South Australia's state forest agency ForestrySA is seeking to halve workforce within a year, say union officials after meeting, claim plan would result in job losses across state, jeopardize fire protection

SYDNEY , April 16, 2014 (press release) – The CFMEU has been told by Forestry SA that it has sought the South Australian Government’s approval to reduce its workforce by 50 per cent within a year, and halve their redundancy entitlements.

Forestry SA employs 280 people across regional South Australia – the majority in Mt Gambier and the South East, but also Mt Crawford in the Adelaide Hills, and in the Wirrabara area. Around 150 jobs are at stake.

The move would go against the Government’s commitment a year ago to maintaining current arrangements, and would put fire protection of the forests in jeopardy.

Brad Coates, CFMEU Greater Green Triangle District Secretary said the union was told in a meeting yesterday with Forestry SA that it is seeking the State Government’s approval to reduce the workforce by 50 per cent within the next twelve months, starting 1 July 2014.

“We’ve been told by Forestry SA it wants to halve the workforce, halve their redundancies and contract out the work to private contractors.

“This move would be totally contrary to assurances given by the State Government that there would be no change to the management of the forests.

“It would result in job losses across regional South Australia, and jeopardise fire protection - as all the workers currently employed by Forestry SA are experienced fully trained fire fighters.

“Contracting out work in the forest management and fire protection services would be the worst possible outcome for the workers, the industry and the community.

“The CFMEU has requested an urgent meeting with the new Minister for Forests, Leon Bignall. We urge him to scrap this plan by Forestry SA and honour the commitments made in the lead up to the sale.”

Forestry SA has a contract to manage the forests for five years, with the option to tender for the management with new owners OneFortyOne Plantations - a subsidiary of The Campbell Group, an investment company from America.

The union says Forestry SA had known about the plan for four months but had only told the union yesterday.

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