Despite the Agriculture Minister stating in Parliament last Thursday there will be no job losses at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in the ownership “transition period”, just four days later staff received a notice stating the exact opposite, that from today only one shift will operate at the green mill.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, says the Minister must explain this anomaly and inform the local community, mill workers and their families just what is going on.
“The future of the Heyfield mill and its 250 workers has been uncertain since the Andrews Labor Government refused to guarantee a viable timber supply,” Mr Bull said.
“Last week the Minister was promising no job losses, but four days later up to 20 jobs are under threat.
“Rather than skimming around the facts, the Minister must come clean with the Heyfield community on the Government’s plans for the mill.”
Some of the questions that need to be answered are:
• How long is this transition period being referred to?
• What will be employment levels at the mill within 12 months (how many more jobs will be lost)?
• What will be the government’s percentage of ownership after the “transition period”; and
• Who will be partners in the mill ownership, if any?
Mr Bull said employees of ASH’s green mill received a letter from management on Monday advising two shifts would be reduced to one, effective today.
“While the Government will state this is due to leave being taken and voluntary redundancies, the shift will not return and there will be around 20 less jobs in Heyfield after today, which is not good for the local economy,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate for these employees and their families because we are in a situation that could so easily be avoided with a change of government policy by increasing the supply of timber.
“The timber supply is there, all that is missing is Daniel Andrews’ willingness to guarantee it.”
Mr Bull said a parliamentary inquiry heard from VicForests (the Government’s own agency) the amount of timber available to industry had dropped by over 60,000 cubic metres per annum. This was due to areas being placed into possum reserve, and over 40,000 cubic metres that cannot be offered to industry because it is forecast to go into possum reserve under the current regulations. This forecast reduction is the timber ASH required to maintain operations at the current level.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017