Unions and Australian Paper contractor Chelgrave are in the process of finalising an enterprise bargaining agreement for about a dozen workers, after a seven-day picket line at the Maryvale Mill was dissolved on Friday.
A lock-out imposed on the workers by Chelgrave – which prompted the picket line – was lifted following a Fair Work Australia mediation session on Thursday night with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union.
The Mill’s maintenance workforce has also returned.
ETU Victorian branch organiser Peter Mooney said the almost 200 maintenance workers did not cross the picket line because of concerns for their own safety.
“Our members are relieved and they’re glad to be back at work and that common sense prevailed,” Mr Mooney said.
The AMWU and AWU are expected to finalise an enterprise bargaining agreement with Chelgrave by Friday.
Chelgrave general manager Greg Scott described the mediation as a “pleasing outcome for everyone”.
AMWU Gippsland organiser Steve Dodd said there was a willingness by all parties to go back to the negotiating table.
“We don’t like to see disputation, but obviously we have to protect the rights of workers in this region.”
Mr Dodd said the union was also pleased with discussions about sourcing local workers for construction of the Mill’s multi-million dollar recycling plant, which has been the subject of community-led protests over the past few weeks.
Unemployed local workers feared if contracts were awarded to companies outside Gippsland, the desperate Latrobe Valley workforce would miss out.
“There will be ongoing negotiations (with Australian Paper), but there’s been a willingness by all parties to maximise local workers for local jobs,” Mr Dodd said.
An Australian Paper spokesperson did not return calls from The Express.