Silvicultural Industry Licensing Deferred

The plan to license B.C. silvicultural contractors for employment standards purposes in time for next year has be delayed due to the various labour crises facing the new government.

A plan to license British Columbia silvicultural contractors through the province’s Employment Standards Branch has been delayed due to the welter of work and pressing labour crises facing the new government. The licensing scheme, which was to have been implemented in time for next year’s 2001 field season, will likely be deferred another full year according to the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association.

Although a new law requiring licensing of silvicultural contractors was passed last August 2000 its implementation required new regulations to be drawn up for cabinet approval. In order to coincide with the seasonal business cycles of next year’s silvicultural work those new standards and requirements would have to be put into effect in the next few weeks. A spokesman for Graham Bruce the new Minister of Skills Development and Labour told the WSCA the minister will not likely be able to review the proposed licensing plan until the Legislature stands this fall.

The deferral puts on hold a three year collaboration between silvicultural contractors, labour, government, and other stakeholders to eventually make silvicultural contracting a self-regulating industry. Last year new rules for hours of work and shift scheduling were implemented to bring the Employment Standards Act and the silvicultural industry’s piece-work payment practices into line with each other. Licensing, to be implemented with the collaboration of the WSCA, was planned as the next step in ensuring compliance with the Act’s regulations. Contractors who operate out of compliance with the minimum standards of the Act could lose their license to do silvicultural work in the province according to the proposed licensing model.

Licensing was also planned to act as a interim stage in the creation of the silvicultural contracting industry’s own professional regulatory body. Recently contractors and Patti Stockton Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour discussed a proposal giving contractors the choice to be licensed by the Employment Standards Branch or the WSCA. Under this proposed model the association would deal initially with complaints against its own members. It would rely on voluntary compliance and a collaborative approach to counsel member contractors into operating within the Act’s minimum standards. Those licensed through the branch would be bound to the same standards, but violators would be dealt with through government’s more coercive mechanisms of fines and audits. Any WSCA members who failed to live up to their association license would be handed over to the branch.

The proposed establishment of collaborative licensing between government and the contractor’s association is part of a long term strategy intended to lead to the creation of an enhanced set of professional standards for silvicultural contracting in the province. The WSCA through its membership would develop programs designed to improve its member’s standards around safety, worker training, and environmental certification. In ongoing talks with forest industry groups the WSCA has begun to explore how forest companies would recognize these higher standards of professional conduct from member contractors. The final goal for contractors under this plan would be to have WSCA licensing represent such a significant degree of professional conduct that forest company clients would prefer to deal exclusively with WSCA members.

For more information on the business case for licensing contractors visit the WSCA website at http://www.wfca.ca/Resources/Articles/2001/2001-08-09.BusinesCaseFor.shtml