Worker stand-downs as log supplies dry up?

Friday 25 Nov 2022

The Latrobe Valley’s biggest employer, the Maryvale Paper Mill, has warned of worker stand-downs as its hardwood pulp log supplies dry up in the wake of a Supreme Court judgment that has halted native forest harvesting across most of the state.

Opal, which employs 850 workers at its Maryvale mill, issued a statement saying “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. These are temporary measures that we may need to put into place while we work through the potential implications of a court decision that was delivered only 10 days ago. As a large Latrobe Valley employer, secure, certified wood supply is crucial to Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale operations.”

The Weekly Times understands up to 220 of the plant’s workers are at risk of being stood down due to the shortage of hardwood pulp log used in manufacturing the plant’s reflex paper and some brown paper packaging lines.

VicForests warned it had been able to deliver only a week’s worth of pulp logs to Maryvale and that supplies were set to dry up completely, after it was forced to halt harvesting yesterday in response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling. VicForests ordered the stand-down, after Justice Melinda Richards ruled the state-owned enterprise’s pre-harvest surveys were inadequate and it was not doing enough to protect two possum species – greater and yellow-bellied gliders.

The ruling forces VicForests to resurvey hundreds of coupes, which it confirmed would take months to complete and would leave harvest and haulage contractors without work and exacerbate a sawlog shortage that had already led to the closure of one mill.

Justice Richards also ruled that VicForests had failed to meet its obligations to retain enough vegetation on coupes to protect gliders, under the precautionary principle of the Code of Practice for Timber Production. The Victorian government has a legislated obligation to supply the Opal mill with 350,000 cubic metres of mountain forest pulpwood – mountain, alpine and silvertop ash – each year, until 2030.

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Source: Weekly Times, ABC

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