Forestry in South Africa
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September : PG Bison: Providing job creation and economic stimulus where it is most needed

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3 September, 2015

PG Bison: Providing job creation and economic stimulus where it is most needed

The recent protest action in Ugie in the Eastern Cape by members of the local community again highlighted the need for job creation and economic stimulus in the poor rural parts of South Africa.

In reaction to the protests, CEO of PG Bison, Gerhard Victor, says it is important to note that this protest action was not supported by the employees of PG Bison and that no employees of the company took part. ‘' It is our understanding that the protest action was conducted by members of the Ugie community and relates largely to the lack of job creation, service delivery and infrastructure development in the area.

‘'Although the company has sympathy with many of the complaints of the community at large, these cannot be resolved by the company. However, as a significant employer in the area, PG Bison is committed to working within the formal structures to assist in resolving the situation. Unfortunately the protests have resulted in damage of company assets and intimidation of our workforce and their families, including children. These actions are strongly condemned by PG Bison,'' says Victor.

He says within only nine years PG Bison, South Africa's leading diversified timber company, has created over 5000 jobs and injected more than a billion Rand into the Eastern Cape economy through salaries paid to employees and contractors in Ugie. The 1 000 m3 particle board plant was opened in Ugie in the North-Eastern pine forest plantations of the Eastern Cape in 2008 at a construction cost of R1.3 billion.

The company also recently announced investments of R600 million in Piet Retief, another rural investment initiative. "It was a breakthrough for the South African industry when we first opened the plant in Ugie, because we brought products crafted to international standards within reach of ordinary South Africans,'' he says.

The employment figures
PG Bison directly employs 409 people in Ugie. There are a further 2400 employment opportunities in industries directly linked to PG Bison. The majority of these people are employed from people in the area.

Finally, research conducted by the Eastern Cape Development Agency in 2012 indicates that a staggering 2561 addition jobs have been indirectly created. These are people employed by service providers - e.g. grocery and clothing stores - outside the timber industry, which survive through the spending of salaries earned within the industry.

Investing in training
Through the company's bursary scheme, R1.1 million was invested in the education of eight employees. In many cases this has proved to be a golden ladder from being an ordinary employee at a plantation, to being a fully qualified forester.

The company's training centre supports its bursary programme. It is accredited with government's FP&M Seta for Level 1 training within the National Qualifications Framework. The centre offers a General Education and Training Certificate in General Forestry, including Basic Chainsaw and Brush Cutting.

The busiest year on record was 2012-2013 when 868 learners qualified.

Direct community involvement

The company has made significant social investments since the Ugie plant opened its doors.

It runs a continuous initiative where four local schools are assisted to build infrastructure like classrooms and ablution facilities, to provide text books and create strategic development frameworks within school management.

Teachers are also developed as part of the Infundo Schools Programme. PG Bison is working with E.T. Thabane, Sibabalwe, Ugie High, Chebenca Farm School and Umthawelanga to improve the quality of Maths, Science, English and Accounting.

"Our latest achievement is the placement of 18 young, mostly previously unemployed adults into teaching assistant and learner support positions in 14 schools, since July this year.

"With the assistance of the district education authorities, many of these young adults have received access to the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme to study full time towards a variety of degrees. It is still possible to be born into a poor rural area, only to rise to the fullness of one's potential," says Victor.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Pieter Bruwer on 082-7766-863.