Timber worker compensation blasted
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Timber worker compensation blasted

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull has blasted the State Government over what he says is a woeful timber industry compensation package.

“It is clearly a package that has been put together to fit under a budget rather than provide a reasonable and fair outcome,” he told State Parliament this week.

Mr Bull said there were three options presented to harvest and haulage contractors – the first is to enter into a contract to work with the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA), the second is to surrender the contract and receive compensation, and the third to continue on standdown payments until 30 June 2024.

“It appears the entire package has been put together by people who do not understand the industry and there are several examples.

“For those who want to consider continued work with DEECA, they have to put in an application to do so, but the Labor Government has provided no information on such things as what the remuneration is, what the work is, or where the work will be?

“How can they possibly make a decision on proceeding with this application process without even basic information like whether the income will cover their machinery loans.

“On the matter of compensation, the offer is paltry. The Government is offering just 30% of the contracted rate for 2023-24 contracted volume, pro-rata from the date of the agreement.

“This is 30% of one year. As a starting point, they should be offered what the Gippsland Lakes commercial fishermen were offered – three years of their average income.

“Then we have the situation of machinery compensation.

“At one point of the document the Government says it will pay the difference between the 2020 market value of a piece of plant and current value, which on face value is fair due to the depressed market for timber harvesting machinery.

“However, when you read on it states it will not compensate on machinery that is more than 10 years old, despite it still being valuable, and then says, ‘The Department reserves the right to pay less than the full difference to meet the available budget for the package’.

“This confirms the compensation parameters have been budget driven rather than driven by fairness. It is hard to accept when the previous Premier told us that what was needed for a fair exit would be provided,” said Mr Bull.

“What the Labor Government has in effect done, is created a glorified grant stream where harvest and haulage contractors are competing against each other in a capped pool for the limited funds available.

“Another situation that highlights the callousness of this, is that the government has said that for redundant employees it will provide the opportunity to participate in training over 10 business days - but this will not be at any cost to the State and the current employer has to pay.

“Labor is forcing them out of work and now asking current employers to pay for retraining of staff. You would have to be kidding.”

Eastern Victorian MLC, Melina Bath, also raised her concerns in the Upper House of Parliament this week, joining the growing chorus for fairer supports.

“Like my other Nationals’ colleagues, I have been working with the impacted timber industry families for a long period of time and the process has been an unpleasant one. However, to be made offers that fall well short of what is needed, shows them no regard and in many ways is disrespectful.

“This needs to be sorted out within weeks, so these hardworking families can make informed decisions about their futures,” she said.

Mr Bull said one positive was that when asked in question time on Thursday, the Premier Jacinta Allen, committed to meeting with the Australian Forest Contractors’ Association (AFCA) to discuss the details of the package.

“This commitment is good, but the package needs to change significantly as, in its current form, it falls well short of even the most basic of expectations and the Minister needs to revisit this immediately.”

Caption: Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, with his Nationals colleague, Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, discussing the woeful timber industry compensation package, presented to harvest and haulage contractors.

Friday, 20 October 2023