Locals denied work on Mill shut: Unions

Unions have accused Australian Paper of abandoning the Latrobe Valley’s skilled unemployed in favour of cheap overseas labour as the Maryvale mill prepares for a maintenance shut down later this month.

According to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Australian Workers Union, the company has hired New Zealand – based contractors Hutec Engineering and PFS Engineering to carry out the work during the two-week shut from 13 October.

It is understood the workforce would be made up of about 33 people.

“There are hundreds of local people looking for work,” AWU Gippsland organiser Jeff Sharp said.

“If they took an ad out in the paper they would be knocked over by the response.”

AMWU organiser Steve Dodd said the union understood the project was not put to open tender to allow local contractors to apply.

“Local companies are telling us they weren’t even asked to bid,” Mr Dodd said.

“We’re saying (the New Zealand workers) are doing work that can be done by local workers and local contractors.”

He said he received daily calls from members out of work and the union’s unemployment list currently sat at about 60 people.

“It’ll take a substantial amount of money outside the area, which is not only bad for workers, but other businesses in the region that rely on people spending money in this area.”

Mr Dodd said employing non-local workers left the Latrobe Valley’s skilled unemployed with no option other than to take on fly-in-fly-out work away from their families.

“In our view FIFO work impacts on the family life, with children having to be at home without a father for long periods of time. It breaks families down and we know there’s a high rate of marriage breakup and suicide for FIFO workers.”

Mr Dodd said the same New Zealand companies were also brought in for a February shut-down.

Australian Paper did not respond to The Express.