A&M Reforestation

November 2, 2006 § 23 Comments

This has been a terrible week. From start to finish. And I’m not thinking at a high level so I don’t want to see what happens when I elaborate. Let’s just say that all of my efforts to resuscitate it were met with all the success of the Challenger mission. The efforts, of course, would be the shuttle and its launch rockets, while I would be the horrified onlookers, elation deflated with the explosion in the air.

But the icing on the cake was a letter that I just received from A&M Reforestation. Before today, one of this week’s few highlights was that I managed to wrangle not only a reply but some sort of (I thought) payment out of the company that I spent two and a half 60-hour weeks planting trees for. Of course I was wrong. The only thing even remotely promising now is the sheer illegality of their response.

Not only did they fail to make good on a contract they drafted, based upon the laws of this province, and not “reward” my time with at least minimum wage, they felt the need to funnel the rest of my money away with some kind of dubious “equipment rental fee”. Dubious because we asked Paul, the owner, what this was going to be the day we had to leave and he responded, somewhat shiftily, with “I haven’t decided yet”. Well good news! It turns out to be EXACTLY what they would’ve owed me! $171.80! I’m so glad that I left when I did, because if I had planted a box less of trees that envelope would have held a bill.

I love how a quick search of the internet reveals that the price for this equipment (a bag and a shovel) comes to be almost exactly as much as I paid for what amounted to two-weeks of rental. And wherever they bought them, they bought them wholesale. I also like how this fee doesn’t include the $100 equipment deposit which was just swallowed up indiscriminately. And I know we didn’t buy them because we tried to take them home and they wouldn’t let us.

I don’t know if I should fight it. They for sure owe me what they didn’t account for. But that might be it. I think there’s something in the contract about setting the price for the rentals at a later date, but I’m not sure how legal that is. I have a feeling that even if it is the deposit can be knocked off the rental fee because they didn’t account for that either. Or give it back.

My favourite part of this whole thing is that I don’t think it’s an isolated incident. The sense I got from their Sudbury office was that they weren’t even planning on sending even this explanation, to save on postage. They made up some lame story about thinking that I lived in Dundas, which doesn’t make any sense. I gave them no address but my Toronto and Caledon ones, on countless forms which they must have somewhere. I’m surprised they didn’t consult them, instead deciding to, you know, make it up.

In camp a lot of people didn’t think they were getting (or entitled to) anything if they quit, which was ridiculous because not only is that illegal, it’s not what the contract said. A lot of people didn’t read it, and those that did misinterpreted it. But I think they were nudged into believing something other than the truth through the staff at A&M, I remember being told similar things when I first expressed the desire to quit. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I don’t want to. I just think that it’s fair to say that their business model is cynical and dishonest, and that they must be used to people not calling them on it.

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§ 23 Responses to A&M Reforestation

  • Adeel says:

    There isn’t anything positive at all about this gig, is there?

  • only absolutely says:

    Adeel: The camp was fun? Cold showers were interesting? I liked sleeping in a tent?

  • only absolutely says:

    Mike S: Sorry, I deleted that by accident. Sure, I couldn’t hack it. That’s true, and why I left.

    But that doesn’t mean I have to like their business model. They sign on so many planters for a reason. Because they know they need a large sample to whittle down to their planting group. The fact that it costs them nothing is a bonus– and you have to admit, more than a little shady. It costs hundreds of dollars to get there, and that is something that I should have looked at more carefully. What little money they owe me, which might have made up for some of this, they don’t seem to want to pay. But just because it’s partially my fault that I got burned doesn’t absolve them from all responsibility.

    I’m sure they’re great if you stay– when you’re making Paul hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions?) by working yourself to death, of course they’d be appreciative.

  • Mike says:

    I will give you that it does seem a little shady if you dont see the full picture. Paul really doesnt make a ton of money by any means. I know Paul pretty good, been to his house a few times in Sudbury, nice place, not a mansion or anything like that by any means. Dont get me wrong he probaly clears anywhere from $60’000-80’000 from a planting season. He can be hard to get a strait answer from thats for sure. The one thing a planter never hears their 1st year before going is that planting is really a 2 year investment. Most of the 1st year you learn how to plant and the ins and outs of planting. Whos camp were you in anyway?

