Opal Australian Paper has stood down 37 workers at its paper mill in Maryvale, eastern Victoria, with a further 120 workers expected to be stood down later this month or early next month. The move follows a Supreme Court order that forced supplier VicForests to scale back its harvesting operations in endangered possum habitats. The Victorian government has stepped in to reach an agreement with Opal that ensures - "until mid-February" - workers who are stood down will receive full pay and entitlements.
Opal's Maryvale paper mill (formerly Australian Paper), nowowned by Nippon Paper Group
Opal has informed 37 of its workers they’re being stood down and, according to AAP, a further 120 workers are facing being stood down later this month or early next month. Feedstock supply is the issue, following a Supreme Court order that forced supplier VicForests to scale back its harvesting operations in endangered possum habitats.
The Victorian government has confirmed it’s reached an agreement with Opal to ensure that all stood down workers will receive full pay and entitlements without accessing leave.
Opal, owned by $17 billion Japan-based global giant Nippon Paper Group (also since 2019 owners of Orora's former fibre carton business), released a statement that did not address the number of stand-downs but said all workers affected would receive full pay and entitlements.
The company is still searching for alternate sources of wood supply for the Maryvale mill – the producer of Reflex copy paper.
The full Opal statement reads:
Opal Australian Paper has been working to address the current shortfall in VicForests supply.
To be viable the alternative supplies must match a range of strict criteria including species, availability, volume, cost, logistics and long-term supply.
To date we have been unable to identify viable alternative sources of wood and as a result, white paper production on the M5 machine at Maryvale was impacted from 23 December.
Opal has been engaging in active discussions with the Victorian Government and union representatives about this situation. We have reached an agreement with the Victorian Government ensuring that until mid-February Opal team members who may be stood down will receive full pay.
This is intended to provide certainty for Opal team members while the company and the Victorian Government progress discussions on any further support for the Mill’s future operations.
In addition to Opal’s own Employee Assistance Program and other support services, a new Worker Support Service has been established by the Victorian Government to support Opal Australian Paper team members affected by potential stand downs and operational changes as may be required as a consequence of a possible future scaling down of white side manufacturing, one scenario currently being considered.
Opal continues to consider a number of different operational scenarios for the longer term, in case possible alternative wood sources are below the volumes required or are not commercially feasible.
This is a complex situation and no longer-term decisions on operational changes have been made at this stage.
While the current situation is difficult for everyone, Opal remains committed to keeping our team members, customers and key stakeholders updated on further developments. We are continuing to work diligently with a view to providing clarity for our team members as soon as practicable.
Opal employs a total of about 850 workers at Maryvale.