Big Sky Silviculture

A forum for discussion about various silviculture companies. No defamation please!
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chickonskis01
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Big Sky Silviculture

Post by chickonskis01 » Sun Apr 19, 2009 5:07 pm

I am also considering working with Big Sky Silviculture for a quick contract in May. Good company?...Bad Company???

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by TheDain » Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:20 pm

I've worked for Big Sky on a couple guest stints in '06 and '07. The ground on the west side of Quesnel is pretty easy. We did a lot of fill, which was generally well priced at 18c. The raw I saw was all great, just not enough of it. I planted trenches there for 11c, which was occasionally too low. (Although one particularly keen fellow drove himself to the block early, and stayed late to put in 6000 - pretty impressive for BC, no matter how much time he used.) My earnings there varied from 300$-450$.
Jeff Brown boasts of a laid-back work atmosphere, and it is just that - a pleasant place to be working. His staff (of one or two) was personable and competent. One thing that irked me though : we always had on-site reefers, but the trucks were never loaded beforehand - every day, 20 people shooting the shit for half an hour a mile from the block. 20 people X 30 minutes, every day, fuckaround.
Oh, and Jeff is also one of those 'take everybody's tally before we leave the block, when we're sitting in the trucks' guys.
So, a couple pet peeves I couldn't help but mention, but I'd definitely work there again.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by gilkie » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:08 pm

'TheDain' is right, Big Sky is a pretty chill as far as planting gigs go. After spending my first five seasons with one of the big 'Prince George outfits', I did an early spring show for Big Sky and it was the antithesis of Big Company planting. Based in Quesnel, or on the Blackwater, its either a hotel show or cabins, Browner encourages a pretty chill atmosphere, he's not always chill himself but the buck stops with him and the checkers for the mill are pretty demanding so you can't blame him too much for that. Scott, Neil or Toffelmeyer have been the foreman in the past couple of years and they are very very good at what they do, for even though its a small group of 20 planters max, there seem to be more logistics involved than most. They're very good at insulating the planters from everything that doesn't have with putting trees in the ground and making money.

If I had to offer constructive criticism - camp costs are too high. You cover your own food costs, but your still being charged something like $17 a night for the hotel. You don't get paid until the very end, although Jeff Brown is good at giving advances. All in all definitely a great company to plant for. Small is beautiful and there's money to be made. For motivated, skilled veterans there's no reason you shouldn't be making AT LEAST $350+

Season runs late April - early mid June, usually late summer gig in August-September too.

Hey Dain, you still with Leader?

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by dogfucker#36 » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:58 pm

jeff is a solid guy to work for. only worked a couple shifts for him between contracts but it was well organized and good coin. cheap raw and trenches around quesnel for $400+/day.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by kenax » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:44 am

With the permission of Scooter I just copied updated information from this thread to the Treeplanter’s Database found at http://hardcoretreeplanters.com/ to make it easier to view comments by treeplanters and compare treeplanting companies against one another, in the hopes that they will treat and pay their planters better.
Check out my tree planting website http://hardcoretreeplanters.com/ where I wrote down all my tips how to plant fast and all the other tips I accumulated after 7 years of planting.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jules » Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:27 pm

I thought I'd posted a little something about these guys ages ago, but I guess not. I did a few shifts with them in July 2011, for their West Fraser summer trees out of Batnuni. It was awesome and I loved it; if I wasn't so committed to my current gig, I would want to work for these guys.

The show was run pretty tightly because the management knows what they're doing and is very hardworking. I did not have trouble waiting for trees or with wasted time. The ground that I saw was pretty flat and clean, and very well-priced ($0.15+, if I recall correctly). The checking was reasonable and feedback was frequent and usually helpful; this is the only company that has compensated me for replanting I had to do due to a management/checker miscommunication. Days were not excessively long, and shifts were 4-and-1.
In fairness to other companies I've criticized on this front, though, they were using a 15-seater van. They did it way better than many companies do, though: it was relatively clean, not full of other people's garbage, and wasn't out of depth on the roads we were driving. That makes all the difference.

The guys who usually work there are experienced and very competent planters. Great dudes.

As for accomodations, we were put up in cabins on a beautiful lake. We did our own cooking, and I think the only thing I would've changed would be the amount of fridge space we had.

Seriously, it was a good show. Jeff and Scott make it work.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by retrovertigo » Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:11 pm

Dammit jules you're killing me! I remember applying for that exact contract from their ad here on replant, after my season had ended early unexpectedly. Got an email back saying they were full, couldn't find anything else, so said "Fuck it, season's over, time to go back to Vancouver and lay on a beach". Of course I got a call from Jeff two days later saying someone had dropped out. and they had a spot for me, but by then I was in summertime-mode and unwilling to head back into the cloud of insects up North.

All well, glad to hear it was good. I got a pretty good vibe about them from talking on the phone.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by sghyselincks » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:48 am

Big Sky seems to have had some good things going for it in the past. Tree prices have flatlined or declined recently, and the distance to drive to the blocks seems to be getting further and further. It's a laid back atmosphere, but that also seems to invite a lot of cutting corners. The camp costs were very high at $38 a day with no lunch provided. The 2016 season saw some 17 cent fill plant along with 14 cent mounds and 15 cent burns. The new "normal" for working with the West Fraser mill out of Quesnel is to drag the freshcut blocks, exposing mineral soil for natural regen. The crappy areas such as gullies are mounded and planted right away, as well as the burn piles. So rather than have a day piece, for the most part it feels like filling in a bunch of holes on a swiss cheese block in the fresh cut. A very large portion of the work is fill plant, which is going back to these sites from previous years and cleaning up what didn't come in through natural regen.

