Published: 19 Nov 2018
A claim that the Forest Stewardship Council has reached a “historic” deal that unites “timber companies, unionists and green groups on how forestry should be conducted in Australia” has been rejected as false, with the union representative involved in the negotiations not only voting against the final draft, but demanding this formal opposition be disclosed in any announcement.
The Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union was appointed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Standards Development Group in 2013 to represent the broader union movement in negotiations for the FSC Australia National Standard.
Not only did the CFMEU representative formally vote against the proposed standard, but provided detailed proposals to the negotiating committee, along with FSC leadership in Australia and internationally, detailing the weakness of the proposed standards on workers’ rights and their failure to address Australia’s significant noncompliance with International Labour Standards.
When it became clear FSC Australia intended to press ahead with the standard without industry consensus, the union wrote to CEO Sara Gipton requesting that: “all communications, including any media releases will include the fact that the ACTU has not endorsed the standard”.
CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor slammed the FSC Australia National Standard, describing it as “a dirty deal struck by big business and big environment”.
“The standard in its current form does very little to defend workers’ rights,” Mr O’Connor said.
“FSC is a big deal in Europe but it is fledgling in Australia. The union movement will will not back it until it adequately addresses workers’ rights and we are urging consumers to likewise reject it as an exercise in green-washing that fails to properly engage with the men and women working in the forestry sector.”
Mr O’Connor said the International Labour Organization had time and time again criticised Australia’s broken industrial relations laws.
He also highlighted the fact that the FSC National Standard has been criticised at the Victorian ALP conference, where FSC Australia was lambasted for reneging on their promise to address what their own independent expert described as Australia’s “very significant compliance problems” with ILO Standards.
“The Victorian Labor conference decided to require employers in the Victorian industry — starting with VicForests, their forestry contractors, and Australian Sustainable Hardwoods at Heyfield — to sign up to a Forest Products Industry Code of Practice in Employment to address the compliance problems,” he said.
“Where the private sector fails to deliver, like FSC has, we’ll keep calling on government to fill the gap.
“We’ll leave no stone unturned to ensure that when ‘Fair Trade’ labels claim to establish and enforce standards that protect workers that they actually do so, rather than just paying lip service.
“Green-washing gets called out by the environment movement when it happens, and we’ll keep calling out FSC until they get serious about protecting workers’ rights.”