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Labour shortages a key issue

Forest Industry Contractors Association chief executive Prue Younger highlighted a number of significant challenges facing her member companies, leading to predictions of a somewhat “slow and steady” immediate outlook.

As per the experience of many sectors in New Zealand, Ms Younger noted one of those was ongoing labour shortages.

“We need to get skilled machine operators now more than a manual workforce,” Ms Younger told the Shipping Gazette™.

However, Ms Younger questioned if the pandemic had specifically contributed to labour shortages in the sector and wondered if Government welfare contributions were having a disincentivising effect on some people making themselves available for work.

“It is not worth working a five-day week when you can make the same on four days.”

In addition to the challenges presented to her members by extremely-high fuel costs, Ms Younger observed that wage bills were rising rapidly due to “competition in the workforce space”. 

“Forestry contractors are paid extremely well – a main operator paid $60 per hour easily.”

Ms Younger lamented that those and other pressures had seen “a lot of contractors shut shop in the last 12 months”.

“The cost of going mechanised comes with high financing costs and there has not been a comparative increase in the rates they get from forest owners.”

In regard to the future for forestry contractor companies described a “slow, steady and hard
work to make a profit” outlook, with members also needing to make necessary changes to evolve to a sustainable business model. She also noted the potential positive impacts on the sector of the Government’s Industry Transformational Plan, which is to be launched at this year’s National Fieldays.

This article appeared in the Shipping Gazette.