FSC Upholds Workers Rights in SFI/BILT

The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) welcomes yesterday’s decision by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in siding with workers at Sabah Forest Industries (SFI), a subsidiary of BILT Graphic Paper Products Limited in their long fight for recognition of their union, the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU).    


Ambet Yuson, BWI General-Secretary said, “The decision made by the FSC International Board based on the recommendation from the independent complaints panel is an important step for forestry workers’ rights.  It clearly shows that companies like SFI/BILT can no longer ignore workers’ rights. In the case of SFI, it refused to abide by the directive of the Minister of Human Resources to recognise workers’ voices and their right to organize an independent trade union.    


He continued, “The FSC decision upheld the right of workers in certified companies to exercise their right to freedom of association.  It also showed that FSC recognizes the importance of workers’ rights.  It is now up to companies such as SFI/BILT to respect and ensure workers rights equally as that of environmental and economic issues”.  


The case was brought by BWI (the global union federation for construction and wood sector workers) regarding violation of ILO Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association) and 98 (Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining), regarding the period since FSC’s Principles of Association came into force for BILT, from July 2009 to the present. Over that period BILT consistently refused to recognise STIEU, despite overwhelmingly winning secret ballots held in 2011. Even the Minister of Labour demanded BILT recognise STIEU, a decision they have submitted to judicial review proceedings.   


SFI/BILT must now satisfy a number of conditions and submit documentation detailing how they will meet the conditions by late June 2016 or FSC will disassociate BILT. Full implementation is required by early October, otherwise BILT again risks disassociation.  


 Engrit Liaw, General Secretary of STIEU, said that while the sanctions imposed on SFI/BILT were of a far smaller magnitude than the suppression experienced by union members, including arbitrary dismissals, wage cuts and ignoring serious health and safety issues, SFI/BILT now have the chance to make things right.   


“The power now sits with the company to stand on the side of the workers for change, comply with the conditions laid down by FSC, and start restoring the broken relationship they have with their workers. This can begin today by voluntarily recognising STIEU as the genuine representative of the workers, and immediately dropping their Judicial Review case against the union. Failing to do this will hurt their bottom line.”