NZ contractors flown in

RELATED COVERAGE:Mass walkout on hold

New Zealand contractors have been flown in to work on Maryvale Mill’s major shut, to offset the threatened impact of industrial action by maintenance workers.

Australian Paper human resource manager Mark Nelson confirmed yesterday New Zealanders were contracted for specialist boiler work and were already working on the shut, which began on Thursday.

However Mr Nelson was unable to divulge the amount of workers flown in or the name of the contractor.

“It’s fair to say there were a number of local contractors that we would have preferred to use initially, but they weren’t able to guarantee how they would react to industrial action,” Mr Nelson said.

Heightened enterprise bargaining negotiations for about 170 in-house maintenance workers continued at the weekend, after unions agreed to suspend a mass walkout on Thursday.

The temporary moratorium has been extended until close-of-business today, pending the company’s response to an agreement proposal submitted by unions on Saturday.

However if an agreement is not reached today, unions have indicated they will action an indefinite walkout, and have flagged the possibility of forming a picket line.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Steve Dodd said local contractors lost the shut-work to the New Zealanders because they would not commit to crossing a potential picket.

“People are pretty upset about this – it’s a pretty provocative and disappointing move to bring in people from overseas,” Mr Dodd said.

He said the move contravened a commitment to employ local workers by Australian Paper made during a high profile industrial dispute with contractor Chelgrave earlier this year.

However Mr Nelson said that commitment was only made in relation to the ongoing construction of a $90 million recycling plant project.

He said Australian Paper had spent a month trying to negotiate a moratorium on industrial action during the shut period, however the unions did not agree.

“If they had agreed to the moratorium, we would have allowed local workers to be used, but they have told us that they want to go to war with us, so this is what happens,” Mr Nelson said.

“In this situation, what options do we have? We protect our business, that’s what we do, and keep this place going.”

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