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TOKOROA - The occupation of Carter Holt Harvey's Tokoroa Sawmill was set last night to continue into its third day.

About 60 workers occupied the mill on Monday to protest against night shifts, claiming they are a health and safety hazard.

Engineers Union delegate Robert Popata said yesterday that the workers had not yet heard from management about their demands, and were preparing to again sleep at the sawmill overnight.

"We have not walked off the job. We have notified them we are willing to work, but we refuse to be put in an unsafe position."

CHH wood products operations manager Maurice Reid said it was recognised that the shift pattern was not ideal for the workers.

He said the company had consulted staff on an alternative - the most efficient being two 10-hour shifts.

The staff, who were working two eight-hour shifts starting at 4 pm and midnight, had rejected the proposal.

The usual afternoon shift of 24 staff started the protest on Monday by turning up for work at 7.45 am instead of 4 pm. They worked for about an hour until management shut the machines. Mr Popata said workers had not gone on strike - management had closed the plant.

CHH has said the staff were working nights so contractors and maintenance crews could upgrade the mill. That work would continue into the New Year.

However, Mr Popata said the workers would not be interfering with contractors' progress.

"The workers' main thing is that they want to work days and there's no reason it can't be done.

"For 30 years this place ran on day and afternoon shifts and maintenance was done so it was not disruptive to the business."