Carter Holt Harvey shuts down operations at Myrtleford mill

In May 2, 2017

(AU) – VICTORIA’S timber industry has taken another hit with the owners of the Myrtleford mill locking out about 200 workers and shutting the operation down.

Timber giant Carter Holt Harvey has been accused of treating its workers “like zoo animals” after it erected fencing around the mill on Wednesday morning and hired security to keep them out.

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The company and the workers, represented by the CFMEU, have been in a dispute over a new enterprise bargaining agreement since late last year.

The workers and the union are fighting the company moving its annual 14-day shutdown period from Christmas to February, and are also demanding a 3 per cent annual pay rise over three years.

The move comes as the future of the Heyfield timber mill remains in doubt, with owner Australian Sustainable Hardwoods maintaining it will shut it down next year unless the state-owned VicForests increases its timber supply offer.

The CFMEU has made 80,000 robocalls in the Labor-held seats of Macedon and Geelong to put pressure on the Andrews government to save mill workers’ jobs.

CFMEU forestry secretary Frank Vari said the uncertainty around both mills was a major concern for the state’s timber industry. Mr Vari said Carter Holt Harvey decided to lock out its workforce at Myrtleford at 2am.

“Putting up fencing around the mill and treating our members like zoo animals is something we’re not going to cop, we’re going to fight this,” Mr Vari said.

“It’s not the way to treat your workers and it is not something we are going to tolerate in Australia.”

The company took the step to lock out its workers after the union applied to the Fair Work Commission to begin taking industrial action in the form of work bans and four-hour stoppages.

Mr Vari said the workers wanted their annual shutdown period to be moved back to Christmas, income protection insurance and the company to increase its offer of a 2 per cent annual pay rise.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he didn’t believe workforces should be locked out and the parties should now take the dispute to the Fair Work Commission.

“I don’t think any of us want to see workforces locked out. That’s not something that I think sits well with our values,” Mr Andrews said.

“We want fair bargaining, we want a fair and decent approach to these things.

“Hopefully the parties can sit down and work through that.”

Meanwhile, a new timber mill at Yarram, in South Gippsland, was officially opened by Radial Timbers, which will employ 15 workers.


Carter Holt Harvey shuts down operations at Myrtleford mill by ANTHONY GALLOWAY, State political reporter, Herald Sun.  Available from <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/carter-holt-harvey-shuts-down-operations-at-myrtleford-mill/news-story/99f07bebeb31a30de28c186ef741d218> [April 21, 2017 4:00pm]

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