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MORE than 900 workers in the Latrobe Valley could give up at least $100 a week to ensure Maryvale paper mill keeps its doors open.
Just weeks after 700 workers at Hazelwood power plant were told they would lose their jobs next March, staff at the 80-year-old mill are considering a 5 per cent pay cut in an attempt to save their jobs.
The Herald Sun can reveal the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has urged its members to accept the reduction after 18 months of talks over a new workplace agreement.
In return, the union wants a long-term commitment from Japan’s Nippon Paper Group, the owner of Australian Paper, to invest in the mill and a Federal Government pledge to buy Australian-made copy paper.
“It’s the first time in 40 years in the paper industry I’ve been in the situation to ask people to consider a pay cut,” the CFMEU’s pulp and paper division secretary, Alex Millar, told the Herald Sun. “It’s not a situation we arrived at willingly and it’s taken just under two years of negotiations.”
The collapse of the mill would be a major blow to the struggling community, which is already facing more than $100 million leaving the local economy each year when Hazelwood is closed.
Mr Millar said workers would likely vote in a secret ballot in February.
While about 500 of the 900-strong workforce at the mill are union members, the Herald Sun has been told there remains resistance to the deal.
Maryvale Mill is the single-biggest private employer in the Latrobe Valley and Australia’s only manufacturer of office, printing and packaging papers.
Owner Australian Paper employs about 1250 people and supports nearly 6000 fulltime jobs across its operations.
The Federal Government is also under pressure to commit to purchasing Australia-made copy paper after it was revealed almost two-thirds of the product was sourced at below market price from Indonesia, Brazil and China.
Assistant Forestry Minister Anne Ruston wrote last week to government colleagues urging them to considering buying Australia-made products.
Australian Paper said last week it continued to experience “significant market pressure” from “dumped” paper, and was fighting for dumping tariffs to be applied.
Early last year, the company announced a plan to combat four years of losses.
Maintenance workers at the mill this year agreed on a 38-hour, four-day week while being paid for 35 hours, in return for 52 days off a year.