The war in Ukraine affects many forestry contractors, who have not been able to hire enough staff. Åke Backman in Älvsbyn has only got hold of a fraction of his staff, but some could be solved thanks to the fact that he hired women who fled the war in Ukraine. ”I have seven women from Ukraine who work for me and then I let a few more women with young children live in my houses, which are still empty because of the staff shortage,” says Åke.
In a typical year, forestry contractor Åke Backman, who runs Artic Skogstjänst AB in Älvsbyn, has about 80 seasonal employees who work with planting and clearing. Most of the employees are usually men from Ukraine. But this year, nothing is the same. The war in Ukraine has caused most of the men to stay in Ukraine to participate in the country's defense.
”Most of the men are stuck in Ukraine, so this year I only have about 30 seasonal employees in total. That makes it tough to get all the work to be done, and I don't know yet if I can keep my three full-time employees. But it is of course not possible to compare with what is happening in Ukraine,” says Åke.
To solve some of the staff shortages, Åke has hired several women who have fled Ukraine.
"Several of the women had contacts here, so that's why they came to Älvsbyn. There are probably around ten women who have tried to plant since the season began, but since it is a tough job, not everyone wants to stay. Now I have seven left who plant full-time five days a week and they do a great job,” says Åke, and adds:
”This year it is extra tough to work in the forest. It is actually the worst season I've been through in terms of gnats and mosquitoes. It is due to the cold spring and the hot and humid beginning of summer.”
Åke has worked with forest management for over 20 years and works on behalf of forest companies SCA and Sveaskog. This year, Åke and his staff will plant about half a million plants for SCA. The reason why he has had many seasonal employees from Ukraine for several years is due to chance.
”It started with a Ukrainian guy who wanted to try planting, and then it has grown. Now I have three full-time supervisors who are from Ukraine, and it is largely thanks to them that I have got hold of staff over the years. But this year, only a few men from Ukraine have been allowed to come here and they work mainly with clearing. I have not had that many women employed before as I have this year,“ says Åke
Since it is not easy to get hold of housing in Älvsbyn, Åke has his own properties that the employees can live in.
”The people who work for me pay a lower rent. But then I also let some women with young children live in my houses for free. They cannot work when they have children to take care of and some of my houses are still empty, so it feels good to be able to help,” says Åke.
Photo: Michael Engman