  • only absolutely says:

    For some reason I heard the whole contract was worth something like 6 million, and he came away with 600,000 every summer? But those numbers are suspicious because I picked them up in camp and there’s probably a good chance that they aren’t true.

    Planting does seem like something you have to really commit to, if you want to make anything.

    And I was in the Manitouwadge camp.

  • paorta says:

    [Redacted—this is explained in better detail below, with less biased language.]

  • A&M Staff since 2005 says:

    To set the record straight here, A&M is now under new management and the upcoming 2012 season will not be as “dishonest” or however you put it. A rookie planter will find it hard to get a job working out west and that is why Ontario companies hire so many rookie planters – only a few will turn into good planters and some people just can’t survive the season and quit. When you are hired much of this is explained to you – I don’t know your specific situation but I was in your camp in Manitouwadge in 2006 and have a good idea of who you are. This thread is unfortunate as the new management won’t appreciate the company name being bashed on the world wide web but hopefully people take your harsh comments with a grain of salt realizing that you quit. You signed a contract and quit before you completed it. This is probably why you didnt get a deposit back or had to pay for renting equipment. It is expensive to keep someone at camp planting very few trees each day and taking time from the staff to train them and watch over them.

    If you had any idea what actually happened with Aju I highly doubt you would bring it up. Investigations on a missing person is not done in a suspicious way. You can imagine that his parents made sure of this. It was a tragedy, not fuel for your anger. Since you posted this in November of 2006 when you would have clearly left the camp in May shows that you spent several months thinking about how embarrassing it is that you could not handle it and therefore you must have been treated poorly. A lot of people handle it, love it and make money doing it. It’s not for everyone, move on.

  • paorta says:

    It’s good to know that A&M Reforestation is under new management.

    This post was not motivated by anger, only disappointment. Unlike most of the planters, I read the contract, and it explicitly stated that if money from planting did not meet minimum wage, then minimum wage would be offered as compensation. I assume—but don’t know, because I haven’t looked it up—that this is in line with Ontario labour laws. A different impression was given in camp, and obviously A&M chose to operate in a way that did not respect that contract. I can think of no reason as to why I would not be sent documents related to my employment immediately after the season except, perhaps, for guilt. I can think of no reason why I would be told my documents were sent to Dundas (I doubt they were actually sent to Dundas), except for guilt, desire to save on postage, and maybe the hope that I wouldn’t say anything.

    I understand tree planting is hard, and that I could not “hack it”. But I do believe that A&M did take advantage of its employees, by not providing them with the compensation they deserved and by, perhaps, misleading them about the situation. I find your insinuation that my opinions changed between May and November offensive, especially when this post was a direct response to something that happened in November. I could have written more. I don’t regret tree planting, I just think it operates with a cynical business model without adequate protection for employees who don’t make it (and there are obviously a lot of those at A&M). I admit that I should have done more research.

    I don’t believe your explanation regarding the “rental” money is adequate, and I don’t think those were the terms outlined in the contract.

    It was clear that A&M cut corners when I worked there. For instance, not enough water was provided for washing, and I believe this situation was only remedied after an inspector forced A&M to fix it. For at least a week the same dirty basin of water (without soap—it had run out) was kept in front of the outhouses; it was no surprise, especially with the number of cuts on people’s hands, that most of the camp seemed to contract the Norwalk virus during this time (although not me, because once I realized what was happening I found other ways to clean my hands).

    Maybe I wouldn’t speak about the Aju situation if I knew more about it, but details of the case seem suspicious. I was personally interviewed by a police officer from Niagara in the first months of 2008, well after Aju’s disappearance and only months before the case was about to officially close. It was my impression—from the officer—that all interviews with A&M’s employees were being conducted at this time (except, perhaps, for those who had an immediate relationship with the case). That seems bizarre. Obviously there was a lot of gossip in the camp about the situation, and that has probably coloured my opinions, but I can’t understand why the investigation would take that long to begin their interviews.

    I doubt you have some idea who I am, but if you do, okay, I don’t see why that makes a difference.

  • A&M Staff since 2005 says:

    I’m not looking to battle and this will be my last post. I’m sorry you feel this way, I’m sorry that you had to post it online. It’s not really fair to the company as a whole and especially the new managers.

    Rumours around camp have most definitely affected your opinion on the Aju situation and I’m sorry you didn’t have enough water to wash your hands. Within the last few years we are now required to have hand sanitzer in various areas around camp, as well as a certain number of basins per planter to wash their hands at meals. Rules are always followed and yes audits help us to make changes and make camp better.

