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Hundreds of jobs shredded in Tasmania -

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ELEANOR HALL: To the sacking of more than 250 workers at a paper mill in northern Tasmania.

The company's executives say the strong Australian dollar forced them to shut down their Wesley
Vale mill and they've confirmed they are also considering closing down the company's other mill at
Burnie.

The union says 600 people could lose their jobs.

In Hobart Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The workers at the Wesley Vale paper mill near Devonport knew the end was coming.

The old run down mill had been on the market for years and with no buyer in sight the mill's owner
PaperlinX has decided to shut it down.

Dean Smith has been working at the Wesley Vale mill for the past 15 years.

DEAN SMITH: The morale in the mill has been low at least for the last couple of months. Yeah, for
me personally, I just, just sort of living each day as it goes really because you just don't know.
Like do you go out and look for a job or don't you look for a job. Is it going to be right or yeah,
it is very, like I say a rollercoaster ride.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Mr Smith is one of 250 workers at Wesley Vale who will lose their jobs in March.

The jobs of 170 more workers at the nearby Burnie Mill which is also owned by PaperlinX are also
under threat.

Union rep Ken Fraser has worked at the Burnie mill for 37 years.

KEN FRASER: Machinery wise it is certainly not to world scale and world standards. It is still a
good machine. It does make good paper. There is no doubt about that and the people that operate
that machine are very skilled and good at their jobs and that is what has kept this mill going for
so long, the skills of the workers running the machines.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is warning up to 600 jobs will be lost
if both mills close.

The union's state secretary, Anne Urquhart, says contractors and businesses that make parts for the
mill will go bust.

ANNE URQUHART: When we talk about manufacturing we talk about one direct job equalling somewhere in
the vicinity of about four and a half other jobs out in the general community. So it is absolutely
huge the effect that these sorts of decisions that companies make have a flow on in a smaller
region like the north of Tasmania.

FELICITY OGILVIE: It's been a bad year for manufacturers in the north of Tasmania.

In April Caterpillar at Burnie shed 300 jobs. Then ACL Bearings (Automotive Components Limited) in
Launceston stood down 120 workers.

Last month McCain's announced it will close its vegetable processing plant at Smithton, 200 jobs
will go.

It's a bad time to be looking for a job.

Wesley Vale worker Dean Smith.

DEAN SMITH: As for prospects of jobs on the north-west coast, well, given what has happened with
McCains and now the mills, and the age of the workforce, I don't imagine that we can just walk
straight out and into another job.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett and the Federal Industries Minister Kim Carr
are on their way to Burnie to talk to the mill workers.

The Tasmanian Treasurer, Michael Aird, has told ABC local radio in Hobart they'll be announcing a
joint assistance package.

MICHAEL AIRD: We stand ready to work with the local community. This is going to have a profound
effect of course, not only in Burnie but across the whole region and that we want to ensure that we
do our best to support people at a difficult time particularly so close to Christmas.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The company's managing director is Jon Ryder.

JON RYDER: Our employees were told first hand that they have been told that their entitlements are
protected.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Because the Wesley Vale and Burnie mills use pulp that's imported the closure
isn't expected to affect the Tasmanian timber industry.

The mill has gone from being the backbone of Burnie employing thousands of people to a small run
down operation.

The Tasmanian Treasurer, Michael Aird, says Tasmanian manufacturers need to modernise to survive.

MICHAEL AIRD: You know, you look at McCains example. It wasn't just the actual processing plant
which failed there. The input costs were not competitive on a worldwide scale.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Tasmanian Government has just put out a press release saying the future of
manufacturing in Tasmania now lies in Gunns' pulp mill. But that company is still trying to get
finance to build the $2 billion mill.

And even if Gunns got the money today it will take years to build the mill and won't create the
jobs that are needed right now for all those workers in the north-west who desperately need work.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting.