AMWU members from South Australia’s south-east have joined a union-led campaign to save the region’s embattled timber industry as its largest employer, Carter Holt Harvey, considers the closure of its operations.Workers from Carter Hold Harvey have spent much of August and September campaigning in Mt Gambier and Adelaide, in an attempt to get the SA Government to renegotiate its prices for sawn logs.
In recent years the timber processor has felt the strain of a high Australian dollar, the flood of cheap imports and uncertainty of log supply. The company warned log suppliers, including Forestry SA, that log prices will need to be adjusted to meet tough market conditions or the region’s four processing sites may face closure.
The closure would result in the loss of 1000 direct jobs, with many more indirect jobs affected, and cripple the local industry, believes AMWU regional organiser Mark Plunkett.
“After the loss of Kimberley Clark, manufacturing in the South East is on its knees. AMWU members recognise that we can’t afford to see another big employer leave the region. Our members in the timber industry have said they don’t want a handout, they just want security of employment and a sustainable future for themselves and their children,” he said.
The South East’s wood processing industry is the largest regionally-based manufacturing industry in SA and AMWU members believe the region can continue to be internationally competitive.
“We’re calling on the Premier to intervene and ensure the region remains competitive in the short and long term”, said Mr Plunkett.
“This requires not just a hand out to prop up what is currently an unviable business model, but the introduction of a contracting arrangement that is profitable for grower, harvester and domestic processor.”