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Hockey wins redundancy payout for terminally -

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Hockey wins redundancy payout for terminally ill worker

Reporter: Kerry Brewster

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program, and we'll also take a good look at the emerging field in the
next race for the White House tonight. But first, the story of a terminally ill cancer patient
whose battle for redundancy became a national political issue. Despite more than 40 years service
with the car parts company Tristar, 61 year old John Beaven was denied the voluntary redundancy
payout granted to many of his workmates, but the politically charged environment around the Federal
Government's workplace reforms provoked new Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey to intervene.
Mr Beaven, who could have just hours to live, may now have his payout, but the same can't be said
for some of his colleagues. Kerry Brewster reports.

KERRY BREWSTER: Doctors have given John Beaven only hours to live. During his final bedridden days
in this Sydney hospice, his biggest worry has been the welfare of his children a girl in high
school and two boys at university, all soon to be orphans.

ANDREW BEAVEN, SON: Since he got really sick, his major concern has been for us to be able to
continue on without him, to be able to continue to go to university or school or whatever we want
to do and to have the money available to just be able to live without giving up everything that
we've worked so hard for.

KERRY BREWSTER: But after 43 years of service with car parts company Tristar, John Beaven was
denied a voluntary redundancy worth less than $50,000. Adding to the family's pain was the
knowledge that the same company had recently approved voluntary redundancies to many of his
workmates.

ANDREW BEAVEN: After 43 years they owe him a lot more, but the least they can do is just pay this
redundancy to him, which they've done to everyone else who has applied for them.

KERRY BREWSTER: With industrial relations such a hot political topic, what began as one family's
tragedy soon became a national issue.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: This is a case of a company behaving in a very heartless fashion. The
law that the company is applying has been the law in relation to voluntary redundancies for
decades, so this has got nothing to do with WorkChoices.

JULIA GILLARD, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: The company in this case isn't acting illegally. It is
most certainly acting immorally.

KERRY BREWSTER: But John Beaven's plight is part of a much bigger dispute between Tristar and its
employees, the end game of a once thriving domestic car component business. Hundreds of people once
worked here in Sydney's inner west, but as the 7.30 Report revealed last year, it's become a ghost
factory. There's been no work to do here for nearly a year, yet Tristar's longest serving workers,
including John Beaven, have clocked on each day to do absolutely nothing, as his colleague Marty
Peak explained.

MARTY PEAK: I come in, I clock on, I go to my desk and that's it. That's all I do all day. I sit at
a desk.

KERRY BREWSTER: Yet workers here had negotiated a very generous redundancy agreement with Tristar
after their paralysing strike six years ago nearly brought the car industry to its knees.

MARTIN SCHUTZ, AUSTRALIAN MANUFACTURING WORKERS' UNION: Under these certified agreements, if they
are made redundant, forced redundancies, they're entitled to four weeks' pay for every year of
service. So for somebody with 30 years' service, you are looking at perhaps $150,000.

KERRY BREWSTER: For John Beaven, it added up to nearly $200,000. Cheaper by far to keep him and
other long serving employees on the payroll or have them accept voluntary redundancies at a
fraction of the cost of forced redundancies. In December, knowing he would die within weeks, John
Beaven applied for a voluntary.

COLIN WOODS, BROTHER-IN-LAW: I think they're bastards because there have been since December, I
believe, 20 applications for voluntary redundancies approved. There's been one not approved and
that is Mr Beaven's. I think that stinks.

MARTIN SCHUTZ: It's absolutely disgusting, disgraceful action and that's the way that the company
has been acting for the last six months, but nobody - not for one minute did I expect that if
somebody who was going to die and came to the company and said, "I'm seriously ill, I'm going to
die", that they would treat somebody in this way.

JOE HOCKEY, INCOMING WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: They are behaving like ratbags. So, let's see
what we can do, okay.

KERRY BREWSTER: Today the newly announced industrial relations minister, Joe Hockey, sprang into
action, visiting the workers at their ghost factory and announcing a last minute breakthrough for
Mr Beaven after speaking with directors of Tristar's parent company.

JOE HOCKEY: I've had robust discussions with the directors of Arrow Crest and they have agreed to
pay Mr Beaven his full voluntary redundancy.

ANDREW BEAVEN: It's a great relief, really. Just to have it over and done with. It doesn't excuse
what they have done, really.

KERRY BREWSTER: A bittersweet ending for one family, but what's the future for the remaining 30 odd
Tristar workers left in a redundancy limbo? This week, Tristar won its application to have its
certified agreement terminated.

PROF RON MCCALLUM, DEAN OF LAW, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: The company are terminating the agreement so
that there will be less to pay the workers and more for the company to keep itself and perhaps for
its creditors.

KERRY BREWSTER: Ron McCallum, Sydney's University's Dean of Law, believes Tristar's remaining
workers, most of whom have served between 30 and 40 years, will end up being paid redundancies
worth only 12 weeks' pay.

RON MCCALLUM: I find the behaviour immoral and that's why we need proper remedies, proper judicial
remedies, to prevent companies from taking away entitlements from workers, from terminating
agreements recklessly, from refusing to give voluntary redundancies.

REPORTER: Can you tell me what sort of future the Tristar workers might have?

COMPANY REPRESENTATIVE: We don't have a comment at this point. We just have to proceed with the
hearing.

KERRY BREWSTER: As was the case last year, Tristar will not talk about plans for its remaining
employees, who were at work today doing nothing. The chairman of Tristar, Andrew Gwinnett, did not
answer calls from the 7:30 Report.

JULIA GILLARD: The decent thing to do is to abide by the terms of the agreement and pay the workers
what they are due under that agreement.

RON MCCALLUM: We want employment laws that codify our morality of fair treatment to people.

KERRY O'BRIEN: A story we might stay with. That report from Kerry Brewster.