The timber workers union, CFMEU Manufacturing, has escalated its campaign against the Victorian Government’s plan to shut down the State’s native forest industry.
Michael O’Connor, National Secretary, CFMEU Manufacturing said the Victorian plan needs to be scrapped, and workers and communities properly consulted on a new, agreed approach, warning there would be implications for Federal Labor if proposed assistance to impacted workers and communities is not significantly increased.
The union said the Victorian Government’s heartless, bureaucratic, and non-consultative decision-making process which preceded the Victorian Forestry Plan has resulted in terrible outcomes for workers including a big risk to jobs that the plan supposedly secures, like the 1000 jobs at Opal Australian Paper and an insulting, paltry compensation package for the proposed loss of a whole industry, a situation which has alienated entire workforces and communities.
“Workers reliant on the resources and manufacturing sectors are already suspicious about the credibility of governments when they say they will transition communities and restructure industries in a way which looks after them,” Michael O’Connor said.
“If the Victorian Government’s Forestry Plan is the example, it only demonstrates that, despite the rhetoric, Labor is neither ‘On the Side’ of blue-collar workers nor is it capable of providing a ‘Just transition’ to communities.
“What voters are seeing with their own eyes in Victoria is an indictment on the Labor brand.”
The union believes that governments must take responsibility for the decisions they make that result in workers and communities having their livelihoods stripped from them.
Far from providing a Just Transition, Labor in Victoria has gone backwards, offering a far inferior Workers’ Assistance package than what was delivered almost 20 years ago by the Bracks/Brumby Government in their Our Forests, Our Future industry restructure.
In addition, just Transition obligations in international agreements (like the Paris Climate Change Agreement) stress that the development of strong social consensus is fundamental and highlight the importance of actively promoting and engaging in social dialogue to forge consensus on all stages from policy design to implementation.
In contrast to these internationally recognised best practice guidelines on Just Transition, there has been no cogent justification provided for the Victorian Government’s shock decision to shut down the hardwood timber industry despite multiple requests from the union and community for evidence by way of resource data or other factors that may back the Government’s policy approach.
“If the Victorian Government doesn’t act to change this debacle of an approach to public policy, and if Federal Labor members don’t start calling it out, workers around the country will justifiably question whether Labor is actually on their side.”