Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumor Mill RoundUpDate
4 October 2019
Volume 19 Issue 14
Warning: None of the facts presented in this edition are half-baked or deep-faked. They are deep facts. And that’s a fact; a deep fact in fact.
Planting Contractors Say Client Cooperation Critical to Meeting Capacity Challenges Next Year
Tree planting contractors are committed to finding ways to plant B.C.’s extraordinary rise in seedlings forecast for next year. This estimated 40-million plus increase for the spring of 2020 is driven mostly by our governments’ strategy to mitigate climate change through recent major reforestation investments. The contractors’ optimism and willingness to take on the task, which is not without its risks and challenges, was one of the principal conclusions of last week’s WFCA Business and Market Summit in Kamloops. That annual event hosted government presenters, seedling producers, planting contractors and consulting foresters from around the province. Nevertheless, contractors concluded things will work best if government and licensee clients cooperate and administer contracts sympathetic to the exceptional demand the sector faces as a whole. Going from this year’s 270-million seedlings to estimates as high as 318-million seedlings next year may be one of the largest volume leaps in the industry’s 50-year history. Contractors are working now on recruiting, retaining, and training enough safe and competent workers for next year. They are also looking at extraordinary strategies like forming consortiums and sharing projects through sub-contracts in order to avoid disruptions. This, contractors say, will help ensure all available capacity efficiently finds its timely way to where work needs to be done next spring. MFLNRORD has relieved some pressure on the sector by extending the spring cold storage seedling planting season by nine days, which would allow an additional 40-million seedlings planted with the sector at peak capacity. Yet the advantages gained by these strategies could be frustrated if BCTS, MFLNRORD and the licensees don’t demonstrate some constructive flexibility around the scheduling and administering of their individual projects. Administrators will have to see beyond their own immediate programs to recognize we are all involved in a larger necessity. The reforestation sector cannot risk losing the public’s confidence by failing to meet all their reforestation expectations next year and beyond. That’s going to take some cooperation, innovation, and flexibility by everyone say contractors.
West Coast Planters May be Getting Left Out of Provincial Rise in Earnings
Back in the day west coast tree planters were the paradigm of planting skill and productivity. That may still be true today. But their earnings lately may not reflect that status. At last month’s WFCA annual business and market summit, BC Forestry Safety Advocate Jordan Tesluk reported BC interior planters were reporting to him increases in earnings of 10 to 15 percent. They also reported high rates of satisfaction with earnings and high rates for returning next year. These findings, Tesluk noted, were the result of an overdue market correction this year for piece rates after years of stagnation and inflation erosion. “Nevertheless, the happy story of planting in the interior has not been mirrored on the coast, where workers have reported making approximately 25% less than they had in the interior in terms of daily wages,” said Tesluk. Although the west coast accounts for less than ten percent of the province’s total annual production measured in seedlings, it starts earlier in the year attracting the sectors long-term career planters. This reservoir of talent not only represents production abilities, but supervision and management skills that are needed in the interior as the freshet and planting campaign migrate off the coast. Continuing to discourage earnings on the coast for this cadre of critical talent could affect the rest of the sector says Tesluk. It also poses an immediate challenge to coast employers as their workers jump to the chance to work in the interior before coast contracts are completed. This happened to some extent this year due to weather delays. But it might become worse if the planters’ price discrepancy between the coast and interior remains due to the ongoing depressed market for coastal planting. To read the Advocate’s full report, click here.
Anti-Violence Group Conducts Survey of Forestry Workers on Workplace Harassment and Assault
Our forestry sector’s ongoing efforts to reduce harassment and assaults in the forestry sector comprise two main strategies. One is to strengthen owners’ and supervisors’ ability to act fairly and effectively when they need to intervene regarding behavior and incidents. This front-line guidance is more than posting a “zero tolerance” policy on wrong behavior or just writing up rules or “language” to that effect. It’s about what to actually do in harassment and assault situations, and how to do it right. The second area is educating workers themselves about what behavior is right and acceptable. One group that has been assisting the sector on this is the Northern Society of Domestic Peace (NSDP). www.domesticpeace.ca The NSDP has been visiting tree planting camps since 2018 at the invitation of contractors. Two years of holding sessions across the province have given them insights and recommendations for making workers safe from workplace harassment and assaults. In support of that work the NSDP has undertaken two surveys focusing on forestry workers asking them to report what they have, or have not, experienced or seen, and how they think things could be better. All workers from across the sector including field consulting services, nurseries, brushing, wildfire fighting, surveying and planting are encouraged to take the short surveys: