All at sea after traineeship fails
By ROXANNE MILLAR
WHEN Wendy Bright was offered a 12-month traineeship in the seafood industry with the promise of more work afterwards, she thought her all dreams had been answered.
Eager to get out of the aged-care industry, she quit her old job and went to work for Seawind, a local company that had just been given a $273,000 grant by the federal government.
But the "rock solid" job turned into a nightmare after only five months when her contract was terminated and she had to take unemployment benefits.
Along with four of her former colleagues, Ms Bright yesterday met with Richmond MP Justine Elliot and shadow minister for regional development Kelvin Thomson to tell them what the human costs of the grant had been.
"We walked away with nothing," she said.
"Throughout the traineeship we battled with inadequate equipment. We had to ask for gloves all the time and share gumboots, the plastic aprons we used were torn.
"We were told a few days before we were fired that we had to tighten things up, within a week we were out of work."
The two politicians have vowed to get to the bottom of the assessment process that allowed Seawind to receive more than $160,000 in federal government funding.
"Our issue is ensuring the projects are properly chosen on merit, chosen in a way they protect the taxpayer's dollar," said Mr Thomson.
"How can there be a project set up where people's jobs are terminated five months into a 12-month pro- ject and where the equipment is substandard?"
Mr Thomson suggested the regional partnerships program that funded Seawind's set-up had been used for political and election purposes, not the public interest.
Ms Elliot said she was horrified to hear the former employees' stories and would be lobby the government to explain the funding decision.
"I was shocked to learn that this seafood processing company expected employees to share work boots and work with unsuitable, old and rusting filleting knives," she said.
"At the end of the day if there is going to be government grants there has got to be some accountability and follow up. We have to keep the government accountable because part of the livelihood of Richmond has been destroyed."