    Norwalk was unfortunate and was contracted from a town we stayed in, this was also investigated and had nothing to do with cleanliness in camp – we have audits for this type of thing.

    Labour laws in the last few years have changed but planting in general is a special work situation – we have to pay minimum wage based on a certain amount of hours worked – usually when people quit early, their equipment, camp costs and an advance (if they took one) often makes up for the little amount of trees they planted and therefore minimum wage for the number of hours they ‘worked’.

    Laws are changing now and we are required to pay for transportation time, vacation pay etc, etc. But 2006 was different – I assure you what happened to you was not illegal and you should be happy you didn’t get a bill for quitting on your contract.

    Research is key. Have a good one.

  • A&M Staff since 2005 says:

    “Their business model still sucks, though. They scam about 70% of the people who sign up to work for them. Think about that if you’re planning on trying out tree planting, or look at other companies—A&M is one of the worst companies to work for.”

    Have you worked for another planting company to back this up?
    And if by ‘scam’ you mean phone interview you after you applied without researching and give you all the necessary information/tools/training to become a great planter? Then yes, I guess we do.

    That’s all!

  • paorta says:

    “Norwalk was unfortunate and was contracted from a town we stayed in, this was also investigated and had nothing to do with cleanliness in camp – we have audits for this type of thing.”

    In that case I think your audit missed something. Or maybe the water was changed before the audit? Regardless of where Norwalk was initially contracted, an unclean outhouse washbasin seems an obvious place for it to spread, no?

    “Have you worked for another planting company to back this up?”

    No, I haven’t. But obviously there were problems with the business model, otherwise it seems unlikely labour laws for tree planting would have changed so drastically. It is extremely cynical that I ended up paying roughly $270 for the “rental” of equipment that cost 1/3 as much to buy. I don’t think I should have to feel “lucky” that I wasn’t billed by A&M when I paid my own way to get there, go home, and $100 above camp costs for the privilege to plant in adverse conditions for three weeks. Because the laws were different does not justify the company’s actions morally: that’s a separate matter.

    I thought tree-planting would be something I could do, but it turned out that it wasn’t. I don’t know if any amount of research would have told me otherwise, though I might have been better prepared. I do feel the company was partially responsible, because they were the only ones who could really know the conditions, and because they hire many more workers than they need specifically because they know most will leave. That seems dishonest, though I understand that it might be necessary.

    Look, I understand you have a duty to represent the company you work for, and that your experience may be different. But I feel obligated to share my experience, and this is what happened.

  • paorta says:

    Happened on all of my documents earlier this week.

    For posterity, the line in the contract that was (conveniently) ignored:

    “(a) in any event the total compensation to each EMPLOYEE for each day worked shall not be less than the Ontario Minimum Wage;”

    My compensation was drastically lower than the Ontario minimum wage, even before it was arbitrarily reduced to nothing. Dishonest to claim they operated otherwise, or that they had the force of law (they merely had force).

    Happily ready to meet any A&M employee who would like to debate me on the terms of the contract.

  • Veteran says:

    “[Redacted—this is explained in better detail below, with less biased language.]”

    Maybe instead of only deleting certain posts you should just delete this thread? I see you had a bad experience – a lot of first year planters do. That’s why planting is one of the top 3 hardest jobs in Canada (it’s up there with Oil Rigs and Crab Fishing).

    A lot of planters that quit within the first 2-3 shifts usually plant very few trees and make little to no money for the company as a whole. In fact the time and effort spent dealing with rookies that quit early is greater than the amount of effort the rookie spent on attempting to be a good planter. I’m not speaking for A&M in particular. I haven’t planted there – but I am saying that from the company perspective when they hire a rookie they provide them with a lot of training to be a good planter. Not to mention the trees a rookie plants are not usualy 100% quality and if you quit during the first couple of shifts a foreman will most likely have to go back and fix some of your trees. Something they don’t really have time to be doing.

    It sounds like you left with a buddy of yours – maybe there was a group of you that all bailed together. Maybe you insisted you get driven in to town half way through the work week which was entirely inconvenient for the cook/supervisor that had to do it. Maybe they had to fill out a shit load of paperwork because you bailed early and they needed to make sure you get home safely. You don’t get a deposit back when you quit. Simple.

