BWI Conversations: A talk with FSC’s Rulita Wijayaningdyah

To promote spaces for meaningful discussions among trade unionists, BWI launched the “BWI Conversations,” an informative vlog hosted by its General Secretary, Ambet Yuson.  

Using short videos as its medium, “BWI Conversations” aim to provide an online venue for trade unionists to share their thoughts and experiences on various labour-related issues.

For its maiden episode, Yuson talked to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Board of Directors Vice Chair Rulita Wijayaningdyah on FSC’s approval of labour requirements within the chain of custody standards. They discussed the development’s impact on forest-based workers and how it will complement the core principles of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Core Conventions and Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Happy watching! 

video script

BWI Conversations. General Secretary Ambet Yuson talks to Rulita Wijayaningdyah. Vice Chair of FSC Board of Directors.


00:10 Ambet Yuson (AY): Good day everyone. Today, I have the honour of having a conversation with Rulita. The vice chair of the international board of directors of the Forest Stewardship Council FSC, and she is going to talk the recent FSC decision on the core labour requirements in the FSC chain of custody. You know, Rulita is also a trade union leader. She is the former general secretary of the Indonesian Forestry Union Kahutindo. And the best person to explain to us what this new requirement really means to the wood and forestry workers. Rulita, since you are part of our family I'd like to ask you to send your greetings to the BWI.


Rulita Wijayaningdyah (RW): Good afternoon brothers, sisters from all over the world especially the union affiliates from Building and Woodworkers International. It's a pleasure for me to be here today. It's been a while since last time we spoke and think it's also been a while since I met most of you during the gatherings of BWI globally. So, thank you for this opportunity and it's a pleasure for me to have this conversations and this discussions with you online today.


01:44 AY: Thank you Rulita. The FSC recently approved the core labour requirements within the FSC chain of custody standards. Can you briefly explain what this means for the forestry and woodworkers? Is this a recognition of the ILO core standards which we have been pushing for many years?


RW: So now I am responding to you taking on my hat as the vice chair of the FSC international board of directors and yes, I mean you are right we have been pushing for so many years for the ILO core conventions to be included in the standards of FSC especially in the chain of custody. So the FSC international board of directors have just recently approved the revised standards that incorporates the FSC core labour requirements in the chain of custody standards. So this new requirements provide auditable criteria that creates much more clarity of what precisely the requirements of such conventions to be applied in the certified companies. Companies certified under these standards are now required to respect workers' rights as outlined in the ILO core conventions on freedom of associations and effective recognitions of the rights to collective bargaining, the effective abolitions of child labour, eliminations of all forms of force, obligatory labour and eliminations of discriminations in employment and occupations. So, I think this has been quite a breakthrough after so many years of dialogue amongst the key stakeholders within the Forest Stewardship Council membership and certificate holders as well as the workers representatives. We are very pleased that the yearlong negotiations and the dialogues have just been concluded and that we can present now to the FSC stakeholders this new revised standards of the chain of custody that includes the FSC core labour requirements.


04:28 AY: This is indeed good news to BWI and the trade union affiliates of FSC. As you know many of us are not familiar with the certification process. Can you tell us how does FSC monitor and check if companies are really following these requirements and not just a compliance in paper.


RW: So what is different and important in the recently approved standard now is the presence of the auditable criteria which will be systematically checked in every annual output. You know certificate holders needs to be audited every 5 years and then there is also some monitoring or surveillance always every year. So now certified companies are also required to adopt and implement one or more policy statements that encompass the FSC core labour requirements, and to maintain an up-to-date self assessments of its work in the demonstrating is compliance with the FSC core labour requirements.


05:50 AY: This is very interesting development, Rulita. You know Rulita, the general public view FSC as an environmental sustainability, you know. But with this new labour requirement this is the beginning of FSC giving more attention to workers' rights and welfare.


