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AWU supporting workers devastated by Sydney factory fire

July 22, 2020

Workers affected by the devastating fire at Sphere Healthcare in Sydney will receive JobKeeper payments directly following the intervention of The Australian Workers’ Union NSW Branch.

Sphere Healthcare site went up in flames on 9th July leaving AWU members out of work and facing an uncertain future.

After lengthy discussions with the factory’s owner, GMP Pharmaceuticals, the AWU has now ensured JobKeeper payments will go directly to all workers. This is a crucial outcome after management advised that they were unsure when they could access employees entitlements.

The AWU is now seeking urgent answers over access to entitlements, and importantly what the future holds for this company.

The fire on July 9 caused extensive damage and is still subject to an ongoing investigation by NSW Police, NSW Fire and Safe Work NSW.

More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze for almost two days which broke out whilst employees were still working on afternoon shifts at the site in Sydney’s south-west.
All employees were evacuated but had to flee the site without vehicles or their personal belongings.

It’s been a difficult 18 months for employees. Last year, the factory went into voluntary administration and with the support of the AWU a new buyer was found with no loss of entitlements for members.

In March there were 20 redundancies, and the company was struggling to re-establish the business. Just three days before the fire the final paperwork for the sale was finalised and it was hoped there were better times on the horizon.

Michael Kerley, the lead organiser at the AWU, said: “This is a very stressful time for workers and their families who have seen their livelihoods go up in flames. The company has a duty to ensure its staff are looked after and receive any compensation that is due. There are many question marks over this fire but our focus is on making sure our members are looked after and are not left in the dark about the company’s plans for their future.”

We will be working hard to ensure a future for these employees and will look at all options including redeployment if the site is no longer viable by working with other employers and will employ all legal means necessary to ensure they are able to access all their entitlements, such as personal leave over the coming weeks.

“We have also worked with the company so that employees have been able to pick up their vehicles and are waiting for access to the site to collect personal belongings they left when the fire broke out.”

The AWU has also been pushing for the company to hold meetings with staff but due to COVID-19 restrictions, online communications have been instigated instead. All employees will be kept up to date about any developments.

The AWU needs your support more than ever to ensure companies are kept to account and do the right thing by their employees.

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