More than 300 jobs are on the line as Opal Australian Paper considers the closure of its paper operations at the Maryvale Mill in eastern Victoria, following a Supreme Court order that forced pulp supplier VicForests to scale back harvesting in endangered possum habitats. “Despite our best endeavours, Opal has been unable to source viable alternative wood supplies to replace the VicForests shortfall,” the company said.
Opal Australian Paper has already stood down 37 paper workers at Maryvale, with a further 120 workers expected to be stood down this month or early next month.
Opal employs a total of about 850 workers at Maryvale. The site includes five paper machines, three pulp mills and two wastepaper recycling plants. The Maryvale Mill is also a major supplier of kraft liner board for cardboard containers.
In its latest supply update, Opal says it’s seriously considering shutting down its “white side” paper production operation at the mill, which manufacturers popular Reflex brand copy paper.
The full 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.
Opal has been considering 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.
Despite our best endeavours, Opal has been unable to source viable alternative wood supplies to replace the VicForests shortfall.
As a result, we are now seriously considering the potential future closure of white side operations at the Maryvale Mill and are consulting with our team members on this scenario.
While we will be consulting extensively with our Maryvale team members, no operational decisions have been reached at this stage.
We remain focused on securing the future of the Maryvale site which has a key role to play in manufacturing paper for the Opal Packaging Division.
Opal continues to engage 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.
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.
The Maryvale Mill opened in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley in 1937 and has since grown to be one of the largest employers in the region, manufacturing close to 600,000 tonnes of paper and board annually.
Opal Australian Paper is part of the Nippon Paper Group, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper manufacturing companies.