Rank and file discuss woodchip crisis

Issue 

Rank and file discuss woodchip crisis

By Andrew Hall

SYDNEY— A lively "jobs and environment" meeting organised by the Rank and File Alliance was attended by more than 50 people on March 4.

Gavin Hillier, the NSW secretary of the CFMEU Forestry Division, said that over the last few months the union has been involved in discussions with the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Greens, to come up with the best solution to the woodchip crisis.

Deals negotiated involve compensation packages for workers laid off when timber mills close or upgrade their technology. It is this upgrading in technology that causes job losses, it was pointed out, not loss of access to forests.

A training company is to be set up by the union, a NSW Labor government (if the ALP wins the March 25 election) and some of the logging companies in a $60 million package announced by Bob Carr.

A possible hitch was a demand by the right-wing led Transport Workers Union for a $250,000 payment to each truck that was lost in the industry. Hillier pointed out that this could cost $57 million.

On the recent timber industry blockade of parliament, Hillier said it "needed to be done to get some respect from the ALP".

He stressed the need to work with environmentalists to find a way to save both jobs and the environment.