A GROUP of Carter Holt Harvey non-union workers is desperately seeking a breakthrough in the Myrtleford industrial dispute, which sparked a mill lockout about three weeks ago.
Bargaining representative for almost 50 employees Enzo D’Andrea said his members wanted to return to work as soon as possible.
“We’ve been out of work for three weeks now with no pay,” he said.
“This situation is extremely dire and the longer it goes on it will be detrimental.”
In an impassioned plea in a letter to the Myrtleford community, Mr D’Andrea said both the company and unions were not willing to negotiate on the new enterprise agreement.
“From being involved in the previous three negotiation meetings, including Fair Works (Commission for Conciliation) on Monday, everything has now come to a stalemate,” he said
“The longer this drags out, the more evident it becomes that Carter Holt Harvey will permanently lock its gates.
“If this situation does occur, the township of Myrtleford, and its surrounding areas, will be affected drastically.”
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) assistant district secretary Andrew Vendramini said on Thursday the three unions representing workers were willing to negotiate with the company and were awaiting a response.
“The company is in no hurry to reply and is more worried about starving the guys out,” he said.
Workers wanted a 3 per cent pay rise annually over three years, one week’s annual leave allowable in the Christmas holiday period and better access to income protection insurance.
They gave notice of stop work action from April 18 before the company responded with a lockout.
Mr D’Andrea said the only way forward now for the 207-strong workforce was for the company to try to end the impasse.
“The company can put it to a vote,” he said.
“We’ve lost our back pay (due to industrial action), we understand that. Let’s just get back to work.”
Carter Holt Harvey representatives have declined to comment to The Border Mail.