If you’re a “drug ….ed” you need not apply for a job at Tokoroa logging company G Hale Logging.
And if “you think you’re not but really you are”, it’s not going to make your chances any greater.
That’s made well and truly clear on the job vacancy sign for an operator capable tree feller, which hangs on the fence outside the company’s depot in Balmoral Drive.
Henry Hale, who came up with the idea to take the blunt approach to advertising the position, said with Tokoroa’s rampant drug usage the company was left with no choice.
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“We’d normally advertise in the paper and go through the normal processes, but Tokoroa has a bad drug problem and you end up wasting a lot of time,” he said.
“There always has been a drug problem in Tokoroa but it’s got worse over the last three or five years with P and other hard drugs, so it’s become hard to find people who are not affected one way or another.”
With that in mind, the family-run business backed Hale’s idea. But in a town crying out for more jobs the reaction, or lack of, has astounded.
“It has been up for nearly three weeks and I have only had one phone call from someone with no experience,” he said.
“Some of the bosses we’re contracted to have also been asking if we’ve had any calls yet, and they are shocked when we tell them we haven’t.”
“It’s a pretty high-skilled job operating machinery and tree felling, so if someone has those skills it would be bloody good. It’s a high-profile job and I’m not going to be paying peanuts either,” he said.
He put the lack of interest down to a mix of not enough people being trained to cater for industry needs, and skilled workers increasingly being turned away due to their drug usage.
“The skill base in Tokoroa has become very thin so it’s hard to get good workers, and you usually have to wait until they finish up with someone else before you can find anyone,” he said.
“I’ve also known some decent bush men who had gone sideways with P and other hard drugs, and it’s such a waste of their skills.”
The Drug Detection Agency’s Waikato/Coromandel branch general manager Graeme Smith confirmed there had been a rise in testing over recent years, but said companies had no choice.
“Drug taking is an issue right across the country and it is no different for the forestry industry. They are not trying to be the fun police, the decision is not a moral one, they have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety Act to protect people from the likes of drugs and alcohol,” he said.
“All employers in the forestry industry are taking health and safety very seriously because, at the end of the day, it’s about people being able to go home safely.”
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union Waikato/ Bay of Plenty lead organiser Raymond Wheeler said that while he understood why drug use was concerning, employers needed to focus more on industry environments as the main contributor to health and safety incidents.
“Companies can be quite comical with how they do their ads, but I think they need to get off the bandwagon of drug use and alcohol being the whole problem and look at their own systems as well,” he said.
“The forestry industry was the first to adopt drug and alcohol testing yet their fatality and injury rates are huge, which is not just because of drugs and alcohol. The issue is shift work patterns and there is fatigue, but employers are just bandwagonning on the drug issue.”
South Waikato mayor Jenny Shattock said she believed Tokoroa was no worse than other areas when it came to drugs, but supported Hale and other employers taking a stand.
“I was of the understanding that cannabis was the predominant drug being detected in the drug testing programmes and not P or other hard drugs,” she said.
“I think the problem is a societal one, as recreational consumption of cannabis is widespread throughout New Zealand, not just the South Waikato, and I think that a lot of people don’t see recreational cannabis use as a crime. That’s the issue.
“As a community and as a country we must make a stand against drugs. The blight of drugs in our communities needs a united response as it’s not only in the area of employment, drugs also play a major role in the incidence of domestic violence.
“Our communities need to unite and address it together,” she said.
Shattock said the South Waikato District Council would soon be conducting a skills gap assessment for the district which could see forestry training courses added to those offered at the South Waikato Trade Training Centre in order to produce more workers.
Hale encouraged potential employees to get in touch if they felt they had the right credentials for the job.
“We just want someone with a good brain and a good attitude. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for,” he said.