Stewardship in the forestry and value chain amidst COVID-19

BWI started its “Workers’ Voices Webinar Series” this year with a discussion on stewardship in the forestry and value chain on 17 February. 

The online discussion, which was attended by 77 participants from 37 countries, talked about the inner dynamics created by COVID-19 in the forest-based industry, and the impact of new certification schemes on enhancing forest management and sharing of social benefits from forests to workers. The role of unions, legislators and labour inspections in promoting, ensuring and advancing the social and economic wellbeing of forest-based workers was also discussed. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson started the conversation by highlighting the importance of engaging the forestry sector in the context of green recovery and the cooperation between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and FAO. He also announced BWI’s push for occupational health and safety (OHS) to be included in the core labour conventions and declared as a human right.  

The importance of exchanging information and strengthening partnerships to protect workers were discussed by ILO Technical Officer for Rural Economy Waltteri Katajamäki and FAO Forestry Officer Jonas Cedergren. GS Facket Policy Advisor Yngve Daoson responded by stressing the need for full enforcement and compliance monitoring of international standards on occupational health and safety. 

Meanwhile, FSC Labour Solutions Manager Paul Opanga and PEFC Fatimah Mohammed took turns to explain their respective strategies to promote the responsible and sustainable management of forests. 

This was followed by GS Fackett Ombudsman Tony Berggren who spoke on the need for trade union officers to have access on workers at worksites to deepen their understanding on their rights. 

For his part, Troy Jackson, President of the Main Senate in the United States and a fifth generation logger shared the struggle of the independent loggers. He narrated the “financial slavery” suffered by workers in the rural industry whose collective bargaining rights are withheld from them. He expressed his lack of confidence to voluntary certifications schemes, saying that they are only adding costs to people working in the industry. 

BWI held the webinar amidst PEFC and FSC’s decision to their rules to allow remote audits and extension of certificates. Trade unionists are demanding certificate holders to recognise and negotiate with them at all relevant levels to identify threats to workers’ rights and welfare and develop and implement workplace responses.