IRV Case Study Australian Paper

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           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.                                                       All studies are published by Industrial Relations Victoria.

                                                                                                          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.                                                        All studies are published by Industrial Relations Victoria.

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