06:22 RW:¬†¬†Well actually, in the forest management standards there has always been an inclusions of worker’s rights within the principal and criteria but has only been in forest management standards and, I think, BWI affiliates have since almost 15 years ago fighting to adopt the same principals or the same requirements that FSC has within the forest management also in chain of custody standards because we know that the coverage of the industries and the sectors as well as employed formal and informal workers in the chain of custody is so much higher than in the forestry operations itself. So, there has also been some cases where within one group of company which operates from forest to the mill to the manufacturing industries and the packaging but the treatment of workers in the auditing process is not the same from the forest to the downstream industries. So this has been the efforts that unions through the members in the FSC and also in the quite intensive dialogue within in the FSC in the port and in the membership since the past 3 - 4 general assemblies has been to incorporate the same principals and the same requirements to certify companies not only in the forest management units, but also in the downstream industries that are certified by FSC. These steps of course elevates recognitions and implementations of workers' rights in over 45 000 FSC general custody certified companies worldwide. As part of the audit process the certification body will need to verify the compliance of the company with the FSC core labour requirements through the various means including also the review of company policy statements and self assessments, interviews with workers or worker representatives, and, review if there are complaints or disputes against the company for failing to meet this requirements. We can see, you were asking me, about the impact on workers so we can see the impact from the various perspectives. From the trade union the workers perspectives it should be seen as the greater opportunity to organise certified companies, improve working conditions through better collective bargaining agreements and aim for more sustainable jobs. And from the market view, FSC label in the product, you have also shown should also indicate that workers rights are respected not only on the forest sides but also along the supply chain. It would give confidence that businesses also deliver on their commitments by adhering to the FSC social values through certifications as outlined in the FSC 2021/2026 global strategy. 10:11 So, Ambet, there are also 200 millions and over organised workers who believe or who consumes with these products such as you knows tissues, papers, packagings, etcetera, and in the spirit of global solidarity those organised workers should prefer certified products coming from companies who demonstrates responsible businesses and evidently uphold the workers’ rights. They only need to look for FSC label then.


10:44 AY: So it means that workers from the forest through the whole supply chain and production line, their workers' rights can now be protected. This is true? And this will cover millions of workers. Am I right?


RW: Yes. If there are already over 45 000 certified companies under the chain of custody, you can imagine how many workers it would involve.


AY: And if you talk about the impact, it means if they comply with the international labour standards, millions of wood and forestry workers will increase their benefits, they will have the correct decent wage, they will have, you know, vacation leave, they will have access to health care. So I this is what it means. If this is implemented, millions will really have improved their working condition and their benefits. Am I right in this?


11:56 RW: Yes, the basic thing is that the FSC core labour requirements basically regulates the guarantee of the freedom of associations and the rights to collective bargaining and from there, unions in those certified companies do have a better avenue to negotiate for better wages, better working conditions, better facilities, better occupational health and safeties, and so forth. This is the entry point towards a struggle for better collective bargaining rights for workers and for trade unions in the certified companies, even if the country have not yet ratified the ILO core conventions yet.


AY: So, this is in fact a tool, or for the trade union to organise and for let the workers, you know, negotiate with the companies for a better working condition. Right?


RW: Yes


AY: Oh, I think our affiliates will really be excited in this developments, no? You know BWI has been advocating for this requirement in the chain of custody for years and now it's here. And BWI welcomes this development because this will really ensure that workers rights and welfare are taken care throughout the whole process. Thank you, Rulita, for this conversation and I think it's really a good way to start the year with some good news, but you know, this will not automatically improve the lives of workers.


13:54 RW: No


AY: We have to work for it but I can guarantee you this will give us an opportunity, this will give us a tool for the workers to fight, and for the workers to make sure that they have decent jobs in their work. Thank you very much.


RW: Yes


AY: Should I say good afternoon to you.


RW: Thank you for this conversation, it's been very fruitful for me as well and it's very pleased to hear the welcoming remarks and also the appreciations of BWI and its affiliates on the recent developments of the FSC board’s approval on the FSC core labour requirements within the chain of custody standards. But I think this is not the end of our struggle, this is just the beginning because then you will have to encourage your affiliates and the local unions, national unions to take more active part in the FSC certification system and be more knowledgeable about how FSC certification works, about how workers and trade unions can also play more active part in the auditing processes, and how you can also strengthen this social dialogue of between the local or enterprise level unions, as well as the national unions with the companies, especially the certified chain of custody companies within the FSC scheme. So, I would like to also use this opportunity to thank the support and also the collaborations of the union affiliates within the BWI which has been tremendous in the past few years, as well as, also the willingness from the other stakeholders from employers, also from the other players within the FSC, like the environmental chambers groups, as well as, the industries who have been finally showing support on this inclusions of the FSC core labour requirements within the chain of custody standards. I think this new development should not only been applauded for but it's a task ahead for every one of us for the FSC for the certification bodies, for the certificate holders as well as, for the unions, to really make it materialise in achieving and improving working conditions within the FSC certified operations. Thank you Ambet, and I look forward to meeting you soon in persons if the pandemic is over.


17:14 AY: Thank you, Rulita. You are right this is only the first step, but a very important step. You know BWI had been advocating for this for several years and now we are welcome these really important decision of FSC to make it a requirement for core labour standard as a requirement in the FSC chain of custody and this step can really ensure that the workers' rights welfare are respected throughout the whole production line. I think this going to create more awareness about FSC certification. Trade unions certainly now have the reason to support FSC as an instrument to drive social and labour sustainability. Thank you to everyone.