Union disputes claims workers can get $400 a day for planting trees

Suggestions that workers can make up to $400 a day by planting trees have been labelled "utterly false".

A lack of workers to plant trees for the Government's 1 billion trees campaign has highlighted wider labour shortages in the forestry industry, despite claims workers could earn up to $400 a day.

FIRST Union general secretary Dennis Maga said the claims are highly misleading.

"This is the contractor rate, not the rate the person receives in the hand," he said.

"Management costs, overheads, quality control, logistics and transport, amongst other costs, would come out of that rate, so the truth is in stark contrast to this."  

He said the shortage is in part because wages and are too low and there's a lack of job security, but he is keen to see things change.

"FIRST Union sees the billion-tree program as a wonderful opportunity for New Zealand to train and employ our young and unemployed workers, and indeed to professionalise an industry which has long held a dreadful reputation for low wages and bad employment practices."

Mr Maga wants to see an "agreed industry standard" to ensure workers in the industry are employed in accordance with workplace legislation and paid fair wages. 

"If employers still cannot find workers when such an agreement is in place, then it would be appropriate to look off shore, but that's yet to be done."

"The reason employers can't find workers is because the jobs are simply unattractive, and we want to work with the industry to change that."