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Highland jobs set for chop at sawmill

By Gavin Musgrove

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Boat of Garten sawmill where up to 22 jobs are to be lost.
Boat of Garten sawmill where up to 22 jobs are to be lost.

A Highland company has announced it is laying off up to 22 staff because of tough trading conditions in the timber sector.

BSW employees at its Drumullie sawmill by Boat of Garten are understood to have been informed about the redundancies on Monday afternoon.

Most of the work is to be transferred to another of the group’s sites in a move to save money.

BSW Group Operations Director Mike Lomas said: “Our sawmill at Boat of Garten is currently enduring very difficult trading conditions which have come about as a result of a downturn in sales activity.

“We are proposing to restructure timber production at our mill there and transfer the majority of the development mill operations to another BSW site.

“This will help to more economically convert production, consequently improving the financial figures at BSW, Boat of Garten.

“This may result in potentially reducing the headcount by up to 22 people across the site, most of whom will be by reason of redundancy.

“We have now entered a group consultation period with employee representatives which will then be followed by detailed consultations with affected individuals.

“We have called for volunteers to leave with redundancy pay before any compulsory redundancies are finalised.”

BSW Timber Group employs more than 1,000 staff across seven sawmills in Britain. Current global economics along with other factors has been blamed for the job losses although Brexit was not singled out.

A company spokeswoman said: “During the past year there has been a combination of market forces including an influx of imported timber and general uncertainty in the economy which have reduced the demand for timber across the UK.”

There are understood to be around 62 staff at Drumullie. It is thought there will not be enough voluntary redundancies to avoid compulsory lay-offs.

Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn MSP and Rural Economy Secretary, said: “I am very sorry indeed for each ofthe individual employees who face redundancy. The sawmill sector is facing a set of serious challenges now.

“I have asked that the company enable the Scottish Government PACE scheme – which provides one to one help for people who face redundancy – to help all those employees who wish that advice.”

Mr Ewing (SNP) said he will ensure this help is extended as soon as practicable possible.

He said: “Any individual constituent who wishes to consult me as the local MSP is welcome to do so and in total confidence.

“This will be a difficult time for all involved and their families and so all practical help regards alternative jobs or opportunities must be extended.

“I shall also ask Highlands and Islands Enterprise to work to help in identifying other opportunities locally.”

The Strathspey site reprocesses logs from Scottish forests to convert into timber for construction, fencing, pallets and landscaping.

The BSW spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the group was laying off staff elsewhere, why Boat of Garten had been chosen and whether the same cost cuts could be made at their other sites.

Asked on the timing of the redundancies, she said: “We are just at the start of the process which will follow strict guidelines and we must respect staff confidentiality.”

Cairngorms Business Partnership boss Mark Tate said he hoped the move would secure the long term future of the Boat of Garten sawmill.

He commented: “First and foremost this is very sad news for everybody at BSW and particularly for those that will be impacted directly.

“Businesses like BSW, who provide a contribution and year round employment to our local economy, are really important.

“The firm havs been facing very challenging market conditions for some time now and we hope that this action will help secure the long term future of the business.”

The Boat of Garten site is the most northerly sawmill in the group and spans five hectares. Its annual input is 98,000 cubic metres of roundwood and it produces 56,000 cubic metres of sawn timber operating Monday to Friday.

Family-owned BSW Timber Group has four main operating divisions: forestry, sawmilling, timber manufacturing and energy.

The group has six other sawmills in the UK – in Newbridge-on-Wye, Southampton, Carlisle, Dalbeattie, Petersmuir, Fort William – and one in Riga, Latvia.

The headquarters are in Earlston, Berwickshire, where the business started out.

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