Picket line continues

A UNION-led picket line at Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill has entered its fifth day, preventing about 140 of the plant’s maintenance workforce from entering the site.

With the aid of a fire-in-the-barrell over the weekend, a cluster of Australian Maintenance Workers Union and Australian Workers Union members maintained the action, in protest against a lockout of Chelgrave employees – a major site contractor.

Enterprise bargaining negotiations with Chelgrave soured late on Wednesday when about a dozen employees were informed they would be locked out of the site, in response to employee industrial action.

Australian Paper human resources manager Mark Nelson said the company was keen to see workers return to their positions, as the plant’s ability to respond to breakdown maintenance had been severely impacted, while work on the mill’s new recycling plant had stalled.

Chelgrave general manager Greg Scott said the company “reluctantly” took out the lockout notice in a bid to bring unions back to the negotiating table after 12 months of debate.

Maintenance unions are set to meet with Australian Paper in Melbourne today over the picket line, after an attempt by the company to force workers back on site through a Federal Court writ against 122 workers on Friday failed.

Mr Nelson said there had been no requests for assistance from the workers prevented from entering the site, while Latrobe Valley police, which has been monitoring the situation, have not reported any notable incidents of intimidation or unrest.

AMWU organiser Steve Dodd said the workers were respecting the picket line out of solidarity for the Chelgrave employees.

“All those workers understand what the issues are, and they are not happy about what’s going on and that those (Chelgrave) workers deserve what they are entitled to; they will not cross a picket line,” Mr Dodd said.

The lock out added to ongoing activity at the mill, where unemployed construction workers had rallied calling for the employment of local workers for the construction of its multi-million dollar recycling plant.