Paper workers taking pay cut

Employees at Australian Paper’s Maryvale location could be hit with a 5 per cent pay cut after industry union urged staff to vote in favour of the wage decreases in a bid to keep the mill operating.

Staff at the Latrobe-based paper mill are considering a $100 per week pay cut in an attempt to save their jobs and keep the struggling plant open. It is understood the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has encouraged workers to accept the wage subsidisation after almost two years of negotiations.

In exchange for the wage agreement, CFMEU has requested a long-term commitment from Japanese parent company Nippon Paper Group to invest in the mill and a Federal Government pledge to buy Australian-made paper.

This bargain with the government will put added pressure on the Liberal administration to reduce buying paper from cheaper Asian countries, the union claims no less than 16 government departments currently buy paper from overseas.

The deal comes as Industry Edge recently reported demand for paper in the Australian industry fell 6.2 per cent – or 73,400 tonnes – in 2015 and 2016.

Workers are set to vote in a secret ballot in February, with all of the mill’s 900-strong workforce expected to take pay cuts up to $100 a week.

In March Maryvale staff reached an agreement with management involving a wage-freeze and a shift into a four-day, 38-hour working week. The salary sacrifices are set to salvage $3m from the mill’s unhealthy balance sheet.

Australian Paper had previously blamed market pressures and the Federal Government’s decision to outsource two thirds of the country’s copy paper from Asia and South America.

Earlier this month Victoria premier Daniel Andrews revealed plans to inject $266m into Latrobe Valley’s manufacturing economy including $22m to support workers with training, financial and personal counselling. It is unknown if this capital will be used to support Maryvale mill workers.

Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill is the largest private employer in the Latrobe Valley and manufactures office, printing and packaging papers. It has been in operation since 1937.

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