Photo Credit Sylvia Fenwick-Wilson

BCTS Elides COVID-19 Cost Clauses From Planting Contracts

Article Reprinted With Permission

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Bidding is, in part, betting on the future. As the tree planting sector heads into its fall competitive tournament for next year’s reforestation projects it looks like contractors will still be dealing with the pandemic in 2022. With two years of COVID-19 experience already, there is reason to be confident. WFCA compliance with health protocols and best practices have kept the sector mostly infection-free so far. But the virus remains prevalent and unpredictable.

Previously, under the May 20th 2020 Provincial State of Emergency that ended June 30th 2021, government reforestation contracts included clauses setting rates for incremental COVID-19 health costs. That kept bidders from having to compete on safety. Some licensees followed this good example as well. Now, BCTS has elided all COVID-19 costs clauses from their contracts. Contractors will be expected to bid the costs of operating their required Communicable Disease Plans (CDPs) instituted last July into their prices for next year’s work.

How the licensees will behave remains to be seen. Nevertheless, CDPs shift many previous COVID-19 Safety Plan protocols and practices from requirements to recommendations. What measures a contractor takes and incurs costs for will depend on their risk assessment of the COVID-19 hazard. That is inherently difficult because it means bidding now on risks you won’t be able to assess until next spring. Besides that contradiction, it could also make safety vulnerable to cost pressures in the market from clients and competitors.

Implementing CDPs got off to a shaky start near the end of this summer’s planting season as employers lost their ability to directly control the coming and goings of their workers. As a result, workers returning from town did bring COVID-19 back to camps. Right now a few hundred seasoned workers are planting the last trees of the year on the Coast. So far so good, as far as we can tell, when it comes to managing infections. 

But next year’s planting, which will attract thousands of workers working from hundreds of camps presents a far larger management challenge. To succeed under the new regime all actors will have to agree to conform as much as possible to the standards and practices that have kept the sector safe and successful so far. That adherence will have higher costs and raise tensions around who’s paying. But otherwise, 2022 will risk being a very large gamble for everyone.

Workers keeping their distance

Western Forestry Contractor's Association