There was a mini-contract for a woodlot outside of Quesnel which was just horrendous. The price was 13cents to start and every planter from that crew except the foreman decided to quit. I heard second-hand that another contractor in Quesnel had priced similar land at 20 cents. The ground was very compacted and full of snaking corridors and the client was very adamant about respecting naturals (which were everywhere). I got sent there for one day to help the crew finish up, we never succeeded because one of the planters walked off the block and hitchhiked back to town that morning. I was told (not directly from the owner) that the price would be bumped up to about 17 cents, but it ended up only being 15.5. The incentive wasn't there to please planters who had quit. One guy from the crew stayed another shift out by Nazko and said the ground/price was pretty decent there. Seems like a very mixed bag. Honestly just looking at that woodlot for five seconds and it could be seen that 13 cents was atrocious. Jeff said he had never seen it before pricing it-- would you like your tree prices to be determined without a proper block viewing?

On the longer drives (2 hours each way) we weren't asked to separate our mound and burns tallies because the 14 cent "base price" for mounds was going to be bumped up. I expected at least 15 cents (the price of burn and raw trees) on my pay stub for each day, but it was a mix of 14, 14.5 or 15 cents each day. The amounts didn't completely correlate to the ratio of what I had been planting. Why not just ask for separate tallies in the first place? This seems sloppy to me.

I quit the contract before it finished because the compensation wasn't there for me to spend four hours on a logging road each day. Other planters there seemed to be fine with it and would possibly return, so maybe I'm just a baby. I did notice that there sure weren't a lot of returning planters in 2016 (less than a third by my estimate). I think that should be a red flag in itself.

I ended up going after the contractor for vacation pay through a Employment Standards BC complaint and found that the owner was very uncooperative. I wrote a detailed post about that here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=66706&p=90410#p90410

I'd personally steer clear from this outfit, but not everybody may share my opinion.

I should give an honourable mention to the main foreman there, Scott, who in my opinion is very talented and good at what he does. It's the one good thing Big Sky has going for it. The owner seems pretty nice and personable and participates in the day to day logistics, he seemed less nice and personable to me after I decided to quit, which I suppose is somewhat understandable.
Last edited by sghyselincks on Thu Sep 22, 2016 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jdtesluk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 5:26 pm

Good for workers to be aware of these issues. A few points to spin off this important post.

Workers MUST not be charged more than $25 per day for camp costs (plus GST)
Workers MUST be provided with proper nourishment in camps...that includes lunch!
Workers MUST receive credit for all hours worked from the time they leave camp to the time they return.
Workers MUST be paid the prices quoted to them.
Vacation pay MUST be added to paycheques unless workers are provided with a tree price breakdown that clearly explains a base price, plus vacation pay to a total tree price.
Workers MUST be paid in accordance with 37.9 of the Employment Standards Regulation. So no matter how crappy prices get, their employer must ensure people achieve minimum wage levels outlined in the regulation for tree planting workers. THIS WILL GO UP next year, so a 12 hour day is worth $151.90. That's based on 10.85 per hour for the first 8 hours, and 16.275 for hours 9 to 12. Any hours after that must be calculated at 21.70 per hours, so a 13 hour day would be 173.60.

ALL WORKERS take note of that last part. If you leave at 7 and return at 7, your pay for that day MUST BY LAW be at least $151.90 based on a 12 hour day. No cheating, and counting planting time only, travel time is included. There is no limit, and your employer cannot cut you off from top-ups. They can of course fire you (within existing legal parameters). However, as long as you are there, you must earn that much.
Last edited by jdtesluk on Sat Sep 24, 2016 8:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by sghyselincks » Thu Sep 22, 2016 8:13 pm

Just a quick note to add, we were staying in some cabins with no water or electricity (separate bath/shower house). It becomes murky because you may be charged the cost of the motel even if it exceeds $25. I'm not sure if cabins count as a motel so... The closest grocery store would have been about 1 hour away for food but we were warned to bring our own lunch stuff. The camp cost, no matter what the cost, needs to be agree upon in writing in order for it to be charged. I was personally aware of it from a previous email and might have retroactively agreed upon it when disputing my pay-stub. The camp cost did include a complimentary glass of home-made wine at dinner though (big glass, I usually steered clear on work nights). As far as I know $38 if you aren't in a tent may still be compliant, although with Big Sky if you did chose to stay in a tent, the camp cost was only reduced by $5 to a total of $33 per day.

My earnings worked out to about 70% of what they were from the 3 day prior stint. There were a fair number of vets making $250-300 days (4 hours of driving time) and then footing $38 camp cost and lunch. I may be spoiled from having worked on well-paying contracts before, but the earning potential at Big Sky didn't seem that high. I made more money per day working spring trees at Coast Range, Torrent, and Folklore, even more so after including the cost of lunch + camp costs. The transit time was also far less at these other stints, so I was making more money and working less hours. I mean, these are not a group of "golden contract" companies, just run of the mill (no pun intended) contracts. I didn't find out about the rules for camp costs until after I had filed my initial complaint so it wasn't included.

There was a separate crew working out of a different area and apparently the ground there was better than what I experienced. I'm sure they would have better reviews to contribute. Again, not very many returning planters from what I saw, although the ones who were returning seemed content. I mean, I was comfortable with the water situation until I found out you could get really sick if a dead squirrel falls in, you could even get really sick weeks later and it could ruin your planting season and $$$. I felt treated reasonably well until I gave my two-weeks notice and things went sour. On a side note, it might not be a good idea to give any advance notice to a planting contractor that you are leaving, even if it seems like the most ethical thing to do.
Last edited by sghyselincks on Mon Oct 03, 2016 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jdtesluk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 9:11 pm

The camp issue is indeed murky.
You are correct, that if staying in a hotel or motel, then you cannot be charged more than a company pays. If 2 people split a $60 room, then they can only be charged $30.

