Lockout hurting mental health: Unions and Carter Holt Harvey told to negotiate a solution

LONG-HAUL BATTLE: Carter Holt Harvey workers Leigh Mitchell, Corinne Evans, Mark Simpson, Aaron Young, Jed Molik and CFMEU district assistant secretary Andrew Vendramini.
LONG-HAUL BATTLE: Carter Holt Harvey workers Leigh Mitchell, Corinne Evans, Mark Simpson, Aaron Young, Jed Molik and CFMEU district assistant secretary Andrew Vendramini.

A “neutral piece of territory” has been offered in the Carter Holt Harvey pay dispute in the hopes it will encourage both sides to finally negotiate a solution.

Alpine Council responded to calls from the community to intervene by encouraging CHH, workers and unions to use a council site for discussions with the Fair Work Commission and explore a resolution.

Mayor Ron Janas said he hoped parties would take up the offer and be “open and honest” in negotiations so work could resume at the Myrtleford timber mill.

“We’re hoping the matter can be resolved before an appropriate court or commission because we don’t have any powers at all to get anybody to do anything, but our overall concern is for the community at large,” he said.

“We’re not offering a facilitator because I think that’s a specialist area. We’ll offer a neutral piece of territory.”

The council had not received a response from parties and, as of Friday, unions had not applied for another hearing with the FWC.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union continued to call on CHH to open the gates to negotiate eight weeks after the lockout began.

“The community look to council for leadership - we can offer leadership, but some things we are just not able to do,” Cr Janas said.

He also called on federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to intervene – the council will write a letter to the government with an official request.

“I want them to have a look at the situation and they have got the resource at their fingertips to hopefully bring the parties together through the appropriate industrial courts,” he said.

“They also have the mechanisms to be able to be able to talk to various parties at a very high level and maybe that’s what needs to be occurring.”

Alpine Council was treating the situation with the same seriousness as a natural disaster and will arrange an information session in Myrtleford with Centrelink and Gateway Health to outline financial and emotional assistance options.

“We need to plan for and act on certain trigger points,” Cr Janas said.

“There is clearly hardship occurring.

“In my experience, when these things occur, we also get an increase in mental health issues, whether that be people personally not personally coping or it could be an increase in relationship problems or domestic violence.”

RELATED: Carter Holt Harvey will pull out of Myrtleford if industrial dispute continues