Bust business employees will miss out

The former depot of Colac's Wheadons Transport.

FORMER workers of a bankrupt Colac transport company say they were upset to discover they would not receive up to $150,000 worth of entitlements.

Wheadons Transport went into voluntary insolvency more than a year ago, owing about $6.5 million to its 175 creditors, including employees.

A liquidation company collected $4.7 million worth of Wheadons’ assets from the sale of the company’s Wallace Street depot and part of its fleet.

But the liquidators have announced they would not be able to pay outstanding employee entitlements, which total $366,000 excluding superannuation.

The Federal Government’s general employee entitlements and redundancy scheme, or GEERS, stepped in to pay $235,000 to Wheadons workers, but workers were still out of pocket.

Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman said it was “extremely disappointing” the company failed to pay its workers what they were entitled.

“For a company to owe workers superannuation for 12 months, that’s outrageous in my opinion,” Mr Cheeseman said.

“If they were getting into difficulty and weren’t able to pay super, they should have warned staff of their difficulties and sought advice as soon as possible,” he said.

A former Wheadons employee, who remained anonymous for employment reasons, said the company owed him about $5000 in entitlements.

“At the end of the day, that’s money that we should have been paid, so it’s just so frustrating to have to go without it,” he said.

“There were about 40 or 50 of us who were owed about $3000 to $6000 worth of super, so that’s a huge amount.

“Some of the workers have had to move away for work, some have had to go casual too, but most have found jobs again.”

Another former employee, who worked at Wheadons for more than a decade, said Colac businesses had helped workers get back on their feet.

“A lot of businesses were owed money just like the employees, but they knew a lot of the workers were decent workers and they took us on,” he said.

“It was especially important for the older workers, because some of them were close to retirement and instead they had to go back to work.”

Mr Cheeseman said he would discuss the Wheadons case with Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.

“I’ll be talking to the minister about the reform that might be able to be introduced to make it harder for companies to do what they’ve done and how we can further protect workers,” he said.

“Unfortunately that’s not going to fix these employees’ issues, but it might help others who find themselves in similar situations in the future.”

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