Worker support

On this page:

ForestWorks is delivering the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program and the interim Opal Worker Support Service.

Support for Opal workers

The Victorian Government is providing immediate support to Opal to keep workers paid should stand downs happen while discussions between Opal and the Victorian Government continue.

The Victorian Government is in active discussions with both Opal and unions and have reached an agreement that ensures until mid-February all workers that may be stood down will receive their entitlements and will not need to use leave.

This is intended to provide certainty for workers and ensure that they retain a stable and consistent income while we conclude negotiations on any further support for the mill’s future operations

In addition to Opal’s own Employee Assistance Program and other support services, a new Worker Support Service has been established by the Victorian Government to support Opal Australian Paper team members affected by potential stand downs and operational changes that may be required as a consequence of a future scaling down of white side manufacturing, one scenario currently being considered.

This recognises any impacted Opal workers may require tailored and more immediate support than is currently available.

Any worker will be eligible for:

  • Intake and case management services
  • Training support including funded training
  • Employment assistance services including the utilisation of Jobs Victoria Services and Skills and Jobs Centres.

Opal Australian Paper workers may also be eligible for relocation support as necessary.

All concerned workers can register immediately for mental health and wellbeing support via the ForestWorks website or by calling 1800 177 001.

Longer-term arrangements for this service are currently being finalised.

Support for sawmills and forest contractors

Workers and forest contractors can register for the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program via the ForestWorks website or by calling 1800 177 001.

The below information only applies to the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program.

Types of support

Infographic that shows worker support services available include support payments consisting of worker support payment and relocation payment, employment, training, health and wellbeing support

Worker Support Payment and Relocation payment

  • Eligibility assessment
  • Application support
  • Payment administration.

Employment

  • Digital employment skills
  • Resume and application support
  • Local Employment advice
  • Career advice and planning.

Training

  • Recognition of Prior Learning
  • Business start-up advice
  • Training plans
  • Assistance with education providers
  • Training funds administration.

Health and wellbeing support

  • Mental health support
  • Clinical referrals
  • Peer Support
  • Referrals to financial counselling, superannuation and retirement advice.

How to access the Worker Support Program

ForestWorks is delivering the Victorian Forestry Worker Support Program.

Sawmill workers and forest contractors can visit the ForestWorks website or call 1800 177 001 for more information.

Who can access the Worker Support Program

All workers employed in the native timber industry including:

  • Timber processing/mill workers (except Opal Australian Paper Maryvale Mill workers who can access a dedicated service)
  • Harvest and haulage contractors, their employees and sub-contractors
  • Professional and supply chain businesses (not eligible for Worker Support Payment)
  • Family members of the above (not eligible for Worker Support Payment).

Workers, their families, and community members will be able to register with the Worker Support Program in early 2023. A case manager will work with individuals to understand their needs and their access to training, career support and mental health and wellbeing services.

Worker Support Payments can only be accessed when a worker is made redundant or does not have their contract renewed because of the Sawmill Opt-out Scheme or mill closure or business downsizing as a result of VicForests Timber Sales Processes.

Worker Support Service eligibility

Eligibility infographic explining native workers are eligible for all worker support services. Supply chain workers and family members are eligible for some services including 1 on 1 case management, training support, emplyment support and career assistance, referral to other government services and mental health and wellbeing support

Native timber worker

Includes:

  • Timber mill employees (except Opal Australian Paper Maryvale Mill workers who can access a dedicated service that does not include support payments)
  • Harvest and haulage contractors, their employees and sub-contractors.

Eligible for:

  • Redundancy top-up payment
  • Relocation payment
  • 1-1 Case Management
  • Funded training and Recognition of Prior Learning
  • Employment support and career assistance
  • Referral to other services, including Skills and Jobs Centres and Jobs Victoria
  • Mental health and wellbeing support.

Supply chain worker

Includes:

  • VicForests contractors providing services other than harvesting and haulage of native timber (e.g. road maintenance, seed collectors)
  • Professional services and supply chain businesses (e.g. accountancy services, electricians and general maintenance).

Eligible for:

  • 1-1 Case Management
  • Training Support
  • Employment support and career assistance
  • Referral to other services, including Skills and Jobs Centres and Jobs Victoria
  • Mental health and wellbeing support.

Family member

Includes family members of business owners, sole traders and employees.

Eligible for:

  • 1-1 Case Management
  • Training Support
  • Employment support and career assistance
  • Referral to other services, including Skills and Jobs Centres and Jobs Victoria
  • Mental health and wellbeing support.

Downloads

Worker Support Payments

This payment is only for the following workers who are made redundant or do not have contract renewed because of the Sawmill Opt-out Scheme or mill closure or business downsizing as a result of VicForests Timber Sales Processes after 1 January 2023:

  • Harvest and haulage contractors
  • Timber processing/mill workers (Opal Australian Paper Maryvale Mill workers are not eligible)).

This includes direct employees, casual employees, VicForests Harvest and Haulage contractors, their sub-contractors and sole traders.

Worker Support Payments will be up to $120,000 based on:

  • four weeks of pay for every year of service in the native timber industry, including any statutory entitlements
  • up to 152 hours of unused sick leave.

Length of service and rate of pay will be determined by:

  • For direct employees: records showing employment for six of 12 months of each financial year claimed. Workers will be paid at their most recent ordinary rate.
  • For contractors and sub-contractors: the rate of pay will be based on your average yearly earnings for the best two financial years between 2018-2019 and 2021-2022, divided by 52, up to $120,000 per annum.
  • Where no record of industry service is provided, payment will be based on records from the most recent employer or contractor.

Individual payments may be different due to tax and must be considered on a case by case basis.

Any support provided under the program will be calculated pre-tax. It is recommended that eligible workers get independent tax advice.  Changes to employment arrangements now may affect workers’ individual payments including in relation to tax.

Infographic that explains if you lose your job because of native forestry transition, you will receive employer redundancy entitlement plus victorian government contribution plus 152 hours unused sick leave equals the total payment amount, capped at $120,000.

Workers - Sawmill and Harvest and Haulage support summary

Workers will receive a redundancy payment of up to $120,000 which includes:

  • four weeks of pay for every year of service, including statutory entitlements
  • up to 152 hours of unused sick leave.

  • Dedicated intake, and longer term case management and other worker support services
  • Support includes training or retraining and employment services that link the worker to future employment opportunities
  • Health and Wellbeing Support will be provided as well as referral to a range of services such as financial counselling, retirement planning and self-employment assistance.

Provision of career coaches and customised future career planning.

Access to a suite of potential training programs or courses that will be identified for each worker including work-site skills assessment (for recognised prior learning), pre-employment foundation courses, skill sets modules / micro-credentials, full VET qualification courses and pre-apprenticeship foundation training.

  • Tailored mental health support including education and awareness workshops, individual case management and access to clinical support services.
  • If you require crisis support you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time of the day or night or call 000 emergency services.
  • If you or your family need non-emergency support you can call the Forestry Information Support Line on 1800 318 182, Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. A case manager will help connect you with the most appropriate service in your local area. These services can provide treatment, information, tools and advice on how to deal with a range of mental health concerns.

  • Off-setting costs of relocation to take up an ongoing job
  • Covers costs including rent, rental bond, connecting utilities, and removalist and travel costs.

Referral to a range of locality specific Jobs Victoria Services which include Jobs Victoria Advocates; Mentors and Career Coaches.

Ex-forestry worker-employer payment summary

  • payment to employers for employing workers from the native timber industry.
  • $7,000 per person for the employer $4,000 where an employer provides accredited training to the ex-forestry employee.

Page last updated: 10 January 2023