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Although forest harvesting is machine-intensive, labour remains the most critical element (Dykstra & Heinrich 1996) if harvesting is to be conducted efficiently and in an environmentally sound way. Only workers who are healthy, competent to fulfil their jobs, and motivated to work properly and efficiently, can be expected to contribute effectively to achieve the goals of environmentally sound forest harvesting.

Timber project agreements normally place a high priority of landowners' participation in resource development and give employment preference to landowners. For Vanimo Forest Products, for example, Sandaun Province has been the company's priority recruiting area. When local skills and capabilities can be matched with company needs, the company has availed itself of the opportunity (VFP 1990a) and local recruits have been hired to fill positions through the entire range from unskilled workers to middle and senior management.

However, minimum requirements such as physical condition, skills, and personal interest of workers have to be taken into account when selecting them for work in forest harvesting. Since the health of workers is not only based on physical conditions, special attention must be paid to safety, adequate standards of comfort, sanitation, food, and welfare by the company. Adequate training as appropriate for job requirements and satisfactory working conditions should be viewed by companies as effective motivators since they not only contribute to improved safety but also to improved efficiency.

Photo 19. Safety gear is still considered "exotic"-not even shoes or helmets seem to be considered essential by these chainsaw operators.

In the companies visited for this study, the only training that is carried out on a regular basis is for inventory crews. This is done when the harvesting frontier moves to the next customary ownership parcel and new landowners have to be recruited in compliance with the agreements. Inventory training includes at least the following:

As mentioned in Section 3.3, the basic knowledge available in felling, acquired by doing rather than by following a training programme, is passed on from chainsaw operators to assistants who are then most likely to become the next generation of chainsaw operators. Although in some cases this will result in highly competent operators, it is more common that assistants acquire the same bad habits as the chainsaw operators from whom they learn. Training programmes for felling crews should include the following:

Practical training for extraction crews should include the following:

Labour cost data summarised in Table 7 are based on information provided by VFP (1990b). Although undoubtedly out of date, the information should provide a reasonable understanding of the relative compensation levels for different positions of responsibility. Information from SBLC and gathered during discussions with workers in the field suggest that salaries in general are about 10% higher than in 1990. Extreme caution should be exercised when using the labour cost information in Table 7 for analysis due to the considerable inflation rates of PNG's currency over the last few years.

Table 7. Forest employee salaries (Source: VFP 1990b).

Operation and job title

Monthly salary

Operation and job title

Monthly salary


Forest inventory


Production manager

K 1,850

Survey manager

K 1,050

Logging manager

K 1,500

Survey supervisor

K 800

Roading manager

K 1,500

Survey crew

K 225

Logging supervisor

K 1,050



Roading supervisor

K 1,050

Skidding crew

K 225

Log grader

K 850




K 600

General workers

K 225