    Maybe if you had done more research you would have decided against planting but you didn’t, you made a made judgement call and it didn’t work out.

    Maybe you had the attitude of a 13 year old princess and expected to be babysat with your hand held.. who knows. But that would explain anyone “making you feel like shit” or blowing you off.

    I hope blogging helped you figure it out – if you actually had a legal case you should have taken it to the ministry of labour. Maybe they would have been forced to pay you that $200 bucks that they maybe owed you… but probably not because the number of hours worked per planter in 2006 was based on the number of trees they planted. Meaning if you planted 200 trees one day, and an average planter planted 1500 trees a day, you wouldn’t qualify for a 10 hour day. You would probably qualify for 3 or 4 hours which would just pay for your camp costs – hence why most planters that quit that early in 2006 got a cheque for nothing. (and some probably did get a bill so lucky you!)

    2012 laws are a lot better – planters are paid minimum wage for full days including transportation time. they also receive vacation pay.

    Although this means that anyone not planting 1000 trees a day by the beginning of the second shift will probably be fired before they cost the company money. Makes sense.

    Well theres my rant – and while you delete my message, you might as well delete this whole blog and not bash the company name – its been 6 years. A lot of shit has changed anyways.

  • paorta says:

    Hey Veteran,

    I think that’s a good response. I would not delete it. Even though you make a lot of judgements of me (or implicit judgements) that I don’t think are fair: obviously you have no information about my character or whatever (except that I quit and wasn’t paid).

    Don’t think I acted like a princess. Didn’t. Loved being out there, loved the camp, the hardships, &c. Always helped unload boxes of trees when I could, even when I knew I was going to quit. Just could not “do it”. Completely a mental thing. Planted 1000 trees maybe 1 or 2 times in three weeks. Not great. But the trees I planted were good, they didn’t need a foreman. Was asked once to help another planter who planted quickly, but badly. Should have realized that I should not have been asked to do that. I just did it, then noticed that I wasn’t going to get a lot of planting done that way. Seemed backwards, seems backwards. That’s a full day of work even though I probably didn’t plant a lot of trees that day. This was about a week before I quit. Seems like it would be more honest if they had just fired me (if that’s why I was asked to do that—otherwise, awful management). Glad that the industry works that way now.

    Not sure how many I planted a day. But I must have made the company money, since by their calculations they owed me $179 before they decided to creatively deny that. Should have taken it up with the Ministry, but didn’t. I assume others did! Which is why things changed. Shady way to do business, esp. since they’re largely taking advantage of young people (everyone who pays their own way to go up and come back, in an industry that expects 50-60%—or more?—of its employees to quit, is being taken advantage of). Basically immoral, I feel, though it seems better now.

    It’s been six years, that’s true, but I don’t feel like this post lies, and it is something that happened. There’s a lot of back and forth in the comments, there’s a date on it, and I don’t feel the need to apologize. A&M has a responsibility, too, to own up to what happened, regardless of how long ago that was.

  • paorta says:

    From this article:

    “Since the incident, A&M Reforestation has instituted a policy in which anyone who quits or otherwise leaves midway through their contract signs a “safe leaving form” indicating they have been dropped off at a secure site. However, Thususka noted such a form “would have had no consequence whatsoever” in Iroaga’s case, as he did not wait for a ride out.”

    Is this common practice? Or are you in some way associated with A&M? Anyway, the safe leaving forms weren’t instituted when I quit.

    Oh—wait a second. I just looked it up. Your name is J— ———, and you did (or do) work for A&M Reforestation. [edit: removed link because it contains personal identification] (Um, I can see what e-mail you sign your post with.)

    No guts!

    Guys. Guys. This is getting sad. You do know that the more this page is “updated” (with comments and etc), the longer this page will continue to be “relevant” in Google searches?

  • paorta says:

    I mean, honestly, if I were a prospective planter I would look at these comments and start to question whether I’d want to work for a company so determined 1) to deny the truth, and 2) to use underhanded methods (character attacks, etc) to try and coerce others into denying the truth.

    I still have all my forms! I feel pretty confident that I can back up what I’m saying. But you guys are like slithery snakes.

  • J says:

    Wow – didn’t expect this to happen.

