HUGE logging trucks and angry timber mill workers have gathered outside Victoria’s parliament in Melbourne in an attempt to save their jobs.
Two-hundred-and-sixty Heyfield timber mill workers arrived with their trucks at the Spring Street government building early in the morning, before heading to Trades Hall in Carlton.
The Australian Sustainable* Hardwoods (ASH) timber mill in Gipsland has been in trouble for months and announced last week the mill would close in September next year.
The mill is looking at relocating* to Tasmania.
If the mill were to close more than 250 jobs would be lost from the small Heyfield community.
Timber mill workers are represented by the large CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) and 400 of them joined the protest.
CFMEU’s John Setka said more must be done to protect Australian jobs.
“We are going to join our brothers and sisters in forestry and make a lot of noise,” Mr Setka said.
“People talk about Australian-made and Australian jobs, well these are jobs here, ready-made.”
In a last-minute attempt to help, the Victorian government offered a deal in under its department VicForests.
The offer would see a reduction to 200,000 cubic metres of timber milled over the next three years rather than the 150,000 cubic metres milled each year at the moment.
Mill owners ASH said that deal was not enough for the mill to stay operational in Victoria, and rejected it.
ASH said the mill would need a government investment of $40 million in taxpayer money to revitalise the mill and transition to more sustainable plantation timber.
The company’s plan requires at least another five years of timber at the same quantity as currently supplied.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said last week that buying the mill would cost less than $50 million, but that did not include the cost of buying the timber and upgrading the plant. The government said keeping timber supply at the current levels was environmentally unsustainable.
The company and the government can’t come to an agreement but Mr Andrews is still hopeful another company might buy the mill and save the mill workers jobs.
Mr Andrews said he was committed to finding a buyer and keeping the mill open.
“My message to those workers is clear, your jobs are worth fighting for,” Mr Andrews said.
“There are a number of commercial parties who are interested in purchasing the business.
“We now need the company to sit down with us.”
But workers are frustrated and worried about their future.
ASH spokesman James Lantry supported the rally and said employees were devastated by the government’s handling of the situation.
“We are fully supportive of any efforts made by the CFMEU and others to change the government’s mind,” Mr Lantry said.
The company are now talking with the Tasmanian government about moving the mill to Tasmania and offering some workers the chance to relocate.
sustainable: able to be maintained
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
Activity 1. Job Losses
After reading the article on the job losses at the timber mill in Heyfield, answer the following questions in as much detail as possible.
– What are the angry mill workers protesting about?
– Why did they gather outside Victorian Parliament?
– Which company is closing?
– How many jobs would be lost and how would this affect the small community of Heyfield?
– What is the CFMEU and how are they helping these workers?
Brainstorm some ideas of how to keep all three parties in this dispute happy.
The three parties are the timber mill workers, the owners of the ASH mill and the State Government.
Time: Allow 30 minutes to complete this task
Curriculum links: English, Ethical
Activity 2. Australian Made
Buying things that have been made or grown in Australia ensures that the products are safe, fresh and made to Australia’s high standards. It also helps to support local businesses and jobs.
Buying things that have been grown by Australian farmers helps them keep their jobs, just as you are helping factory workers keep their jobs when you buy the things they make.
Food and products that are produced and sold locally use far less energy to reach their destination than imported products. This is better for the environment.
Research and list the types of produce that are farmed or grown in Australia.
What is it about our climate or conditions that make it possible to grow/produce these foods?
Design a brochure to encourage your classmates and their families to buy Australian made products.
Time: Allow 45 minutes to complete this task.
Curriculum links: Science, Design and Technologies, English
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)
There are a lot of emotive words in this story about the timber mill workers. List them. Use these words to write a convincing argument about why the mill should stay open in Victoria.
Design a poster that one of the mill workers might take to the protest.
Use some of the emotive words you listed to make your poster more powerful.
Time: allow 20 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Big Write, VCOP