Generally, the dividing line for camps is if you are staying in (A) a licensed accommodation (i.e. motel or hotel or lodge), or B) an industrial camp (I.e. logging camp or mining camp), or (C) a camp provided by the company. If it is not A or B, then it falls into the last category- a camp provided by the company. The fact that they essentially contract out part of the camp set up by having some rudimentary accommodations provided does not excuse them from providing all necessary facilities for a camp. This includes water and basins for hand washing, showers, clean serviced toilets, a dry shack/room, clean heated dining areas with tables and chairs, clean dishes, nourishing meals (all three), purified and tested water, and so forth. There is no special end-around where a company can pay some land owner or semi-facility owner for some shacks and say "Hey, I'm not running a camp".

These matters involve the institution of work, and there are rules and laws that protect workers.

As per water, that is a big deal. People often think of beaver fever as the main problem (Giardia), which is itself very nasty. However, there are far worse things out there beside giardia, and some can be fatal or life-altering. If the nastiness of a parasitic illness isn't enough to screw you over for months or more, the gut-wrenching schedule of toxic medications required to kill the infection is even worse. I've seen this first hand, and it can take years to get your digestive system and immune system back to normal. I don't care if someone blows hot air about how many years they've drank the water, or nobody has every gotten sick before, I don't care....it needs to be city water, or purified and tested according to regulation. No in-betweens.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jules » Sat Oct 01, 2016 7:16 am

Full disclosure: I'm the one who walked off of the block. It wasn't my intention to hitchhike back to Quesnel, just to walk back because it wasn't that far out of town.

The woodlot contract was garbage and a waste of my time. It was not worth it for me financially to go back west and plant there. Additionally, because they will withhold your pay until the end of the season (which is illegal and not disclosed before you start working there), they have free reign to fuck with your paycheque if you quit or do something they don't like. I was charged two nights for a motel room that I never slept in, for example.

With respect to the camp cost issue, I believe that the ranch we were staying at is a licensed lodge. The $38/day cost must have included food; I wasn't eating at the lodge because I have a dietary thing they wouldn't accommodate, and I was only charged $25/day, albeit for a cabin with no running water, no treated drinking water, no refrigerator, and very limited electricity.

The couple of returning planters I did meet seemed somewhat content, though I think they were usually on nicer ground out in Nazko than the woodlot. I didn't get a sense of how the people on West Fraser were doing after I was sent to the woodlot contract until I heard about the multi-hour drives after I had already left.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by backcountrysister » Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:16 pm

So many things that the 2 last posters wrote that are misleading and do not tell the entire story. I worked the entire contract. We were given the option of every 2 weeks for pay or to wait until the end of contract for full payment(as it was a 6 week contract & advances were given when asked) Water was from an aquafur spring which had been tested and potable.The water in the kitchen tap came from the same source as said creek. There were options for food & Jeff said he could provide lunches but since people have such a variable diet, it was easier & cheaper for people to provide their own lunches.
I would highly recommend working for Big Sky. Jeff Brown & Scott run a tight ship. Tophelmeyer was also running a truck and was a great foreman. I don't see the need to create drama or make exaggerated remarks. The prices were from 16 and up. Our first block was the worst and after that pretty decent. The 2 hr. drives lasted only a couple of shifts but worth it. We were on 3 and 1 shifts. On days off coffee and breakfast was provided. Only 2 cabins had no electricity out of the 4. All cabins had fully functional kitchens. Running on propane and although rustic, still beautiful and well kept. The shower/ bathroom cabin was fully functional. Heated, 2 toilets & very modern with WiFi and we could charge our electronic devices. There was also access to phone services.
I want to add this was only for the first 3 weeks. We moved to Silvia's on the Nazco hwy to finish the contract. We stayed in Atco trailers with our own rooms and all meals provided by Silvia's - fully catered including lunch.
I received all my pay and I found Big Sky to be a professionally run company and would return as a planter.
Having been a vet for over 2 decades, I could understand how inexperienced planters could misinterpreted information provided in the hire sheet and during crew tail gate meetings.
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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by bigsky » Thu Oct 13, 2016 10:13 pm

My name is Jeff Brown, and I'm the owner of Big Sky Silviculture. As to who owns Big Ski Silviculture, I can't say.

Other than occasionally posting job opportunities, I tend not to monitor these boards. That said, I feel some of the things being said here and now warrant being addressed. Specifically with regards to Simon's complaints. There are indeed two sides to every story.

Simon's average earnings for his 16-day season this year were amongst the highest ever at Big Sky. Two seasons prior, however, he showed up for a 3-day stint at just the right time, and made huge money planting creamy trenches. Well, we had no trenches this year, unfortunately, and that put Simon in the wrong frame of mind right from the very start. He told me he had simply assumed we would have 40 days of creamy trenches. If only life were like that. Maybe ask next time, Simon. The net result was that he complained regularly about pretty much everything, and then quit - and not with two weeks notice, as he claims. Maybe two shifts notice, but I admit I can't remember exactly. I have discovered that there is a pattern with many (but not all) ex-Wildwoods planters - prepare for a lot of complaining unless daily wages are $700+. But the reality is that prices in the industry have flatlined, at least in the BC interior. Such earnings are not viable anymore, except for the odd super-sweet block.

Camp costs did indeed include cabins at the ranch and individual Atco trailer rooms at Sylvia's (with TV and internet), not simply food. In the interest of full disclosure, the rates to Big Sky were $58/pp/day. So there was a $20 pp subsidy for each planter opting for the full meal deal. I tried my best to provide different dining and/or accommodation options for different people. It was reduced if someone stayed in a tent, or packed their own lunch (as many people prefer to do). Again, I feel I did a reasonable job of catering to individual planters' preferences, but apparently it wasn't good enough for Simon.

A side note here regarding Julia's comments: She was charged $14/night for a cabin at the ranch, and $16/night for a hotel room in town. She's vegan, so she decided to do her own cooking. The claim that she was charged $25/day is simply false. Also, I did not find out until later that she moved out of a hotel room (where she was staying with her partner) because she didn't like the room. Apparently she slept in her car for two nights. Perhaps the prudent thing to do would have been to approach me about her accommodations not meeting her expectations, and then we could have found a solution. Also, she was paid in full on May 17th, exactly one month from the first day she started working at Big Sky. Furthermore, any planter who needs accelerated payment can come and see me at any time to make arrangements. My track record in this regard is proven. She never approached me about this.

