Statements by Confor CEO Stuart Goodall

Read the latest update by Confor CEO, Stuart Goodall

March 25:

Confor reaction to Defra statement

 Following representations by Confor, a Defra spokesperson has today confirmed that:

“Those involved in the supply chain of wood for key goods (including, but not limited to pallets, heating, packaging, tissue paper, timber harvesting, sawmills) should be considered key workers. Only necessary workers, producing key goods, should continue to attend workplaces. Working from home should be encouraged for administrative staff.”

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said: “I welcome this vital clarification of the key role of the forestry and wood processing supply chain in providing wood products to support an important range of essential products. Society is facing a tremendous challenge and the forestry and wood processing industry is keen to play its part.

“I would also remind everyone operating in these supply chains that it is vital that they follow Government and NHS guidance.” (link here)

He added: “Key worker status recognises the importance of wood products, but it also highlights the importance of keeping the supply chain going, and we will be working with Defra to help map out and understand what the impacts will be: on the maintenance of critical supply chains in the short term, and on the health of the sector in the longer term.”

Confor is also working with the Scottish Government, Forestry and Land Scotland and Scottish Forestry and counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland on providing assurance to the industry in these countries.

If anyone remains uncertain about their status following this guidance, email C19Qs@confor.org.uk

March 24

Confor wrote last week to ministers across the UK to request that workers in our sector be identified as key workers, and we followed that up with officials. It was unlikely that as a sector we would be identified as such at that time, but it did put a marker down and opened discussion. We then began to collect evidence.

 Since then a number of key events have happened:

  • On Friday afternoon it was confirmed by the UK Government that wood pallets are essential

  • Governments have also identified energy production as critical, with biomass energy sites informing their supply chain that they are now included as key workers

  • Other supply chains, for example packaging for medical and food products have been identified as essential

  • The construction industry in England remains active

 

Armed with this, Confor has been contacting ministers and officials to make the case that the sector supplies a number of essential activities and these supply chains should also be deemed essential.

This afternoon, we had a conference call with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing. Ahead of that meeting, we have been contacting officials in other countries to make them aware of this meeting, and I’m aware that across Great Britain officials are now seeking to move together – we are also acting in Northern Ireland.

Our request is for urgent clarity, with acceptance that supplying the essential industries listed above is vital.

We also raised the position of forest nurseries – they are rightly very worried about the impact on their current stock and sowing of new stock. The feedback from governments, who are focused on defining only essential activities for the protection of life and people’s health is that while they recognise that nurseries are important and they want to work with us to identify practically how nurseries can be supported, they are not essential to life and people’s health.

In all of this, there is a lack of clarity across the UK whether businesses in the forestry and wood processing sector should actually stop working, even if they are not deemed to be essential. At this time, if a forestry and wood processing worker can work safely away from home (because they can’t work at home) – both in terms of avoiding spreading the virus and normal health and safety, then there is not an absolute requirement to stop working. That said, there is the possibility of being challenged by the police.

We will continue to press for clarification on the status of the sector, and for clarification on working away from home generally and we will share that as soon as it’s available.