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CHH workers vote down pay deal

Carter Holt Harvey’s timber mill at Myrtleford remains in limbo after workers voted down a new pay deal on Friday. Source: The Border Mail

A total 97 workers voted no to the new enterprise agreement while 86 voted yes in the secret ballot over two days.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) assistant district secretary Andrew Vendramini welcomed the narrow win for his members.

“It’s good to get the ballot go our way,” he said. “No one is happy people are out of work; we want to get this EBA sorted out so the guys can go back to work.

“It will be disappointing if we can’t get a resolution by the end of next week.”

Representing 56 non-union workers, Enzo D’Angelo said his members were devastated with the narrow loss.

“I knew it was going to be close; I was hoping it would go our way but it’s a democratic society,” he said. “At the moment it’s an indefinite lockout; the lockout has lasted two months already, who knows how long it can go on.”

Workers wanted a 3% pay rise annually over three years, one week’s annual leave allowable in the Christmas holiday period and better access to income protection insurance.

The unions gave notice of stop work action from April 18 before the company responded with a lockout.

Mr Vendramini said he was seeking a meeting with Carter Holt Harvey representatives on Tuesday.

“The company has a role to play in this; they have sat back for eight weeks while lots of workers have struggled to pay their bills,” Mr Vendramini said. “All we’re after is a fair agreement; our members aren’t asking for a lot.

“Fair Work Australia Fair gave workers a 3.3% rise; here you’ve got a multinational company that only wants to give its workers a 2% pay rise.”

Bonacci D’Andrea said the result was a huge blow for the Myrtleford community.

“I’m devastated – I was really counting on this working out,” she said. “If this happens in the city it’s not going to be felt like it is in Myrtleford; it’s a small community and everyone is affected.”

A total 183 valid votes were cast in the secret ballot held at Myrtleford RSL over Thursday and Friday.

Australian Forest Industries established the mill in 1975 and Carter Holt Harvey bought it in 1995. The mill has made plywood since 1981.

A $50 million upgrade of the Myrtleford site about six years ago made it Australia’s largest plywood mill.