CONTRACTORS will face a 10-week wait for payment under new terms from one of the UK's largest forestry groups – a decision that's been branded "cruel" by industry leaders. 

Tilhill has confirmed it will bring its system in line with that of parent company BSW Group from August, meaning invoices filed on the first of that month won't be paid until October 5. Currently, contractors are paid on a fortnightly, self-billing basis. 

Coming at a time of rising costs, the move has been criticised by the Forestry Contracting Association (FCA), with officials saying it "effectively sticks two fingers up" at workers. 

READ MORE: Experienced contractors could be pushed out by fuel crisis, warns FCA chair

But Tilhill has defended the change, arguing that its "payment system remains one of the most reliable and stable in the forest industry". 

An FCA spokesperson said: "We are being told by some members who contract for Tilhill that they just can't see how they can carry on, the change couldn't really come at a worse time.

"This industry has been and is now addicted to low contracting rates. Unfortunately, many companies rely on low contracting rates to help them make their margins. If they are struggling, they always return to the contractors and push the rates down further.

"Contractors are easy to exploit and the industry runs on this. It's just about exploiting, exploiting, and exploiting contractors. 

"The reason the Tilhill situation is cruel is because we all know contractors are dealing with rising prices – and it's not just fuel. It's all gone up by around 50 per cent." 

The spokesperson added: "It's the little guy at the bottom who is feeling it and having to deal with this. 

"This is a perfect storm and it just isn't sustainable. Contractors are running out of options." 

A Tilhill spokesperson said: "For Tilhill, the change in our payment terms from 1 August affects a small number of our larger suppliers who have previously enjoyed favourable terms. These contractors have been moved over to our standard business terms. 

"A consultation period took place before this change was announced and we have taken steps to inform those affected prior to the payment term change taking effect.  

READ TILHILL'S STATEMENT IN FULL: Tilhill defends change to forestry contractors' payment terms

"Tilhill values the contribution our contractors bring to our business. Our payment system remains one of the most reliable and stable in the forest industry. Our standard terms are also robust and are proven favourable within the industry."