14 May 2024

Barnett's Couriers closure 'unusual': Union officials call for transparency

| Zoe Cartwright
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courier truck in closed yard

Barnett’s Couriers’ yard in Wollongong remains deserted a week after an abrupt message advised employees the business would not longer operate. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

Union officials remain in the dark over the abrupt closure of Wollongong’s Barnett’s Couriers, as continued attempts to contact the company remain unsuccessful.

NSW Police confirmed the company has not reported an alleged cyber attack last month, which the company has blamed for its sudden closure.

Employees and owner-drivers were given hours’ notice they were no longer employed by the company from Wednesday, 1 May.

Attempts to make contact by phone, email or at the yard have been unsuccessful.

Transport Workers’ Union NSW state secretary Richard Olsen said the situation was unusual.

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“Everything I know is second or third-hand because we have not been able to get in touch with the employer,” he said.

“Everything we know is from our members who were employees.

“The company told them they were in trouble with cyber attacks, but they never informed us or their employees ahead of shutting their doors virtually overnight.

“It’s very concerning, and very strange for a company to close so suddenly because of cyber attack and to be unable to get over that. We can’t confirm it with the company because we cannot get in contact with them.

“It has happened to other businesses but we see no evidence that has happened in this instance, and it has come as a shock to employees and owner-drivers.

“If it did happen, they kept all in house, and it leads you to think something else went on, to the detriment of transport workers in that company.

“They should be given the opportunity to assess the proper facts of what happened.”

By law, organisations are required to report cyber security incidents that have, or are likely to have, an impact on their assets to the Australian Cyber Security Council (ACSC).

Region Illawarra asked the ACSC whether it had received a report from Barnett’s, but the body does not comment on individual cases.

Barnett’s Couriers has operated in the Illawarra for more than 40 years after it was founded by Figtree service station owner Bob Barnett.

Mr Barnett died in 2021, leaving the business to his daughter.

Barnett’s Couriers was not able to be contacted by phone or email. Its website is no longer accessible.

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Mr Olsen said the sudden closure had left at least 30 Illawarra employees and owner-drivers without work, virtually overnight.

He said most of them had not received any severance pay, while some had received only part of the payments they were entitled to.

“If you are going to close your doors, you have an obligation to make sure everyone is fully aware, because this is a huge mental strain on people,” he said.

“In an ordinary close-down, you would have discussions with employees and the union to ensure, where appropriate and possible, people have four to five weeks to find work with other companies so they’re not left on the scrap heap and left to fight for themselves on a Monday morning without a job.

“We still don’t have the total number of employees affected across the state, because we can’t contact the employer.

“We’re very concerned about exactly what occurred, how it’s impacted not just on our membership, but on customers.

“There’s no idea of who is waiting for what delivery or where parcels are.

“We need stronger regulation so a company can’t just do this without advising a regulatory authority.

“This ought not to happen again – and we need Barnett’s Couriers to say they’re sorry, show us the reasons for what’s happened and pay employees the money they’re owed.”

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