The news 1600 jobs have been saved at Alcoa after ongoing negotiations with the Federal and State Governments is a great relief for workers and their families in Victoria’s south-west, but now the State Government’s focus must turn to Australian Sustainable Hardwood in Heyfield, according to Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull.
“Unfortunately the Andrews Government’s unwillingness to engage with our forestry industry has left more than 300 jobs in East Gippsland facing the axe.
“To date, the Minister has not met with the mill owners despite two years of requests.
“Having met with the mill owners, management and workers in the past 48 hours, it is clear there is considerable angst they have not been able to meet directly with the Minister.
“By refusing to guarantee timber supply for mills in our region, 250 Heyfield workers will lose their job if the mill closes in September, and the futures of Auswest Timbers’ 65 workers also hang in the balance.
“I have also been advised that there are around 7000 jobs in Melbourne through the many companies ASH supplies.
“The Andrews Government proudly boasts they worked ‘around the clock’ to secure jobs at Alcoa and now they must do the same for our workers here in East Gippsland’s forestry industry.
“VicForests has clearly stated that one of the major reasons for the reduction in resource availability has been the creation of increased reserves in the past two years, primarily for leadbeater possum habitat. If more areas are to be placed into reserve, the Government must oversee that alternate areas are provided for industry. If you just keep taking without balancing, something has to give and in this case it is all these jobs.
“Having been in meetings late this week with the mill owners, operators, employees, and VicForests, it is clear that this issue can be resolved with government assistance and that’s what needs to occur.
“The Government’s desperate effort to hold onto inner-city green preferences is sacrificing jobs here in our local forest industry and it must stop. This Government must stop hiding behind its farcical Forest Industry Taskforce and immediately stand up for the jobs of East Gippsland workers,” Mr Bull said.
Friday, January 20, 2017