Oji Fibre Solutions has issued a lockout notice to its Penrose Mill workers after a proposed strike and the prospect of further industrial action left the company with “no other choice”.

In a statement made last night, the pulp, cardboard and packaging maker said the lockout notice was in response to a notice from First Union and E Tū, representing Penrose mill workers, that a six-day strike would start from 12:01am on Dec 10.

Oji chief executive Jon Ryder said the company has been “forced” to lock out its workers as the uncertainty over further strikes meant the company needed to manage customer expectations and safely manage mill disruptions.

"This has been a difficult decision for OjiFS,” he said in a statement.

“We understand the seriousness for everyone involved, but we have no option. We believe we have made a good offer to our workers, with significant pay increases on the table, and we want to resolve this as quickly as possible.” 

Production workers at the Penrose Mill are currently paid on average more than $100,000 a year.

The strike notice had come after “multiple rounds” of negotiations as well as a wage increase offer from Oji that is similar to other recent deals in the sector. 

The Penrose Mill is one of only two paper recycling facilities in New Zealand and normally runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Closing and re-starting a large paper mill was a “very complex process”, the company said and involved sensitive heavy machinery and tools that took days to ramp down and up again.

The mill recycles more than 180,000 tonnes a year of waste paper – a significant part of the country’s recycling – with the recycled board used to make packaging products like the corrugations in cardboard boxes.