Unions prepare for mill mediation

Unions are confident upcoming enterprise bargaining negotiations at the Maryvale Mill will be “respectful” and “productive”, despite a range of ominous signs for the operation’s future.

Electrical Trades Union Gippsland organiser Peter Mooney said negotiations for about 180 maintenance workers employed by Australian Paper would begin in April, and a preliminary meeting with the company was a positive sign for the EBA period.

“We have made it very clear we want to work with them on this, but at the same time we are not going to reduce people’s wages and conditions, we’ve already gone down the road at other places but those places ended up closing anyway, so we’ve learnt from that.”

The negotiations come after Australian Paper announced a major ‘turnaround’ business restructure following its fourth consecutive year of financial losses, and flagged the closure of its Shoalhaven Mill in New South Wales later this year which will shred 75 jobs.

“They’ve indicated no interest in closing Maryvale any time soon. They are very intent on turning the business around and making a profit,” he said.

“We are very happy to work with them to make suitable arrangements to turn business around, but we need to be clear that it’s not work practices that’s costing them money.

“It’s the dumping of cheap paper imports into the market, the Australian dollar and a heap of other factors which are hurting the company.”

Mr Mooney also flagged concerns about the company’s recent attitude toward overall maintenance, claiming 17 positions had not been replaced in the past two years.

“Maryvale is a maintenance-heavy operation, and they should really be keeping maintenance numbers up and using them properly,” Mr Mooney said.

“It’s disappointing because that’s going to have a domino effect across the health of the plant, and put further stress on-to those still there working, who will need to put in longer hours, which affects their ability.”