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Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
21 January 2022
Volume 22 Issue 01

Warning: Some facts contained in this edition may have appeared previously: they can now have different meanings due to changes in context.

COVID-19: New Variant Means New Variables for 2022 Forestry Field Season: Employer Workshops Planned to Keep Pace

The above space has been left blank rather than show another image of the COVID-19 molecule or a close up of another arm getting a needle stuck in it

This novel coronavirus continues to be novel. Omicron, the latest variant in our ongoing acquaintance with the Greek alphabet, has the pandemic in its most infectious surge yet as we approach our third forestry field season. For two years the forestry sector has navigated successfully in keeping camps and crews mostly virus-free. Now it appears inevitable workers will infect or get infected at work. The vaccines will mitigate this. But the possible mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers (some employers have mandated vaccines) on some crews is not without its complications. Meanwhile, these considerations are set against evolving public health mandates and measures that are necessarily changing to match the surprises COVID-19 keeps generating. In order to help make sense of these uncertainties the BC SAFE Forestry Program will hold its first, in what will likely be a series of workshops, to update employers and offer advice on how to work with the current rules while keeping their crews safe, their businesses solvent, and their work uninterrupted. For information go to here

More Weather: Now the BC Snowpack is Beginning to Look Weird

Why is the Weather all Over the Map so Often? Our WFCA Conference Will Try to Answer That. Above: current conditions that are supporting an above-average snowpack in much of BC

Any of us who might have thought the weather would take a rest after last year’s various assaults need to reconsider. Now there is this year’s growing snowpack to watch. “The mountain snowpack accumulation season extends for another three to four months, but early normal to above normal snowpack conditions indicate an increased risk for snowmelt-related flooding during spring 2022,” states our BC River Forecast Centre in its January 18, 2022, Snow Conditions Commentary Forestry fieldwork has an intimate relationship with weather. Where else can crews freeze, fry, and escape a wildfire in the same day, as has happened? And last year’s atmospheric rivers damaged our resource roads and works to an extent we are still surveying. Now next year’s freshet is starting to shape up like a threat. Better understanding our increasingly extreme weather and the larger patterns that create it will be one of the topics at our WFCA Annual 2022 Virtual Conference including a panel on climate change and forest management. Click here to register.

BC Paid Sick Leave: Continuous Employment and Seasonal Work

We have been fielding questions from contractors about how paid sick leave for workers, which came into effect at the beginning of this month, will apply to seasonal, project-driven employment typical of tree planting and other forestry activities. A general summary of what circumstances determine if a worker is eligible for personal illness or injury leave can be viewed here. Extending the above information, we have found out that the qualifying 90 days of continuous employment with an employer is counted using calendar days. This raises the related question of temporary lay-offs between projects or the gaps between planting seasons when crews wait out the weather and the seedlings’ fitness for planting. Is the continuous employment calendar still counting on these temporary and sometimes extended lay-offs? The ruling is “Periods of temporary layoff during employment do not reduce an employee’s length of service.” Of course, the follow-up question is, When does an extended temporary layoff cease being temporary? Add that to the coming and going of workers between employers, sometimes while laid off temporarily from another employer, and it becomes, well, less clear. We are working very closely with our contacts at the Office of the Director of Employment Standards Branch to find answers to these detailed questions and others. Our goal is to provide an update and quick guide to paid personal illness and injury leave for seasonal forestry employers as a FAQ. If you have questions that need answering please get in touch at admin@wfca.ca so we can include them.