But back to the food. At each camp, it was all-you-can-eat healthy and delicious fare. No one was ever turned away hungry, and Yvonne and Sylvia's respective home cooking was top notch. And dinners at the ranch always came with a glass of wine filled right to the brim. There should be no complaining about the value of monies paid for food received, in my opinion.

Regarding vacation pay, company policy for the last 4-5 years has been to 'include it' in the tree price. Essentially (as an example) it's actually a $.144 tree, which makes it a $.15 tree with the 4% vacation pay. This is always explained, though Simon claims it wasn't to him. I find this suspect, however, because this is exactly how he was paid two years ago when he did the 3-day stint at Big Sky. Again, because he was making huge money then, he didn't seem to 'feel cheated'. As well, it should be noted that on top of this, Big Sky also pays a 4% bonus (unrelated to vacation pay) to all those who see a contract through to its completion. If you're there on the last day of the season, your total payroll is instantly 4% larger overall. As a small company with a decent record of returning platers (contrary to Simon's claims), this has simply been explained in crew meetings. In hindsight, maybe this hasn't been the ideal MO, as Simon's postings have brought to light. So in future years, all pertinent planting information (pay, vacation pay, camp, travel etc) will be handed out in written form prior to a season starting.

With tree-planting, some contracts are better than others. We completed three this past season, and the fact is that the top quarter of the overall crew (5 out of 20 planters) had an average wage of $439/pp/day over all contracts. Would I have been happier if this was a bit higher, as in some years past? Of course. But it's pretty competitive out there, and I make no apologies for paying these wages. I feel they are solid. People are also treated fairly, in my opinion, though some obviously beg to differ, as is their right. Management and foremen work massive hours in order to ensure all days out on the block are full days, so planter earning potential can be maximized. Were the long drives for two weeks a little painful? Yes, but it wasn't for the whole season, and there were lots of $.14-$.15 mounds and clean $.15-$.16 straight plant out there. People made money on those long-drive days. Did it meet Simon's expectations? No. Though I disagree with him, I can respect that. What I don't respect is some the inaccuracies he's currently purveying in a public forum.

I am aware that I am biased, of course, as I started this company twenty years ago, and I will defend it to the end. What I can confidently tell you is that the experience of planting at Big Sky for most people is not the one being portrayed here by two disgruntled employees.

I recognize there is always room for self-improvement, and Big Sky will be adopting some changes for 2017. If you're ever interested in coming to work for a small company that is not representative of the comments made by Simon (and to a lesser extent Julia), please feel free to give me a call anytime to talk about it. I can be reached at 250.683.8733. Also, I am happy to supply names and contact numbers of many planters who have worked at Big Sky over the years. I'll ask for your references, but am happy to provide you with company ones in return.

Have a great winter everyone (La Nina should be puking cold snow over BC the whole ski season), and happy planting in 2017.

Regards,

Jeff
Last edited by bigsky on Fri Oct 14, 2016 11:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by backcountrysister » Fri Oct 14, 2016 11:07 am

I agree 100% with Jeff Brown. Having worked the contract, it was worth my time. He is respectful, communication is clear (in my opinion), accommodation is above basic expectation.
I personally would return next year. So, if anyone wants the DL on Big Sky..feel free to contact me on this site . I'll back up everything Jeff has said. Thanks Jeff for your hard work. Had some great days with you and what a fun crew. Made some life long friends because of you..hope everyone gets some sweet pow turns in..see y'all in the spring!
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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by TasseTina » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:29 pm

Big Sky has treated me with the most respect I have ever felt in this industry.
I did not make $700/day, nor do I ever expect to.

The water was clean and up to standards, the cabins Simon was referring to as "lacking electricity or running water" were warm and dry, the washrooms had running water and were also warm and dry, there was PLENTY of delicious warm homemade food, everyday. Jeff asked us before the season started if we wanted a lunch option. I preferred to supply my own, but the option was available.

I have only had full days with Big Sky this season - the only half day was the very last, wrapping up the contract. Every effort was made to run things smoothly.

Foreman Scott and Jeff work really hard so that planters can focus on planting. And they are amazing at what they do.

I agree with backcountrysister - met some solid people, made money, was treated with more respect than at any other company.

Would definitely come back.

Andrea

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by backcountrysister » Fri Oct 14, 2016 9:21 pm

TasseTina wrote:Big Sky has treated me with the most respect I have ever felt in this industry.
I did not make $700/day, nor do I ever expect to.

The water was clean and up to standards, the cabins Simon was referring to as "lacking electricity or running water" were warm and dry, the washrooms had running water and were also warm and dry, there was PLENTY of delicious warm homemade food, everyday. Jeff asked us before the season started if we wanted a lunch option. I preferred to supply my own, but the option was available.

I have only had full days with Big Sky this season - the only half day was the very last, wrapping up the contract. Every effort was made to run things smoothly.

Foreman Scott and Jeff work really hard so that planters can focus on planting. And they are amazing at what they do.

I agree with backcountrysister - met some solid people, made money, was treated with more respect than at any other company.

Would definitely come back.

