Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A tree planter's worst nightmare

“I would like to thank those who rescued us from the camp. It was such a relief to get out of the camp,” Barker said. “We felt as though we were held as hostages. We felt like prisoners.” -- The thoughts of one of eleven rescued workers from a bush camp near Golden

Missed paydays, unsanitary living conditions,  draconian working orders and even alleged death threats, for a group of silviculture workers in the Golden area that apparently was just another day on the job in the gypsy like life of BC's tree planting industry.

The Vancouver Sun outlines a story that hardly seems recognizable in the Canada of today, a tale that leaves you shaking your head at what passes for one interpretation of an employment standard in a little known industry in the province.

While not indicative of all silvicutlture contractors in the province, the incredible tales coming out of the woods near Golden would appear to highlight a need for more stringent oversight on an industry that few have much knowledge of.

The BC Federation of Labour's Jim Sinclair was made aware of the dire conditions in this particular camp and has urged the province to take a greater interest in the standards and regulation of contractors in the province, seeking to ensure that proper living and working conditions are frequently monitored.

He would also like to see a more complete investigation into the industry to find out if there are more stories of a similar nature in other regions of the province.

"It is a bush camp. It is not a tourist camp," -- The observations of the company owner, who is disputing the complaints of his former workers. 

The contractor who had his contract cancelled by the province was described as very experienced with this kind of work  and has had several contracts with the province over the years.

This marks the first time that he has apparently been removed from the contractor pool by the province.  He currently is appealing that decision and is considering his legal options regarding that cancellation.

Vancouver Sun-- B.C. immigrant workers found in squalid conditions 
Vancouver Sun-- Immigrant Workers Claim Death Threats in Bush Camp Near Golden
The Province-- Tree planters say they felt like 'prisoners' in Golden camp
CBC News-- B.C. forestry crew 'felt like prisoners'

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