are experiencing financial difficulties,” Mr Wiegard said.
CCV chairman Terry O’Keefe told The Standard earlier this week that the agency had found a way of sourcing funds for the redundancy payments.
The agency had originally called on DHS to pay the entitlements, saying it was facing “unprecedented circumstances” as a result of the department’s “sudden contract termination”.
A DHS spokesman said yesterday it had assisted Community Connections with transitional funding and the vast majority of staff who sought employment with new service providers have been employed.
“The department has never agreed to fund redundancies or associated costs for CCV. On the contrary, the department has reiterated to CCV, both in writing and verbally, that it will not pay these costs.”
He said DHS had recently advertised expressions of interest from service providers to deliver a range of services formerly and currently managed by Community Connections for the next three years.
“The new provider or providers will be in place to deliver services from 1 July 2012.”