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Opal preparing for Christmas Eve stand downs

Opal Australian Paper is preparing to stand down workers at its Maryvale mill on Christmas Eve, in the wake of a pulp-log shortage brought on by environmentalists’ legal action. Source: Weekly Times

“VicForests’ operations remain suspended and as a result, the lack of wood supply is continuing to impact the Maryvale Mill,” Opal stated.

“We anticipate that our white paper production may be potentially impacted from the third week of December onwards.

“As a consequence, temporary stand downs or a reduction in working arrangements affecting a small number of work groups at the Maryvale Mill may become necessary.”

About 220 of the mill’s 850 workers operate Maryvale’s white paper processing and converting room, producing the company’s signature Reflex copy paper from mainly native forest hardwood pulp logs.

The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union has called on the federal and Victorian governments to immediately intervene to protect the 220 workers’ jobs.

“We’re calling on the Victorian government to change the Forest Code and allow harvesting to recommence as quickly as possible; assist Opal to identify and access alternate wood fibre supply, including freight subsidies where necessary,” CFMEU Pulp and Paper workers district secretary Denise Campbell-Burns said.

She said the union wanted the Andrews government to also facilitate an immediate meeting with Opal and the CFMEU Manufacturing Division “to identify long-term wood fibre access that provides our members with the ongoing job security they deserve”.

VicForests, which supplies Maryvale and 12 saw mills, halted harvest last month in its most productive forests, the Central Highlands and East Gippsland, following a Supreme Court ruling.

Justice Melinda Richards ordered all coupes to be resurveyed to protect greater and yellow-bellied gliders, and slashed the amount of timber able to be harvested in coupes where the possum was detected.

The re-survey work will take months, with VicForests and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning bureaucrats pointing their fingers at each other on who is responsible.

Harvest and haulage contractors have warned that even if the survey work is redone, the gliders are so common most coupes will be unviable.

Meanwhile, VicForests has moved to stop harvesting in the Tambo region, to protect itself from legal action, until it sorts out what it can do in the wake of the judgement.

The CFMEU has accused Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning of undermining attempts to source logs for the Maryvale mill, a claim it denies.