    This is J—, I worked for A&M for many years. I did not write the above post. Someone I know wrote it and asked for some information from me to back them up – I allowed them to put my email to receive any updates as I continuously monitor all posts about the company to improve the way we handle situations and to make sure we deal with any issues people post online. I apologize for your bad experience but it was many years ago and the company is under new management and A LOT of things have changed (in the industry as a whole).

    I should have considered the fact that my name is in my email and you would search it and then post my full name on this blog. Pretty low.
    The email listed does not mean that is the person that posted it – it is easy to type in an email.

    Either way, I am not legally affiliated with A&M and neither is the person above. I do not ‘work’ for A&M as I am now a Human Resources Coordinator at a large Environmental Sciences Facility (and labour laws are sort of my thing). I simply am passionate about the company and the cause – not enough to argue your situation online. I wanted to keep updates of the comments made as some are simply over exaggerations and not true.

    I don’t think that this blog will have any effect on future planters/hires. Those who want to plant with a good company in Ontario as a rookie will have to experience it for themselves – planting is not easy = some people do not enjoy it as much as they had planned and they leave early. If you did not get paid properly you should have called the Ministry of Labour and any mistake or mistreatment in your situation would have been dealt with – now in 2012 the labour laws are VERY different and more money can be made in planting as a rookie planter.

    I regret allowing someone to involve me in this but I do not disagree with some of the comments they made.

    Any planters that are new to industry visit our website or type us in on google, I assure you the other searches listed are more realistic and appropriate, and truthful, than this blog.

    Good luck in your future endeavours.

  • paorta says:

    You aren’t affiliated with A&M, and yet you use “we”, as if you are:

    “I allowed them to put my email to receive any updates as I continuously monitor all posts about the company to improve the way we handle situations and to make sure we deal with any issues people post online.”

    What is that except an affiliation? You seem to have some role with the company (certainly the above seems consistent with the Facebook group I indicated). Why should I (or anyone) believe you when it’s clear that you just won’t tell the truth?

    Frankly, this situation is just bizarre. There is no sense in trying to descry truth from my interactions with your company. I have no idea why my six year old blog post even warrants this much attention. The main thing about this post is that, as far as I know, and especially as it pertains to my personal situation, it contains no lies. Weird that an outsider would have an opinion or understanding of how I misrepresented things? Oh, I don’t even care anymore.

    I would like to say one thing, however. Going to the Ministry of Labour I doubt is as easy a process as you all make it out to be. I should have—I really probably should have—but at the time it seemed unlikely that uncertain prospect of ~$200 from a company that was probably better equipped to fight the charge than I was was worth my time. The power relationship—which none of you seem to understand—is/was balanced in A&M’s favour (as it usually is with employers and non-union employees). But I should have.

    Finally, I can delete your name, if you’d like. I didn’t really consider the ramifications of that, since you signed your post (or allowed it to be signed) with an e-mail that contained your full name, and since the publicly searchable Facebook group that I pointed out contains your full name and e-mail. But I guess no one likes to get caught…

  • paorta says:

    The fact that instead of an e-mail (I have one, it’s in the “About” section, pretty accessible) I’m receiving public comments seems to indicate that this discussion is meant to be “public”—in other words, not for my benefit, but for the “benefit” of the company’s public image.

    Anyway. I’m tired of this. Closing this thread now.

  • howsthatsong says:

    a & m it’s the absolute worst company you can work for . they pride themselves on ripping planters off and stealing all of their hard earned money . The management at A&M is a joke and they take advantage of everyone they can who doesn’t know any better about the planting world . I feel bad that people actually still work for this company if I could I would tell the world what terrible people there but unfortunately their company seems to keep ripping planters off . Paul is a fucking jerk off and is a master manipulator . i’m sorry you have this experience and dealt with such a terrible company .

  • howsthatsong says:

    I also worked for A&M and I hacked it for the entire season and got a check for $80 at the end because they are fucking scam artists!

  • howsthatsong says:

    A&M is a fucking joke they treat their planters like shit they feed them next to nothing and they have no consideration for anyone but themselves and management is a fucking joke and nearly 90% of the veterans all stash trees . I worked for another treeplanting for two weeks and made about $3000 more than I did in my entire summer at a&m. I wish there was a way to tell every single rookie planter to never go to this company !

  • paorta says:

    Just a note: in their 2012 comments above, the guys at A&M said that it was under new management, but Paul, mentioned in howsthatsong’s comments from 2012, was the owner when I was there.

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