Andrea
Hey
I accidentally removed you from my FB when I removed a bunch of folks on there.non top of losing my phone info except 20 people on my Sim...would live to reconnect xoxo hopefully you guys had a great season !! Pm me !!
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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jules » Sat Oct 15, 2016 1:13 pm

bigsky wrote:
A side note here regarding Julia's comments: She was charged $14/night for a cabin at the ranch, and $16/night for a hotel room in town. She's vegan, so she decided to do her own cooking. The claim that she was charged $25/day is simply false. Also, I did not find out until later that she moved out of a hotel room (where she was staying with her partner) because she didn't like the room. Apparently she slept in her car for two nights. Perhaps the prudent thing to do would have been to approach me about her accommodations not meeting her expectations, and then we could have found a solution. Also, she was paid in full on May 17th, exactly one month from the first day she started working at Big Sky. Furthermore, any planter who needs accelerated payment can come and see me at any time to make arrangements. My track record in this regard is proven. She never approached me about this.
Huh, this is weird. I could have sworn I checked my pay stub before I posted, and the charge was $25, but upon looking again, it appears that Jeff's numbers are correct, and I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. However that increases the charge for the food for other people proportionately, so take that as you will.
Also, I slept in my car for one night, because that room was disgusting (such a variety of insect life! And filthy!) and we were only supposed to be there one more day anyway. You well knew I wasn't there for the second night, because I quit rather publicly.

Also, you were late paying me (my last day was the 29th), but I view that as a nonissue. The actual problem I have is with the financial risk you are asking your employees to take on by allowing you to hold onto their pay until the end of the season. You really need to get onto a regular pay schedule to comply with work standards legislation. You don't even have to read the boring old laws now, because they have it distilled into an easy-reading fact sheet.
Regarding vacation pay, company policy for the last 4-5 years has been to 'include it' in the tree price. Essentially (as an example) it's actually a $.144 tree, which makes it a $.15 tree with the 4% vacation pay.
That is... not legal. If you're going to represent that a tree price is $0.15, it's $0.15 plus 4% vacation pay. This is very clearly laid out in applicable literature.
This is always explained, though Simon claims it wasn't to him.


Honestly, it wasn't to me, either.

One other thing: if you're going to make deductions from people's pay, agreement needs to be in writing beforehand. You are not going to win if somebody calls you on this because it is shady as fuck. I'm not saying you didn't deliver on the unsigned-for deductions, but seriously, it's two minutes of paperwork to cover your ass.

Like I said before, it's too bad. I did have a great time in 2011. I still think Scott's a good dude. My time working there this past season was not very good and therefore I can't recommend it as a place to work anymore.

And backcountrysister, I'm hardly inexperienced. It's ironic that you are defending practises that lead to the problems you have had with other companies. I'd think you'd know better by now.
Last edited by jules on Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jdtesluk » Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:47 pm

Just a few notes here. This thread is getting awfully mucky, and bordering on personal, and there are clearly contrasting opinions about the situation.

Without making any reference to who is right or wrong, a few points stand out.

First, it's really important to ask your employer "all the right questions" at the very beginning of a job. This includes asking about vacation pay, camp costs, pay schedules all that. This is not to say in any way that non-compliance is okay as long as people agree to it....it's not...... But it is easier to sort things out in advance, rather than wait for them to become a problem later. If you're not comfortable with a situation, you should walk at the start. Really, this is a lesson we need to teach to rookies more often than vets, but clearly that is not always the case.

Second, I think most experienced workers understand there is a difference between a company shirking the regulations willfully as part of an intentional strategy to rip them off (i.e. Khaira). If a company is like this, it is very unlikely anyone on this board will speak up to defend them.
VS
A company that is not up to speed with their payroll systems, administrative details etc. but generally aims to treat people fairly and decent work. Sometimes, this is a big company/small company difference. Some companies have run the same way for decades without coming full up to speed, and have some things that need fixing. To be clear, I'm NOT suggesting non-compliance is okay for things like pay-schedules. However, as you may seek to iron something out with an employer, it will help your communication if you know what kind of case you are dealing with.

Third, again this is nothing to do with Big Sky, but an observation about a lot of jobs in that central interior area....it's helpful to have some perspective on what kinds of problems are products of the company, VS problems that are due to the licensees and local conditions. For example, flat-lining prices...I think we all know the industry has not maintained prices, and no company has been spared. The gap between the high end the low end has shrunken, and (inflation accounted for) the overall wage and price has come down. When we see widespread practices of dragging and seeding (leaving only sh#t gullies and rock to plant), that is a trend among foresters, and out of control of the contractors....but it comes back to kick the workers in the teeth. Long drives, in some cases, are part of changes in where the wood is coming from. If a company isn't set up for camps, this will inevitably lead to long days on the road.

Again, not taking sides or suggesting excuses. I'm merely suggesting that context is important when confronting your employer about things you're not happy with, and it's ALWAYS better to ask your questions up front.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jules » Sat Oct 15, 2016 4:21 pm

jdtesluk wrote: First, it's really important to ask your employer "all the right questions" at the very beginning of a job. This includes asking about vacation pay, camp costs, pay schedules all that. This is not to say in any way that non-compliance is okay as long as people agree to it....it's not...... But it is easier to sort things out in advance, rather than wait for them to become a problem later. If you're not comfortable with a situation, you should walk at the start. Really, this is a lesson we need to teach to rookies more often than vets, but clearly that is not always the case.
To be honest, I don't think it's too much to ask to expect someone who makes a bunch of money off of the labour of other people to know and adhere to the rules governing that relationship. I agree that planters need to keep companies accountable, which is part of the function of forums like this one.
Second, I think most experienced workers understand there is a difference between a company shirking the regulations willfully as part of an intentional strategy to rip them off (i.e. Khaira). If a company is like this, it is very unlikely anyone on this board will speak up to defend them.
VS
A company that is not up to speed with their payroll systems, administrative details etc. but generally aims to treat people fairly and decent work. Sometimes, this is a big company/small company difference. Some companies have run the same way for decades without coming full up to speed, and have some things that need fixing. To be clear, I'm NOT suggesting non-compliance is okay for things like pay-schedules. However, as you may seek to iron something out with an employer, it will help your communication if you know what kind of case you are dealing with.
The line between these two scenarios is razor thin. There have been beloved and long-running companies who run into money trouble or just decide that they don't have to pay their workers, and the current system is designed to try to protect workers from bearing the brunt of that.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jdtesluk » Sat Oct 15, 2016 5:13 pm

I'm not sure if you are seeking to respond, disagree, or agree.

