BWI attends World Forestry Congress, pushes for more social dialogue

“With all the tools available– ILO Standards, Recommendation and Protocols, certification schemes, procurement policies, OECD Guidelines and social dialogue – trade union organisations must be fully represented in all levels of negotiations to advance decent work, green jobs and sustainability in the forest sector.” 

This was the message of Apolinar “Dong” Z. Tolentino, Jr., BWI Regional Representative for Asia Pacific, at the 2nd day of the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul, South Korea. 

Tolentino stressed that social dialogue, one of the pillars of decent work, is an important means to realise workers’ fundamental right to self-association and collective bargaining. He spoke at the event’s Session 2 with the sub-theme “The Green Path to Growth and Sustainability.” He was joined by Victor Violante, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association.

The session was jointly convened by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and Korea Forest Service. 

Tolentino said that the heart of decent work is self-association and collective bargaining.  “Social Dialogue is a mechanism to deliver results, such as collective bargaining, legally binding sectoral agreements, safety and health representatives’ access to worksites, and functional OSH committees. The social partners’ commitment to social dialogue must translate into verifiable actions in workplaces.  Otherwise, it is mere a talk shop”, he added. 

He also discussed how BWI and affiliates are engaging employers’ organisations and governments, as well as other strategic stakeholders. He narrated some of BWI’s successes on this initiative such as the 2019 Sectoral Dialogue on Promoting Decent Work and Safety and Health in Forestry, inclusion of ILO Core Conventions in the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain-of-Custody Standards, organising tribal women workers in India to gain access to Kendu Leaf Pluckers and Binders Welfare Trust, and the 

COVID-19 Protocol of the Forestry Safety Council of New Zealand. 

“One of the tenets of social dialogue is its legitimacy in representing constituents.  Thus, we were seriously shocked on the reported invitation extended to Myanmar military regime to attend this global event.  The junta don’t represent the people of Myanmar.  Its credentials in UN bodies like the ILO, World Health Organisation (WH) and even in the United Nations (UN) Assembly are suspended. The military junta terminated whatever form of social dialogue left in the country. It should never be invited in an event like the XV World Forestry Congress,” Tolentino stressed.