21 August 2012
Recent comments from Helen Kelly of the CTU, of TV One’s Close-Up programme show an absolute ignorance by unions of how forestry has advanced worker’s attitudes and their safety record through communities standing firm behind their peers to get drugs out of the workplace.“Ms Kelly said that drug-testing was a waste of time as forestry deaths continue. To extend her logic, the Police should stop testing for drugged and drunk drivers as road deaths continue to happen, despite breath-testing by Police,” says Forest Industry Contractors Association, Chief Executive, John Stulen.
“Her arguments against drug-testing made no sense at all and she sought a scapegoat in forestry. Well, we are here to tell the public that forestry has changed attitudes within our industry,” Mr Stulen added.
“Helen Kelly has shown a lack of expertise in one of New Zealand’s most prominent future export earning industries by her shallow, cheap shot, trying to relate random drug-testing to deaths in the forest industry,” says Chief Executive, John Stulen.
“Ms Kelly would be better served to understand how her people could help improve pay and conditions for forestry workers, rather than making cheap shots trying to link recent forestry workplace deaths with drug-testing as there is absolutely no connection,” he added.
It has been a long battle on many fronts – but now the leading forestry crews themselves get rid of anyone caught under the influence of drugs. And now their workmates and families are right behind them – to change behaviour in forestry-strong communities.
Forestry accidents have been dramatically reduced over the past 3-4 years as a result of some real traction among leading contractors and corporate forest owners getting together to make the final push to get rural communities.
Deaths in forestry workplaces are partly the reality that manual tree-falling is a potentially dangerous job, but it is changing rapidly. Working outside in all weather is dangerous and technology is only just now catching up with the need for greater harvesting and production capacity. In fact, New Zealand now leads the world in the development of very steep mechanised harvesters. It has taken entrepreneurs in Nelson to do what global equipment manufacturers could not – putting a machine safely onto steep forest slopes to get the man away from the chainsaw and into a hi-tech machine.
Everyone in the forestry industry is far more safety-conscious than most any sector in the country.
About Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA)
FICA’s role is to improve profitability of forest contractors and their clients. This is achieved through professional development programmes including regional seminars, workshops and networking meetings around key forest product regions of the country.