“Together we grow” was the theme at the congress of the Swedish forestry, wood and graphical workers’ union—GS – that was held this past weekend in the city of Västerås. In addition to discussing a number of key issues and areas of work for the union, GS elected a new Executive Board and Officers. Per-Olof Sjöö was re-elected as President of GS. Joining him was Madelene Engman who was elected as first Vice President, becoming the first woman in the union’s history to hold a key leadership position. In addition, Bo-Arne Andersson was elected as second Vice President.
Climate and sustainable forestry was a central theme throughout the congress.
“We need to protect both the rights of the workers and the future of our forests,” said BWI’s General Secretary Ambet Yuson in his speech to the congress.
He continued, ”300 million people worldwide live in forests. 1,6 billion people depend on them for livelihood. Forests are essential for our forestry workers but they are also essential for life on earth. Forestry workers are key players in the fight to save our forests.”
He then urged the congress to support the
“Our members are at the heart of the storm in the struggle against climate change. We need a fast and powerful transition to renewable materials, and sustainable forestry is key to that,” said Per-Olof Sjöö, reflected president of the GS as well as president of the BWI.
He also spoke about the importance of opening society for refugees, stating that, “Hatred has intruded upon us, but it is not rational blaming the shortcomings of our public welfare on increased immigration. Our task is to counter fear and to give people hope for a better future.”
Several international guests were present at the congress. During a seminar Denis Zhuravlev from the Russian Timber Workers’ Union spoke about how massive cuts in Russian forestry inspection has led to a series of devastating forest fires, destroying the lives of thousands of people. He also spoke about the unions’ organizing efforts of Ikea Industry plants in Russia and the support of GS in reaching a bilateral agreement with the local company management.
Rulita Wijayaningdyah and Khoirul Anam from the Indonesian forestry workers’ union Kahutindo spoke about the importance of sustainable forestry and using wood certification systems as a tools for organizing. Inga Ruginienė from LMPF in Lithuania shared her unions’ experience on how the GS has helped them to build up their union structure and gain capacity to organize new members.
To support BWI's work organizing and promoting young workers, the GS made a donation of 100 000 SEK (about 12 000 USD) from its solidarity fund to BWI.