The AMWU and Asbestos Victims Support Groups are concerned a vote to split CSR into two separate businesses could result in part of the company being freed from its liabilities to asbestos victims.
Under the proposed demerger a new company called Sucrogen will hold the sugar and renewable energy assets, leaving "New CSR" with the manufacturing businesses and their associated asbestos liabilities.
CSR is also considering an offer Chinese food conglomerate Bright Foods to buy its sugar business for $1.75 billion dollars.
AMWU National President Paul Bastian said the AMWU has serious concerns that any proposal to split the company through a demerger would reduce the pool from which funds can be drawn to compensate victims.
“If the sugar business was sold through a trade sale while still part of the CSR group, then the proceeds of that sale stay within the group, some of which can be earmarked to the group’s ongoing asbestos liabilities.
“A demerger, however, would result in a new company being established without any asbestos liabilities.”
The demerger plans were halted by the Federal Court in February 2010, after Judge Margaret Stone ruled the split would leave insufficient funds to compensate asbestos victims.
Judge Stone ruled the demerger offended "public policy and commercial morality" because of its potential impact on asbestos compensation.
But on April 23rd 2010, a full bench of the Federal Court accepted an appeal from CSR that will allow shareholders to vote on the proposed demerger.
The vote is now expected to take place in August 2010, but the proposed demerger has been opposed by the NSW Government, the AMWU, the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund and James Hardie.
Mr Bastian said CSR has been in discussions with unions and asbestos support groups, but if a suitable resolution is not reached, State and Federal governments must intervene to ensure that asbestos victims are not forgotten.
“The AMWU is calling on the NSW and Federal Governments to ensure that if this proposal goes ahead, asbestos sufferers and the tax payers are not left to carry the can,” he said.
“Both NSW Premier Keneally and Prime Minister Rudd have publicly expressed their strong support for the just compensation of those who suffer from asbestos related diseases. We look forward to their support on this matter.”