Published: 27 January 2012
Fate of 41 former Community Connections staff in the balance
The fate of 41 staff sacked by the Community Connections agency (CCVL) who are owed more than $520,000 in redundancy payments will be decided by Fair Work Australia when it meets on 6 February to consider their plight.
The staff were made redundant by CCVL when the agency was stripped of its contracts to provide a range of services following two months of investigations by the Victorian Government.
Western Victorian law firm, Stringer Clark (in association with Ryan Carlisle Thomas), and the Australian Services Union have been pursuing CCVL on behalf of a number of the ex-staff to secure their redundancy payouts.
Community Connections claims that it cannot afford to pay and has filed applications to Fair Work Australia to exempt it from its financial obligations to ex-staff. It is also possible that action may be taken by Community Connections to ensure that the Victorian Government picks up the tab in the event that CCVL is unable to pay up.
"It's crunch time for former staff," said Mr Creon Coolahan, the lawyer representing some of the employees.
"What all ex-staff need to be aware of is that Fair Work Australia will make decisions on each and every one of the 41 applications filed by CCVL."
"If you aren't pleading your case, or having someone argue it for you, you could well miss out on a redundancy," he said. "Each entitlement to a redundancy payment is likely to be assessed by Fair Work Australia on individual merit."
Mr Coolahan said that ex-employees should seek legal advice on the process and make an informed decision about their claims against Community Connections.
Stringer Clark has set up a redundancy hotline to offer advice to staff on the process: The hotline number is: 1800 641 743.
He said that while Community Connections may be granted exemptions from paying ex-staff, Community Connections has already flagged that it will take legal actions against the Department of Human Services to compel it to pay the redundancies.
"If you fall over at the first hurdle however, and Fair Work Australia rules your claim ineligible, you may miss out altogether." Mr Coolahan said.