Jobs axe looms: sawmill owner

Dandenong South sawmill workers protest at Premier Daniel Andrews's electorate office in Noble Park on 25 November.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

The owner of a Dandenong South timber mill says its 30 workers are likely to be stood down without pay in the lead-up to Christmas.

Pentarch Forestry, which runs the Dormit sawmill, said its closure was due to “vexatious” legal action by environmental groups against VicForests’ timber harvesting operations.

As a result, hardwood log supply was expected to run out within two weeks, it stated.

Desperate Dormit workers protested at Premier Daniel Andrews’s electorate office in Noble Park, calling for urgent action to break the impasse and for financial support.

Another 30 workers would be stood down at Pentarch’s mill in Swifts Creek, East Gippsland.

The two mills’ production of 70,000 pallets a month would also grind to a halt, which is expected to cause major supply chain issues for supermarkets and breweries.

“It’s doubtful these self-interested groups have considered the financial and emotional hardship they are placing on our staff,” Pentarch chief executive Paul Heubner said.

“It’s also difficult to comprehend what these groups are hoping to achieve when we are essentially operating in a tightly regulated forest industry.”

Mr Heuber appeared to back the CFMEU’s call for urgent legislation to stop third-party litigants taking legal action against VicForests.

“Our timber is legally and ethically sourced but it appears the authority for policing timber production in Victoria is in the hands of activists bent on destroying our industry,” he said.

“We think it is time the legislation was reviewed to give that level of power back to the rightful authorities.”