CFMEU calls for support from Eden-Monaro candidates

PM Scott Morrison announcing funding in Eden for three industries that are large employers in the Snowy Valleys: timber, apples and wine.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has penned a survey for Eden-Monaro by-election candidates, to gauge their level of commitment to supporting the forest industries if elected next month.

The CFMEU Manufacturing Division is the principal union representing workers in the timber, forestry and pulp and paper industries in the Eden-Monaro electorate. As local workplace representatives, it represents hundreds of workers throughout the region.

“This survey was put together talking to hundreds of timber workers about if they had a magic wand, what would be the things that they would change to make sure they felt like they’d still have a job in one year [and] in five years,” CMFEU’s NSW District Senior Organiser Alison Rudman said.

Ms Rudman believes that the upcoming by-election provides a unique opportunity to gain bipartisan support for securing the future of timber jobs in the region.

“We know that given everything that the industry has faced this year with both the bushfires and then the pandemic, [it’s] going to involve a little bit of creativity and a little bit of thinking outside the box,” she said.

The survey includes six commitments sought, a column for candidates to write either yes or no, and a column for candidates to provide comment. The CFMEU is seeking commitment to the following issues:

• For elected candidate to meet with local CFMEU delegates and discuss job security in the industry “within the first month” of being elected
• Ensure all current timber employers have enough wood to continue processing operations
• Fight for timber workers to receive JobKeeper payments “for a minimum of six months from the day that they become eligible to receive their first payment”
• A plan to increase housing starts, including Government investment in social housing construction and requirements to use Australian timber
• Change Commonwealth forest management laws to give local contractors, their crews and processors access to “sustainably manage native forests”
• Fight for plantation establishment by extending eligibility for exemptions to the “anti-timber ‘water rule’ beyond the constraints of forestry hubs”

“This is a serious issue,” Ms Rudman said. “There’s hundreds of people in the electorate who rely directly on timber jobs, and thousands more who rely indirectly on timber jobs for their livelihoods, and so I’m hopeful that all the candidates will take this issue seriously.

“We want to see people who are really engaging deeply with what’s keeping people in places like Tumut up at night, and coming to the table to represent them in some of the biggest decision making happening in our country.”

Ms Rudman said the Union’s biggest concern currently is about securing jobs, and that there are two parts to that.

“One of which is securing the resource, so making sure that local processors have the access that they need to wood to keep going,” she said.

“The second thing is that if there is a downturn, making sure that those processors have access to the JobKeeper subsidy [the] same way that any other business would have.”

Ms Rudman said that because of the nature of timber processing, there can be a delay before the full effects of a downturn in resources is seen. She suggested that this could lead to major timber employers not qualifying for JobKeeper until September, which is when the subsidy is currently scheduled to end.

“We know that there is extra money there, we know the Government overcalculated how much JobKeeper was going to cost,” Ms Rudman said. 

“It’s really important that politicians of all persuasions stand by their commitments made during the bushfires and make sure that people in these areas, who have been hit by more than most this year, are given the opportunity to keep working and keep performing such a vital role.”