Facing ruin over redundancy

IS a redundancy payment a wage equivalent to tide you over until your next job, or is there an element of compensation for having your career cut short?

The implications of that question have had calamitous consequences for former receptionist and administrative worker Roslyn Drayton, and have perplexed the union representing public servants.

Ms Drayton, who lives in a “modest” section of Fremantle, says she’s facing homelessness because Centrelink is taking a hardline stance on her redundancy and won’t pay her a cent until the equivalent period of time in which she would have normally earned the payment has expired.
That won’t be till September. As of last week she had just $500 in the bank and a looming rent bill of $480 that will keep a roof over her head for just the next couple of weeks.

Ms Drayton worked at the Potato Marketing Board for six years but lost her job when it merged with the agriculture department in 2012.

She thought she’d be sensible and pay off her student loan and a small personal debt so there’d be no interest payments to worry about till she found more work.

“I used my money in a sensible way, it’s not like I went on a lavish holiday or anything like that,” she told the Herald.

“I did go to Queensland for a four-day retreat, but that’s all.”

Paying the loans has come back to bite her, as her bank account’s now running dry. To make matters worse her landlord raised her rent.

She tried to discuss her plight with Centrelink, but says with the demise of case managers there’s no sympathetic ear to be found.

• Roslyn Drayton faces homelessness as her public service redundancy runs out. Photo by Steve Grant

• Roslyn Drayton faces homelessness as her public service redundancy runs out. Photo by Steve Grant

“I am virtually a number…I am not considered a person in need,” she says.

“I have enrolled myself at Tafe to study certificate 4 in community services to increase my prospects of employment but this is also under threat as I don’t have the income to support myself.”

Ms Drayton is surprised at the difficulty she’s faced finding a new job, given her administrative qualifications, but has discovered a common thread with former colleagues in the same boat.

“I turned 50 and I can’t help but think that’s played a part,” she said.

The Herald asked the public sector union whether redundancies are considered “wages” rather than a compensation payment, but no-one knew.

“I have spoken to industrial services group staff from here…they don’t have a definitive answer or position on this one,” CPSU media officer Darren O’Dea told the Herald.

“They did say the payment was calculated on the length of service, however.”

Fairwork Australia is vague on the topic too, although it allows employers to apply to “reduce” redundancies if they find a job for an ex-employee.

Meanwhile Ms Drayton has been contacting non-profit welfare agencies but is hoping a benefactor might be prepared to help her out. If anyone’s feeling altruistic, call the Herald and we’ll put you in contact.


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