Employ locals: unions

UNIONS fear local workers will miss out on jobs constructing a multi-million dollar recycling plant at Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill, despite the project being touted as a major boost for Latrobe Valley employment.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union have pleaded with Australian Paper to pressure contractors to employ mostly Valley workers for the next phase of the year-long project.

The tender process is still underway and the unions fear if a Melbourne-based company is successful, metropolitan crews will be brought in.

AMWU metals division organiser Ian Thomas said the union had between 50 and 100 unemployed local fitters and boilermakers desperate for work.

“It’s imperative we get local people to do the majority of the work,” Mr Thomas said.

He said the union had requested 80 per cent of the project’s workforce be local labour.

AWU Gippsland organiser Jeff Sharp said up to 700 local riggers, scaffolders and trades assistants were looking for employment.

“We’ve got a highly skilled workforce here who aren’t working,” he said.

“Australian Paper is a large employer of local people and they’ve got an obligation.

“Local people in this area wouldn’t look too fondly on Australian Paper if the work wasn’t given to locals.

“At the end of the day, they do have control of what happens on their site and they could easily say to the contractors ‘you need to pick up local people’.”

Australian Paper general manager human resources Mark Nelson said the company had no set agenda to exclude local labour.

He said the company had advised potential contractors it “expected some level of local employment” but it had not specified a percentage.

Mr Nelson said Australian Paper required all contractors to have a current, in-force enterprise bargaining agreement with their workers, but many local companies did not.

The next phase of the recycling plant will involve the installation of a second-hand pulp-drying machine in an existing shed.

When fully operational, the plant will process 80,000 tonnes of waste paper and create 50,000 tonnes of recycled paper every year.