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Claims workers can make up to $400 a day in silviculture 'utterly false'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

There have been fresh claims that there’s a shortage of people to plant the Coalition Government’s one billion trees by 2028. This is in part because wages and are too low and there’s a lack of job security, this is why employers cannot attract more workers.

There has been a claim from Forest Management Director that planting rates had reached $400 dollars a day in Northland. This has raised eyebrows amongst workers.

A silviculture anonymous contractor who’s been in the industry for 25 years says, "Regarding employees being able to make $400 per day at 60 cents per tree; these are utterly false facts, most silviculture contractors would struggle to receive that from forest owners. Fact of the matter is that to ensure contractors can pay their workers’ wages that reflect the type of job they are doing, the contractors themselves must be paid decent rates. It is the forest owners and managers that need to take a good hard look at themselves and admit they are a bigger part of the problem.

FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga says claims are highly misleading.

"This is the contractor rate, not the rate the person receives in the hand. Management costs, overheads, quality control, logistics and transport, amongst other costs, would come out of that rate. So the truth is in stark contrast to this. We also know from MBIE’s report that 87% of companies in forestry, specifically silviculture, are not meeting basic employment standards and we know this includes employers not even paying the minimum wage let alone a few hundred dollars a day. It’s far from the truth."

Mr Maga says the real reason there’s a shortage of workers is down to poor company planning, unrealistic pay and work hours and some companies breaking the rules altogether.

"It’s insecure work and minimal pay. There aren’t enough workers to plant the billion trees, because the jobs aren’t decent jobs. Pay the right rates and you’ll attract more workers."

He says an industry standard should have been the result of the audit.

"FIRST Union sees the billion tree program is a wonderful opportunity for New Zealand to train and employ our young and unemployed workers, and indeed to professionalise an industry which has long held a dreadful reputation for low wages and bad employment practices. An agreed industry standard, be that a Muti Employer Collective Agreement, or Fair Pay Agreement would ensure that workers in the industry were employed in accordance with our legislation and with fair wages. If employers still cannot find workers when such an agreement is in place, then it would be appropriate to look off shore, but that’s yet to be done. The reason employers can’t find workers is because the jobs are simply unattractive, and we want to work with the industry to change that."

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