Too many losers if forests sold, warns Prospect

Too many losers if forests sold, warns Prospect

Government plans to sell off Britain’s public forests will have a knock-on effect on thousands of private sector jobs and deprive the public of free access, Prospect has warned.

Prospect and colleagues in PCS, Unite and GMB have united under the umbrella of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions to resist the plans leaked this week to sell half of the woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission in England by 2020. “This will fail on all levels,” said Prospect negotiator Malcolm Currie. “First, within the Forestry Commission itself, 3,000 employees’ jobs and futures will be under threat as the land is pulled from under their feet.

“Second, thousands of jobs in the private sector – in planting, growing, felling, hauling and milling wood – will be placed in peril. It’s a prime example of the absurdity of the government’s argument that the private sector will compensate for job losses in the public sector.

“The Forestry Commission has a statutory duty to keep UK industry supplied with timber even in a downturn. All the timber cut down is replaced with new trees that have to be planted. If the land is sold, there is no guarantee trees will be planted as developers move in to exploit the land.”

Currie said that last year’s joint union campaign to prevent the leasing of Forestry Commission land in Scotland succeeded because the industry, environmental campaigners and the public had joined the unions in protesting against the proposals. The Commission’s own figures show nearly 30,000 people are employed in the UK’s forestry and primary wood processing industries.

“If the government tries to go ahead they will meet huge resistance, not only from the unions, but from the timber industry, environmentalists, ramblers and visitors. They all benefit from the Commission’s policy of open access to its land. No one will win if this goes ahead.”

Prospect’s 270 members in the Commission include senior managers, scientists, librarians, photographers, researchers and other specialists. It is the third time in 30 years that the government has tried to sell off Forestry Commission land.