Claim Capital forestry staff ‘betrayed by government’

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The union that represents the Forestry Commission of Great Britain has accused Westminster of betraying staff at the Edinburgh-based government department by announcing job losses before an independent forestry panel has published its final report.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents employees of the Forestry Commission, reacted angrily to news yesterday that one in four jobs will be lost due to public sector cuts.

Around 100 jobs will go at the Silvan House headquarters in Corstorphine, in addition to 150 in England.

Of the 307 staff based in Edinburgh, 257 work for the Forestry Commission of Great Britain and 50 work for Forestry Commission Scotland.

The Scotland division is funded by the Scottish Government and will not be affected by the cuts.

The PCS union accused the Forestry Commission management of acting in “bad faith” by announcing cuts three months ahead of the independent forestry panel’s interim report, which will determine a new strategy for the department, and 11 months ahead of its final report.

The comments came before Thursday’s one-day strike, when 750,000 public sector workers will take industrial action over cuts to jobs, pensions and pay.

PCS Forestry Commission group president Mary Irvine, said: “PCS members are totally opposed to these measures and we have already agreed to resist any compulsory redundancies by all means necessary.

“Loyal staff who have dedicated their working lives to the Forestry Commission now face being thrown on the scrapheap.

“We feel utterly betrayed.”

PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson added: “This is yet another example of why PCS members are taking strike action this week. Forestry Commission employees deserve better than this callous and unnecessary betrayal.”

In response, a spokesman for the Forestry Commission GB said around 60 of the 100 jobs had already been, or will be, made through voluntary schemes. Around a further 40 staff will lose their jobs in the years to come.

He said: “We can confirm that while the consultation has only just started these are the kinds of numbers we are looking at.

“We will be losing these posts over the next four years.

“Many of the savings have been or are being made through voluntary exit schemes, through not filling vacant posts or not renewing short-term contracts, so we expect to lose around 40 posts over the coming four years.

“We’re doing everything we can to support those staff affected by this in what is a difficult time for them.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com