At no point does this suggest that a worker is asking too much to demand compliance with regulations. I think my position on that is clear, and I agree with you fully in this regard.
As per your second statement, you are correct that good employers with good intentions have left workers holding the bag.

But the point here is not to defend practices, or provide excuses for contractors. The main point I was hoping to communicate is for workers to better understand the circumstances of their employment so they can have an informed conversation with their employers at the very start and avoid things getting ugly. I noted this thread was getting personal, and there is some passionate disagreement about the situation in question. Points about definitive regulatory issues were mixed with points based on sheer opinion. I humbly suggest that it is always best to ratchet the important stuff down at the very start- specifically the stuff about entitlements and regulations.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by retrovertigo » Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:37 pm

Wait did I read that right - 38$/day camp cost and it doesn't even include food? That's fucking brutal.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by Scooter » Sun Oct 16, 2016 2:54 pm

I just edited a couple of post titles so the thread title spells the name of the company correctly. Big Sky Reforestation.

This company is not a skiing outfitter. Nor it is about giant skis.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by carlahaywood » Sun Oct 16, 2016 9:36 pm

We all know that tree planting is hard work. This past spring I worked for Jeff Brown and Big Sky out of Quesnel. I just wanted to give a candid account of my own experience working for him. Lets get down to the point of what this is really all about: money. As independent workers free in an industry that has many companies to choose from, we are all naturally seeking out the best contracts and work environments to achieve our working goals both monetarily and competitively (numbers wise perhaps) each season. It took me a couple of shifts to learn the specs on Jeff’s contract so with that grace period included, I averaged $380/ day before camp costs. some days more some days less but that was my mean. I am a mid baller who maybe balls one day a season when the stars align. You can make your own judgements from the numbers there. The accommodations were awesome and average camp cost for the season was $28. My experience of the work environment was positive and met some people that I continue to pursue music with. I understood the atmosphere being those who wanted to work could work as they wished, the opportunity was provided to them, and those who did not, got taken back to camp. Personally I do not believe in creaming out a contract and leaving… ultimately I think that kind of behaviour contributes to low prices because those companies that are struggling to finish trees by bringing in other workers may need to pay a price that is out of their budget to those brought in from the outside. It hurts everyone, there isn’t a high without a low. find a company with people you respect, and an owner that you trust to bid fairly, and stick it out. The only thing making money for a planting company is a planter. if you find a group of good planters sticking together, that company will inevitably gain a good reputation in the industry that can be used as leverage in bidding scenarios. But this is just what I think and really, what do I know.. I’m just a planter after all.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by jules » Mon Oct 17, 2016 6:14 am

retrovertigo wrote:Wait did I read that right - 38$/day camp cost and it doesn't even include food? That's fucking brutal.
No, it was $14/day for accommodations, and apparently $24/day for food.
jdtesluk wrote:I'm not sure if you are seeking to respond, disagree, or agree.

At no point does this suggest that a worker is asking too much to demand compliance with regulations. I think my position on that is clear, and I agree with you fully in this regard.
As per your second statement, you are correct that good employers with good intentions have left workers holding the bag.

But the point here is not to defend practices, or provide excuses for contractors. The main point I was hoping to communicate is for workers to better understand the circumstances of their employment so they can have an informed conversation with their employers at the very start and avoid things getting ugly. I noted this thread was getting personal, and there is some passionate disagreement about the situation in question. Points about definitive regulatory issues were mixed with points based on sheer opinion. I humbly suggest that it is always best to ratchet the important stuff down at the very start- specifically the stuff about entitlements and regulations.
So, I disagree with you a little bit: if a company isn't following employment laws, it is totally on them. The laws aren't new, and it's not particularly hard to find out what the laws are. Not knowing payroll laws at this point is pretty willfully ignorant. I agree that employees need to know their rights and act on them, but there are definitely employers who mislead or get you way far down the garden path before they spring something on you. It's also super strange that we are in a position where we have to ask a potential employer, "Are you going to do illegal things to me?"

The reason why I worked here is because I had before, and it was great. I don't think any of the people in this thread, with the exception of sghyselincks, saw the land I was working on for the bulk of my time there. In my opinion it was way underbid, based on what I can usually put in at that price point and what other land was priced at in the same area.
A company having regulatory noncompliance issues is not the only reason to dislike working there and recommend people avoid them. I'm personally responsible for at least two other people being dragged through that shit contract, and I don't want it to happen to anybody else.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by jdtesluk » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:42 am

Jules, I disagree that we disagree :) We're looking at it from different positions, but I think you and I would agree on all key points.
Your points about responsibility are bang on, I certainly do not suggest that workers bear responsibility for employer's compliance, only that they can avoid trouble if they know what to demand and expect in the first place, and know how to start a conversation about it. Compliance is "totally on them" (employers), but someone has to know enough and take action to pin it there. I will repeat again that no excuses are made. I do suggest that issues of compliance should be distinguished from other issues, but I also concede that I am not vested in this conversation in any way (certainly not to the extent that you are), so I ultimately defer to your first-hand judgment about the right thing to do in this situation. I cannot, and will not pretend to, speak with the authority or insight of a worker that actually worked there.

However, in this specific forum, our primary audience and readership is indeed that of workers, and it is to them that I aim my point in the hope of encouraging workers to be informed and assertive. The main tools affecting contractor behaviour (outside of proactive state intervention) are [A] workers demands/actions prior to work beginning, and workers actions taken in response to non-compliance (i.e. filing with ESB). I was merely indicating that [A] is also important, and best achieved when good lines of communication are established.

You wrote "It's also super strange that we are in a position where we have to ask a potential employer, "Are you going to do illegal things to me?""

