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Cable workers to get hearing

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A Canberra fibre optic cable manufacturer was outsourcing hundreds of jobs to Thailand while refusing to talk to the employees' union over redundancy pay, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said today.

The union has won a hearing before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) tomorrow morning and warned of litigation and industrial action if the firm, ADC Australia , refused to negotiate.

AMWU Canberra organiser Janet Bourke said more than 300 jobs had gone from ADC in Canberra in the past 18 months.

ADC said the loss of jobs, including 63 of its remaining workforce of 150, was part of cutbacks by the Minneapolis-based company in light of the global telecommunications downturn.

The dispute has implications not only for the national high-tech industrial sector but for the ACT which has worked hard to bolster its small private sector.

Ms Bourke said the AMWU wanted the AIRC to force the firm to negotiate on severance pay.

She said the company wanted to cap the severance payout of even long-term workers at eight weeks' pay.

The union wants up to four weeks' pay for each year of service.

"We will be seeking a recommendation from the commissioner that the parties sit down and negotiate an agreement," Ms Bourke said after a rally by about 20 workers outside the Symonston factory.

"If we don't get that, we will be following through on what we see are the breaches of the Workplace Relations Act.

"(We are) also looking at some sort of industrial action further down the track."

She said ADC management had avoided negotiating directly with the union even though the remaining workforce was up to 80 per cent unionised.

Workers had been told jobs would be outsourced to Thailand, she said.

"The Thai people are here as we speak," she said.

"They've been here all last week learning the jobs and they say that's the reason for the redundancies."

ADC managing director Scott Rashleigh refused to discuss its severance packages but said the firm had been forced to cut costs because of the global telecommunications downturn.

"The company has been executing its cost reduction plan over the past 18 months in order to return the company to profitability and react to the dynamic industry changes in the telecom sector," Dr Rashleigh said.

ADC would offer a severance plan directly to its employees.

"ADC recognises these necessary business actions directly impact our employees and the company wishes that business conditions were otherwise and did not require these measures," Dr Rashleigh said.

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