CFMEU calls for Victorian government to step in as Bunnings timber ban leaves workers out on a limb

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday May 25, 2021

(Image: Adobe/Wirestock)

A Bunnings decision not to use Victorian hardwood timber has drawn the ire of CFMEU Manufacturing, who are asking for the state government to step in and convince the hardware store to change its policy.

The union wants the Victorian government to ‘increase pressure’ to reverse a Bunnings ban on timber from Victorian managed forests. 

Michael O’Connor, national secretary for CFMEU Manufacturing, argues that Bunnings’ stance on illegally logged timber was hurting the local, ‘environmentally friendly industry’, and in turn union members. 

“The Bunnings ban […] makes absolutely no sense in the face of timber shortages in the home building sector,” he said.

“We are calling for a reversal of Bunnings’ unfair ban on Victorian grown, sawn and manufactured hardwood timber and wood products.”

O’Connor said that a recent Federal Court decision to overturn a 2020 ruling against state-owned forestry corporation VicForests, proved ‘the ban had no real justification’.

Last May the Federal Court said that VicForests, operating in Victoria’s central highlands, had breached laws relating to threatened species and provisions related to environmental conservation. 

In response Wesfarmers, the parent company of Bunnings, announced that it would pick locally made timber alternatives where possible but also that it had a ‘zero-tolerance approach to illegally logged timber’.

O’Connor further accused Bunnings of threatening legal action when a group of union affiliated people held a peaceful protest at its Traralgon store.

Just last week a full bench upheld VicForests’ appeal of the original decision, ruling that all logging was done in accordance with the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement and therefore exempt from the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 (Cth). Costs in the matter are yet to be determined.

The union’s plea for the Victorian government’s assistance negotiating with Bunnings, follows a challenging year for the industry after a state government plan to end native logging by the end of 2030 was announced more than 16 months ago

O’Connor added that pressure caused by the store’s ban of use of Victorian timbers was a ‘further blow’ to workers and communities who had endured the bushfires of 2019 and 2020 and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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