Melbourne General Cemetery staffing

My matter is for the attention of the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the minister to urgently meet with representatives from the Australian Workers Union and the 10 operational staff who have been made redundant at the Melbourne General Cemetery. I ask the minister at that meeting to consider reversing the decision that has been taken by the cemetery trust.

This has happened after months of negotiations for a collective agreement between the management and operational staff at Melbourne cemetery. On 4 March the 10 operational staff were stood down pending retrenchment, which was given a deadline of only three days later. This is an absolute disgrace.

There were no genuine reasons given by management as to this course of action, other than one letter from the CEO, Mr Tribe, which stated that the decision was based on financial reasons. It stated that the priority is to:

… drive revenue and ensure value for money with respect to expenditure, both in terms of other expenses as well as salaries/wages …

This is an outrageous situation, when the same cemetery trust increased its human resources staff dramatically yet cut 10 operational jobs from a very important cemetery in Melbourne’s history. I cannot imagine that there could not be an ongoing need for maintenance on these grounds and how in fact these positions could be made redundant. On top of that, the 2012-13 financial report shows that Melbourne cemetery made a profit of $2.54 million.

At the end of February — with four months of the financial year remaining — the cemetery is already running at a $1.4 million profit, yet it is still taking permanent jobs away from these workers.

Let me make one thing clear: the financial position of this organisation does not warrant retrenchments. This is industrial relations policy gone wrong, with this government at the helm. I would like to quote one of the long-term workers, Martin McCormack, who has been there for 24 years and has had jobs as an operations manager and a foreman. He said:

I believe I have been sacked because …

1. I declined the offer of an individual employment contract and chose to remain in the enterprise agreement.

2. I exercised my legal right to take protected industrial action, during the current EA dispute.

Instead, he has been sacked. This is typical of this government’s contempt for union members and itsdrive to force people onto individual contracts and take away their rights to collective bargaining. It is an absolute disgrace, and I call on the minister to reinstate these jobs as a matter of urgency.

Interjections from gallery.

Persons escorted from gallery.