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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 January 2020

Interview with a forestry worker: Organise to improve conditions and tackle climate emergency

The environment is near the top of everyone's agenda currently, as it should be, due to the scale of the crisis that we face now and in the future.

Something that can be far from people's minds, however, is the day-to-day experiences of workers toiling on the land.

I spoke to a friend - a forestry worker and Unite union member - who talked anonymously about some of the pressing issues in his industry and what can be done about them.

"You typically have a quota of between five and 20 tonnes of timber a day. The job is completely manual - we don't use big harvester machines - so that's five tonnes done with just you and a chainsaw.

Its hard manual labour and you're out in the elements all day. I'm lucky, as me and my colleagues are on contracts, but the majority of forestry workers in the country are 'self-employed' much like construction workers. Most workers are employed through big companies and not directly by who they are working for.

Safety

Safety is one of the biggest issues for us all, in that health and safety practice doesn't really exist. Recently our boss proposed that we work in the dark and that to do so he would provide us with head torches in a bid to increase productivity!

When anyone works in the dark there are increased risks. Imagine it's been raining all day, there are branches and timber all over the ground and the fell goes wrong. Serious injury or death is around the corner. This can also happen during daylight hours.

My colleagues are not union members; it's not a done thing in this industry. However, I organised and spoke to workmates during a break. We all agreed that if the boss asked us to work like that at any time, we would walk off the job."

This shows how the basics of union work can be done, and clear and simple demands can lead to a growth of confidence amongst workers.

Trade unions, particularly Unite, should orientate resources into the industry to recruit and organise, to establish basic health and safety, and standards of pay and conditions.

If we are to tackle the climate emergency then we need skills, and these skills exist in this industry. With a unionised workforce in this sector we could firmly put on the agenda the planning of the environment, for workers and communities - not for the profit of the landowners.

Ben Mayor, York

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 29 January 2020:


What we think

No 'blank cheque' for Labour leadership candidates


News

End health and wealth divide - fight for our NHS

Unite union nominates Long-Bailey and Burgon

Coronavirus: capitalism limits response to viral outbreaks

HS2 debacle: nationalise rail and construction!

Johnson's Huawei internet deal underlines world trade tensions

Them & Us


Workplace news

University and College Union: Pensions, pay and conditions dispute reach a crucial stage

PCS union elections: Nominate candidates fighting austerity and for union democracy

Interview with a forestry worker

Westex carpet strike


Brexit and the economy

Brexit and British capitalism - why Johnson's juggernaut is set to jackknife


Stop the cuts

Fight the closure of Royal Glamorgan A&E

Save Hampden Nursery in Camden

We need socialists in London's City Hall

Unite regional committee votes to support anti-cuts Enfield councillor

Cuts to women's services cost lives


Campaigns

Socialist sellers: Opposing the Tories & fighting cuts

London protest against Modi's racist law


International news

Libya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers

Trump's trashing of the environment - Dump the capitalist profit system!

CWI round-up


Readers' opinion

TV review: The Trial of Christine Keeler

The Socialist Inbox


 

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