BWI OnLine – April 30, 2009

Croatian Forestry Workers Union Must Defend Their Achievements

The 5th Assembly of the Croatian Forestry Workers Union took place 24-25 April 2009 in Opatija, Croatia. Gordana Golnar who was the president of the union for 18 years did not stand for re-election. The assembly elected Mr Zeljko Kalaus. Around 60 participants attended the event including delegates from Slovenia, Slovak Republic and Macedonia.

The delegates discussed the impact of the financial and economic crisis in Croatia especially on the wood and forest industries where forests cover around 48% of the country’s surface. “Wood processing exports went down by 42 % and the import by 25 % and this caused job losses in the wood processing industry from 30.000 down to 23.000 employees. However the employment situation in the forest industries with around 9500 employees is still stable,” said the newly elected president. “Our union with a membership 7500 members was able to negotiate a 30 % wage increase in the last five years and now we have to defend our achievements”.

“Gordana is a trade union leader who formed this successful union with a clear vision of solidarity and unity. She was also engaged in the integration of her union on European level,” said Marion Hellmann, BWI Assistant General Secretary. “Trade unions in the region have to work together to shape the way to the European Union. The improvement of occupational health and safety at the workplaces is one of the key requirements of the European Union accession process of Croatia and other Western Balkan Countries”.

BWI was also represented by its new project coordinator for South Eastern Europe Jasmin Redzepovic, who is based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegowina.

How social is Sustainable Forestry? Reflections from the Evert Vermeer Foundation Africa Day Event -Netherlands

Social aspects are least defined and least covered in the criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Key on the list of social concerns are respect for fundamental rights which include right to organize and bargain collectively, elimination of child labour, prohibition of forced labour and equality of opportunity and treatment.

In addition social concern must address issues of occupational safety and health. Of importance are safety and health policies and a management system in place that identifies hazards and preventive measures to be undertaken in forestry and wood operations.

The workshop was also informed that social concerns in sustainable forestry must also address aspects of sharing benefits and participation in conflict resolution. Sharing of benefits include creation of opportunities for local and forest dependable people and ensuring equal access to employment and training opportunities.

The speakers recognized the need of using forest certification to address social concern in sustainable forest management. “Apart from Trade Unions participating in decision making processes and structures, there need to dialogue effectively with actors in the forest certification process and participate in developing appropriate mechanisms for resolving grievances and ensuring fair compensations” said Opanga.

The workshop was also attended by Khalid Atan, representative of the Union in the Malaysia Timber Certification Council. He informed the meeting that the biggest challenge facing certification processes was in implementation and enforcement of the standards, and Unions as stakeholders must be vigilant to ensure full implementation.

Coen Van Der Veer of FNV highlighted on importance of addressing social issues using the certification along the supply chain and need for consumer awareness on certified wood. He explained how the unions activities in Kenya and Uganda have contributed to poverty reduction and called for Unions engagement in addressing social issues in forest management that are emerging from the Congo Basin.

Challenges identified include illegal wood supply networks, lack of commitment of employers in implementation of standards.

Key speakers during the side event were Paul Opanga, BWI East Africa Coordinator and Coen Van Der Veer of FNV while the session was facilitated by Mario Van De Luytgaarden of FNV Mondial.

The side event held on 25th April at The Hague University was organized by FNV Mondial at the Africa Day of the Evert Vermeer Foundation.

Asbestos Really Kills, Burdens Families

This summed up the sentiments of Ted Dela Cruz (not his real name to protect his identity), son of a shipyard worker who worked for 29 ½ years in the former US military base in Subic Bay and was diagnosed of asbestos-related disease.

Ted witnessed how his father suffered – shortness of breath, loss of appetite and weight – because of his illness. This brought untold hardships to the family seeing their breadwinner slowly weakened by the illness. Only death stopped his sufferings. And he was only one of former base workers afflicted with asbestos-related diseases.

To avoid such situations in families of workers exposed to asbestos, Ted supported the call for asbestos ban during the Consultation with Government Agencies on the Development of a National Program for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases (NPEAD) on 28 April 2009 in Quezon City, Manila. The activity was part of the International Workers Memorial Day for Dead and Injured workers.

The Memorial lighted candles and held a mini press conference where trade union and government participants mourned workers’ deaths due to unsafe workplaces and called for asbestos ban. It heard the features of an ideal law and updates on its progress in the legislature by the sponsor, Rep. Risa Hontiveros from Akbayan of the multi-sectoral party list organization Akbayan.

A panel of speakers presented asbestos situation in the Philippines – the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Asbestos, asbestos-related diseases, alternatives and related workplace standards. With the interventions of Fiona Murie, the BWI Director for OSH Global Programme, this clarified economics as the main argument of the Philippines in not banning chrysotile, the need to consider indigent and safer substitutes and the implementation of workplace standards.

The activity ended with the discussion on the development of a national program for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. It was concluded that the participation of government agencies is needed to start developing the national program. The World Health Organization (WHO) representative believed the institutional functions and resources of certain agencies would help achieve the desired program.

The activity was made possible with the assistance of Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) and the partnership of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

For the press statement see hereunder.

 Related information

Mauritius: GSA Organises a One-day Workshop

GSA organized a one-day workshop on the 28 April 2009 to mark the event. Participants from sectors of high risk of accident were invited and resource persons from the Occupational Health and Safety Unit of the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs and Administrative Reforms were invited to intervene in the said workshop.

Our resource persons explained all the legal provision that exist with regard to health and safety at the workplace and how it should be implemented. Following queries from the participants our resource persons have also explained the procedures and which door to knock in cases where the law is not being respected and risk of accident is high.

During the workshop it has also been noted that workers sometimes, due to negligence, incur the risk of accident, so it was agreed that education of workers at workplace would continue.

All participants together with the resource persons took a pledge to contribute at an accident free workplace of zero risk of accident.

May Day 2009: Jobs for All

“Voices of millions of union members must be heard. We are calling on our affiliates to march on the streets this Mayday to call for a global jobs pact so that all workers have equitable access to stable jobs, fair wages and safe and healthy working and living conditions.” says Anita Normark, General Secretary of the BWI representing 13 million workers in the construction and timber trades. Normark adds “The labour of the workers who are employed in construction, building materials, forestry and wood industries constitutes a key factor in the world’s economy.” Reacting to the crisis, the BWI and the trade union movement have called on governments to have jobs and social issues on the national and global agenda for recovery. “

The trade union movement presses for fundamental changes: a new global economy built on social justice. Governments must act to keep people in work and create new jobs, to avoid an even deeper and longer-lasting crisis.

Normark adds “We need to come out of the crisis with an economy that is more just and, therefore, more sustainable.” This crisis gives us the chance to develop solutions to poverty and global warming. It provides opportunities to create jobs in the short term as well as developing sustainable industrial policy that will generate long-term stable employment, so that when economic growth and employment creation resume, it can be cleaner, greener, and healthier.

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