30 face sack at job agency

MORE than 30 Coffs Harbour workers will lose their jobs next month in an office closure which has been described as being politically motivated.

Work Directions Coffs Harbour staff were advised on Tuesday that they would join the ranks of their unemployed clients.

The Coffs Harbour office of WorkDirections Australia, at 43 Gordon Street, is one of 13 company offices which will close on August 10 after the company failed to win new three-year Federal Government Job Network contracts to provide unemployed people with help to gain new jobs.

WorkDirections is owned by Therese Rein, the wife of Federal Opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

Ms Rein announced her intention to sell the company in May, saying she would proceed with the sale whether Mr Rudd won this year's federal election or not.

Her announcement followed news that workers on contracts at WorkDirections had been paid an extra 45 cents an hour in exchange for losing award benefits, embarrassing the Federal Opposition which is campaigning against the Howard Government's WorkChoices industrial relations legislation. WorkDirections applied for new contracts in June.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) said the tendering process was fair and rigorous and bids were assessed against published selection criteria and the contracts went to tender as a result of the six-month performance review of Job Network members, which are assessed on five-star rating scale based on the number of people placed in jobs.

The Job Network contract for Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga and Bellingen has been won by Tursa Employment ad Training Inc, a not-for-profit Lismore-based regional organisation which has an office in West High Street and which plans to open offices in Bellingen and Woolgoolga.

The general manager of Tursa, Ron Rathbone, said yesterday that Tursa was already advertising for more staff, another advertisement would appear in the Coffs Coast Advocate on Saturday and he doubted that there would be a net loss of jobs following the change.

He said Tursa had achieved a 4.2 star average across its sites.

Job seekers currently with Work Directions will be transferred to another provider from August 13 and will receive a letter giving them information before being contacted by their new provider.

A Coffs Harbour WorkDirections client, who was advised of the change yesterday, said the Work Directions staff had always been very pleasant and helpful and she had regarded them 'as family'.

A source close to the Coffs Harbour workers said the company had always done the right thing by its own staff.

Staff at WorkDirections in Coffs Harbour have been forbidden to speak to the media, but one staffer said yesterday their sentiments could be summed up as 'not happy, Jan'.

The Ballina office of WorkDirections will also close on August 10 after their clients were re-allocated to another company.

WorkDirections director Greg Ashmead said it was with deep regret they had to advise their staff of the closure.

He said the company had been regularly recognised by DEWR as a well above average service provider for many years at many of their sites.

He said the company would fully meet all award and contractual redundancy provisions and provide appropriate outplacement support for affected staff and would honour their commitments to existing jobseekers; supporting them in their ongoing job search and training until August 10.

WorkDirections has been operating in Coffs Harbour since 2000.

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