Opal flags Maryvale stand-downs

Opal Australian Paper has confirmed white paper manufacturing is being affected due to court decisions impacting logging. file photograph

Michelle Slater

Up to 200 Maryvale mill jobs could be in jeopardy as Opal Australian Paper has stated it is not ruling out standing down workers due to a lack of white paper pulp supply.

An Opal spokesperson said the company may need to put in place “temporary measures” while the company worked out the potential implications of a recent Supreme Court decision.

The court ordered the state-owned logging agency VicForests to undertake stronger protective measures for endangered gliders, which has thrown uncertainty into the native hardwood industry.

The Opal spokesperson said they would keep workers “fully updated” as the situation developed, but also stressed that “secure, certified wood supply” was crucial to the operations of the mill.

”The current VicForests situation continues to create supply challenges for the Maryvale Mill,” the spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, limited stand downs may become necessary and we are currently consulting on this issue with our team members. No decisions will be made until the consultation is complete.”

CFMMEU manufacturing division secretary and mill operator Anthony Pavey said up to 200 jobs could be lost if supply issues were not sorted out.

Mr Pavey said there was only enough timber at the mill to last until early December to manufacture white copy paper.

He called for the state government to update the Victorian timber code of practice to close off legal loopholes in the courts and allow harvesting to continue.

“It’s dire. We are finishing off what we have as no timber out of native forests is coming to the mill. These stand downs would lead to job losses if we can’t get the timber supply,” Mr Pavey said.

“Nothing like this has ever happened, a lot of people are worried about their employment going forward. It has huge implications as it’s the Latrobe Valley’s biggest employer.”

Regional Development Minister Harriet Shing said she was also waiting for further details around the impact of the court decision, but was talking to Opal and contractors about securing supply.

Ms Shing pointed to the state government’s packages to help timber communities, pulp and fibre producers to transition out of native hardwood and into plantations by the end of the decade.

“I want to make sure that workers across the Valley have the certainty that need and they deserve as part of the transition to renewable and sustainable timber production by 2030,” Ms Shing said.

Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath, said the court decision was “devastating” for the mill and its workers, and also called for updates to the timber code of practice.

“[Premier] Daniel Andrews continually fails to understand the regenerative and sustainable nature of the timber industry,” Ms Bath said.

“He is neglecting regional timber communities in favour for wilful touting for green votes in Melbourne.”