That's a somewhat profound point. It's part of a broader conversation that is deservedly pinned to it's own thread, and not just on Big Sky's lapels. In fact, I think that comment alone is one of the most telling and impactful things I have read here in a while. I may quote that at some point.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by sghyselincks » Sat Oct 22, 2016 2:00 pm

From the sounds of people's averages it sounds like things got a lot better in earning potential after I left. Unfortunately I have learned to not trust a contractor's promises of better land ahead. I still stand by the fact that I was making more money at Coast Range, Torrent, and Folklore working in Interior BC, working less hours per day with shorter drives, and... Employment Standards compliance. It is comparing apples and apples, not Big Sky and Wildwoods.

Who cares if I was making "great earnings" at Big Sky. What isn't conveyed is how ridiculously hard I work. To compare apples to oranges I was making $450 less per day than at Wildwoods last season. I would have been fine with 350 less because I am not deluded into thinking that I can make the same money as I used to at Wildwoods. I could make at least $600 a day at many contracts in BC, and that is what I expect for the amount of effort I put in. I also don't expect to be having to drive two hours each way to make less than that. The ex-Wildwoods planter arguement is old and tired, two of the employees who worked there the whole contract spent many years planting at Wildwoods.

I also still stand by the fact that my ESBC complaint was unnecessarily dragged on for months until literally the last hour when payment was forthcoming.

In the preseason email it said that there were some longer drives and the treeprice would reflect that. Well pricing a patchwork of mounded gullies two hours away lower than straightforward mounds 30 mins away is contrary to that statement. It is not my job to question in fine details these things, and as a worker I have the right to leave or heaven forbid, complain, when promises aren't being met. I also have a list of legal rights that protect me as a worker and I may also pursue action if these rights are broken.

It is nice to present a personal contact number for prospective employees, it is quite another thing to make oneself unavailable by phone for two months in order to delay payment to an employee who quit. You can get a sense of a person's true colors better by how they treat their enemies than their friends.

I wasn't the only one who quit either, there were four more planters with 10+ years experince who did as well. There is a chronic labor shortage at Big Sky and there are not many returning planters. In 2014 I was begged to cone and work there for just three days. I was offered a case of beer and gas money. The reason is that when I showed up there were only 5 planters left, the others had quit. One was a rookie, one was about to quit too. So if you need a job in 2017 and don't mind setting aside some basic labor rights, you know where to look.

It is easy and convenient to present me as some sort of cream baby and sweep the labor infractions I bring up under the carpet. I was told in a pre-season email tree prices on the long drive would be adjusted to reflect that. Well lowering them by one cent from when I was there in 2014 is hardly compensation. I was told after the fact that past year's treeprices have no bearing on the current year. Then the beautiful argument that past year treeprices had vac-pay included so I should have expected that. So it only counts when not in my favor? I guess I should have asked if I was going to be getting screwed before hand?

I put my own reputation on the line with an easily identifiable user name and with my personal name having been gleefully mentioned repeatedly in a post from the owner of Big Sky. This isn't some anonymous rant, it is a warning. It is the same warning I received from a personal friend who quit in 2014 that I didn't listen to, regrettably. It is the same warning I give to any prospective employee at Big Sky to do their their due diligence and to expect things to go bad if you decide to leave.
Last edited by sghyselincks on Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:39 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: BIG SKI SILVICULTURE

Post by sghyselincks » Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:55 pm

backcountrysister wrote:So many things that the 2 last posters wrote that are misleading and do not tell the entire story. I worked the entire contract. We were given the option of every 2 weeks for pay or to wait until the end of contract for full payment(as it was a 6 week contract & advances were given when asked) Water was from an aquafur spring which had been tested and potable.The water in the kitchen tap came from the same source as said creek. There were options for food & Jeff said he could provide lunches but since people have such a variable diet, it was easier & cheaper for people to provide their own lunches.
I would highly recommend working for Big Sky. Jeff Brown & Scott run a tight ship. Tophelmeyer was also running a truck and was a great foreman. I don't see the need to create drama or make exaggerated remarks. The prices were from 16 and up. Our first block was the worst and after that pretty decent. The 2 hr. drives lasted only a couple of shifts but worth it. We were on 3 and 1 shifts. On days off coffee and breakfast was provided. Only 2 cabins had no electricity out of the 4. All cabins had fully functional kitchens. Running on propane and although rustic, still beautiful and well kept. The shower/ bathroom cabin was fully functional. Heated, 2 toilets & very modern with WiFi and we could charge our electronic devices. There was also access to phone services.
I want to add this was only for the first 3 weeks. We moved to Silvia's on the Nazco hwy to finish the contract. We stayed in Atco trailers with our own rooms and all meals provided by Silvia's - fully catered including lunch.
I received all my pay and I found Big Sky to be a professionally run company and would return as a planter.
Having been a vet for over 2 decades, I could understand how inexperienced planters could misinterpreted information provided in the hire sheet and during crew tail gate meetings.
I was never offered a 2 week pay scheme. Ten years of planting experience doesn't qualify as inexperienced in my books. You discredit yourself saying prices were 16 and up. Just to properly discredit I am posting my original pay stub for all to see the 14 cent trees. Also as I mentioned earlier tree prices were lower than what I was told they would be. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... =drive_web

Notice the absurd 9 hours per day given for hours. This is complete noncompliance with labour laws. Notice the lack of vaction pay. I don't think I have exaggerated in the slightest.

