PARTNERSHIP CASE STUDY Australian Paper Workers at Australia’s biggest paper manufacturing mill are tackling global competition through improved communication and work-based partnerships. The next time you stock the printer or The project aimed to build sustainable eight Australian Paper employees buy paper, spare a thought for the 1000 relations between stakeholders by and two full-time CFMEU officials men and women at Australian Paper’s establishing a broad capability across was created to lead the project. Maryvale Paper Mill. unions, supervisors and management A professional consulting firm was Tucked away in Gippsland is in collaborative problem solving. engaged to facilitate drafting of Australia’s largest papermaking complex. It encouraged participants to resolve documents and drive the project. The giant mill can produce more than conflicts and problems through “good The steering committee set the 500,000 tonnes of paper every year, faith bargaining” at the beginning of project parameters, including five including popular paper brands like the process. It also sought to model stages linked to tangible outcomes. REFLEX and Australian Pure White. collaborative partnership in the First was the establishment of a Built in 1937, the mill has been implementation of changes negotiated formal project charter, identification upgraded over the years to improve its in a recent Enterprise Bargaining of improvement projects and performance. But as for most Australian Agreement renewal focusing upon communication systems. manufacturers, global competition workplace flexibility. Next came the implementation remains an ever-present challenge. A final objective was to improve the of a Profit Improvement Process (PIP), In 2004, Australian Paper resolved quality and consistency of communication a system of consultative improvement to address global competition in part and leadership at all levels within the site. plans designed to identify areas of through a focus on workplace flexibility “The Partners at Work grant helped potential profit gains. Particular focus and improved capacity to change. With us look at continuous improvement on was placed on extending consultative help from a State Government Partners the site and give more focus to improving practices into the core paper machine at Work grant, management and unions day-to-day activities,” Mr Morrow said. operations. at Maryvale undertook a broad-based The PIP was divided into two workplace culture change project titled PARTNERSHIP APPROACH steps to allow for documenting of Interest Based Problem Solving. As one of the project’s main objectives recommendations and supporting was to give managers, frontline staff analysis. Once the recommendations BACKGROUND and union delegates greater confidence were approved, PIP projects were Glenn Morrow, Manager of Human to address issues, getting all parties launched across the organisation. Resources and Organisation Development on board at the start of the project was This was followed by a review and at AP’s Maryvale Mill, said the mill was particularly important. analysis stage. undertaking significant changes in many This included securing the cooperation Despite periodic setbacks because areas. Changing a workplace culture and active involvement of the lead site of competing priorities, the PIP projects was challenging. union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining identified a number of bottom-line “The mill has a long history and and Energy Union (CFMEU). savings. In all, 58 employees took we are trying to lift the performance “The CFMEU was very involved in part in the project over 15 months. in everything we do to meet the ever the project and I think that was a big increasing pressures of competition part of its success,” Mr Morrow said. COMMUNICATION and customer requirements. We decided “As improving relations between the Mr Morrow said the steering that we should start by engaging company and unions was one of the committee played an important part in people in more constructive dialogue project’s aim, it was important to have communicating the project’s aims and to see how they can offer ideas around the CFMEU actively taking part.” breaking down resistance to change. improvement.” A steering committee comprising “The steering committee oversaw The Partnership Case Study Series examines better workplace practices in Victoria. www.irv.vic.gov.au All studies are published by Industrial Relations Victoria. PARTNERSHIP CASE STUDY: Australian Paper KEY OUT-TAKES the communications concerning the “We addressed the above problems project. They determined that there in a number of ways, including creating • To combat cynicism and “change was considerable cynicism among the user-friendly templates which empowered fatigue” among employees, workforce and management towards supervisors and managers to work directly consider a low-key approach to any ‘fad’ project aimed at improving with their workforce on problems during communications. Let the project consultation in the workplace.” normal working hours,” Mr Morrow said. and its achievements speak for In the past, Australian Paper had themselves. undertaken a series of change projects, LOOKING TO THE FUTURE often accompanied by a large fanfare Mr Morrow said: “The challenge now • Once a project has been of launches and publicity. This time the is not to lose focus but to build on our completed, make sure there are committee decided to take a different achievements.’’ mechanisms in place to embed direction. March 2006 the changes and build on “Rather than trumpet the fact achievements. that the project was taking place, we decided to let the project’s successes • Getting the support of senior be the primary source of promotion,” management is vital when Mr Morrow said. trying to achieve workplace Project outcomes have been cultural change. recognised in low-key presentations across the site. The project has not PARTNERS AT WORK PROGRAM received any publicity outside the site. Instead, management has focused • Partners at Work is a Victorian on commending team participants Government competitive grants to their peers. program designed to promote workplace change that benefits all ACHIEVEMENTS stakeholders within an enterprise. Mr Morrow said the project’s achievements were not limited to • The program emphasises the improvement in relations between increased employee participation management and the union since 2004. and improved workplace The Profit Improvement Process, relationships. piloted in late 2004 by two teams, resulted in two projects to create more • Businesses have used the efficient and professional operations in Partners at Work program in key aspects of the mill. many ways to improve their workplaces and organisational LESSONS LEARNED performance. Changing long-established workplace practices is never easy. It is even more • The Victorian approach is for difficult in a large organisation where management and employees, and other important initiatives compete their representatives, to be seen for management attention and funding. as partners in the shared future Problems encountered during the of an enterprise. project included the logistical challenge of organising consultative groups involving shift and non-shift workers. The Partnership Case Study Series examines better workplace practices in Victoria. www.irv.vic.gov.au All studies are published by Industrial Relations Victoria.