The Forest Owners Association has taken a strong stand on pay rate breaches by forest planting contractors.
President Peter Clark says a recent Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment audit of pay rates and conditions in three forest regions has revealed what appears to be widespread non-compliance with employment law among forest planting crews.
“We forest owners don’t pay the silviculture crews ourselves. That’s done by independent contractors. But our industry cannot condone exploitation of any sort.
“We, as a major primary industry, are taking a stand on this. We don’t want to deprive good workers the opportunity to earn bonus money by planting more trees in a day. But on the other hand it is unacceptable to allow inexperienced planters, or those who have to travel long distances to new locations, to be deprived of what the law specifies as minimum pay.
“I’m not going to point any fingers, but it is clear all of us must ensure there is more transparency and compliance in the industry than is the case at the moment. We’ve already set up a working group of forest companies and contractors to ensure this happens.”
Peter says getting employment compliance is crucial as the industry gears up to anticipated large-scale extra planting under the new government’s billion tree target.
“There’s not many extra trees going to be planted in 2018. However, when the new planting load comes on in 2019, with many hundreds of extra planters, we have to have our employment side fully compliant with the law.”
Forest companies have been backing the recently begun Forest Industry Safety Council Safetree Contractor Certification scheme.
For a contractor to be certified they must provide documentation to prove they are labour law compliant. The scheme was launched in late October.
“Sixty-nine companies are already working through the process, which will result in a much more transparent industry when they are certified,” Peter says.