I also don't know what an aquafur is, but drawing unfiltered water from an open well is not potable, end of story. As mentioned earlier there is no control over contaminants entering the water. Here's pictures as proof below. We were told to scoop water out from infront of the culvert, it was unfiltered. Unless somebody wants to present new evidence, I stand strongly by my arguments.
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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by shellagh » Tue Nov 08, 2016 4:12 am

Hello m'y nameis Patrick Robidoux il work for Jeff 6 year straight and is for sure the more fair boss il ever have if you tink the conditions suck whit im you should try working in Québec
Il alway try tout make us make à lot of money
Il got 1 short day whit im in 6 year
Il work from all is location (fish pot Was not à palace)but the ranch were Simon complainte Was à 5 star Common is trèe planting
Il
Overall is just too bad People try to bitche the compagnie for me is the only one whorting the work for

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by backcountrysister » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:59 am

Since I have been personally attacked here, Im gonna give it straight.
In my 20 plus years as a planter , I have fought hard for planter rights so that the rest our community didn't have to go through what we did in the early 90's and for some other 80's. However, had I known having these past companies be held accountable for their lack of safety and following labour laws would create this sense of entitlement among this new generation of planters. I would never have posted about my experience as a warning.
Jules: I knew you for 2 days, that disregard of professionalism was appalling including lack of communication with a poor attitude. By walking off the block on a shift because you didn't like your piece is brutal. I would consider this as an example of inexperience. also, not informing your foreman of your apparent ignorance for personal safety and protocol is what you seem to have forgot in your rant. I have others that can confirm the actions which I am referencing. You signed the contract which states that you should be following guidelines and protocol. That being said, I do wish you well, I hope you find a company that you can fit into. You don't like being called out however, being an adult calls for accountability - which you have asked Big Sky & Jeff to do on this review.
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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by leaner » Fri Nov 18, 2016 4:10 am

Also, she was paid in full on May 17th, exactly one month from the first day she started working at Big Sky. Furthermore, any planter who needs accelerated payment can come and see me at any time to make arrangements.
Jeff you are breaking the law. A company can pay every two weeks or twice each month which is the 15th and 31st. Full pay cheques not advances have to be issued within eight days of the end of the pay period. Even on a sixteen day pay period for twice per month pay you need to pay no later than 24 days after the start of the pay period so you're admitting you weren't pay according to the proper labor board standards.

You can't pay on time only to planters who ask for it. Accellerated payment is bullshit. There is no such thing as accellerated payment. There is on time payment or late payment and nothing else.

You think you aren't breaking the law because you will pay people faster if they ask. That is like saying 'I always drive at 80 miles an hour but if someone asks me to drive the speed limit I CAN. So I'm not really breaking the law'. You have to do it not just say that you can 'make arrangements'.

You are proud of your company but you should not be proud of this. Treeplanters want to get paid every two weeks like most other companies do. We have to pay bills and rent. We shouldn't have to come ask you for money that you owe us on time by law. If the rookie mills can do it on time every time with hundreds of employees you have to be able to do it with a small group. This is your responsibility for running a company. You can't say that you're a small company and a great company and you care about your planters then pretend its an excuse for breaking the labor laws.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by jules » Fri Nov 18, 2016 9:28 pm

backcountrysister wrote:Since I have been personally attacked here, Im gonna give it straight.
In my 20 plus years as a planter , I have fought hard for planter rights so that the rest our community didn't have to go through what we did in the early 90's and for some other 80's. However, had I known having these past companies be held accountable for their lack of safety and following labour laws would create this sense of entitlement among this new generation of planters. I would never have posted about my experience as a warning.
So you're saying that it's a bad thing to want what we're guaranteed by law? And this is a forum for talking about what it's like working for various companies; is nobody allowed to post something that's not 100% positive? Or does that just pertain to people with whom you disagree?
Jules: I knew you for 2 days, that disregard of professionalism was appalling including lack of communication with a poor attitude. By walking off the block on a shift because you didn't like your piece is brutal. I would consider this as an example of inexperience. also, not informing your foreman of your apparent ignorance for personal safety and protocol is what you seem to have forgot in your rant. I have others that can confirm the actions which I am referencing. You signed the contract which states that you should be following guidelines and protocol. That being said, I do wish you well, I hope you find a company that you can fit into. You don't like being called out however, being an adult calls for accountability - which you have asked Big Sky & Jeff to do on this review.
You knew me for two days, and I think I we spoke once, for about two minutes (not counting when you decided to talk at me). So you know a bunch of conjecture, maybe some gossip, and stuff you just made up. What protocol contract did we sign? Am I not allowed to quit a job if I want to? How did you get all this special insight into my thoughts and life if we didn't really talk? I really don't see why you feel justified in pillorying me for doing something that isn't illegal and wasn't morally wrong when we are talking about people having experiences with this company allegedly doing things that are illegal.

I get that you're mad and don't have any good arguments against Simon's points, but jeez. Attempted character assassination is off topic, and a distraction.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by backcountrysister » Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:01 am

I just would rather not even start with Simon. You sending me a pm with more diatribe and gaslightin. Like I said, I knew you for 2 days. I wish you the best. Sending some bs and self righteous stuff about your personal opinion about how things are. Professionally speaking, you never leave a block without informing your foreman. You were offered a ride home by the owner. You took it upon yourself to walk off the block. You are the companies responsibility for safety sake. You get a ride to and from work. When you take it upon yourself to leave you put you and the crew at risk. Not to mention it's sketchy to hitchhike back to Quesnel. You talk a big game but really just another big ego with a keyboard.
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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by jules » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:14 am

backcountrysister wrote:I just would rather not even start with Simon. You sending me a pm with more diatribe and gaslightin. Like I said, I knew you for 2 days. I wish you the best. Sending some bs and self righteous stuff about your personal opinion about how things are. Professionally speaking, you never leave a block without informing your foreman. You were offered a ride home by the owner. You took it upon yourself to walk off the block. You are the companies responsibility for safety sake. You get a ride to and from work. When you take it upon yourself to leave you put you and the crew at risk. Not to mention it's sketchy to hitchhike back to Quesnel. You talk a big game but really just another big ego with a keyboard.
This is ridiculous. We're done.

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Re: Big Sky Silviculture

Post by Scooter » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:17 am

I'm just going to lock this thread for a year. Things have been civil, but I don't want them to get out of hand. Let's see what the 2017 season brings.

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