Union fights foresty cutbacks

A MOVE by the NSW Government to slash 70 Forest NSW jobs could endanger the ind-ustry, the environment and drastically increase fire risk, according to the workers’union and the State Opposition.

The NSW Minister for Mineral and Forest Resources, Ian Macdonald, said last week there would be no forced redundancies but, according to the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, the department has continued to tell the workers their jobs have gone.

Of the 70 State Forest officer positions earmarked for redundancy statewide, it is believed more than 20 are in the Casino/Kyogle area.

“The CFMEU has warned that the loss of SFOs, and the resultant outsourcing of forest harvest planning and forest management, will be bad for the environment and the industry, with the potential for environmental breaches and compromised log quality and species mix to the sawmilling and processing industry,” CFMEU state secretary Craig Smith said.

“The union’s view is that the work of these people in managing harvest plans, boundary marking, tree marking and ensuring flora, fauna and cultural heritage protection cannot effectively be outsourced to harvesting contractors.

“Self-regulation will not work. The harvesters are not employees of Forestry NSW and are not funded, resourced or trained to do this work.

“The transparent and efficient management of native forests will be compromised and the natural environment will suffer.

“These are highly-trained and highly-skilled workers who also play an important role in fire mitigation and hazard reduction, not just in state forests but often inadjoining national parks.”

Mr Smith said that job loses could have grave implications for the supply of product to the local timber industry.

“NSW forests are a publicly-owned asset which should be managed by NSW Government-employed workers on behalf of the people of NSW,” Mr Smith said, calling on local sawmills and allied industries to join the union in lobbying the Government to reverse the decision.

The Opposition shadow minister for natural resource management, Katrina Hodgkinson, called on Mr Macdonald to rule out the job cuts during question time yesterday in Parliament.

Mr Macdonald responded: “Let me make it very clear. No final decision has been made in relation to this. I have had a number of meetings with the unions involved, including the Australian Workers Union, and no final decision has been made on this matter.”

Ms Hodgkinson said State Labor was targeting $5.3 million in payroll savings, $1.4m in cost reductions, $2.8m in overhead reductions and making a revenue gain of $4.5m to make up for the $14.4m shortfall identified by the Auditor-General in his April 2009 report.

“The Opposition demands that Minister Macdonald and the State Labor Government come clean with the full details of these job cuts,” she said.

“These employees deserve to know what the State Government’s plans are and whether or not they’ll be affected.

“This is more of the same from a tired State Labor Gov-ernment that has run out of ideas and energy.

“The uncertainty around these job cuts is devastating for the families of employees who don’t know if they will lose their jobs.

“Frontline staff has always been exempt from voluntary redundancies in the past, and the refusal of the Minister to rule this out shows that they are under active consideration.”

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