Monday, 18 February 2013, 9:16 am
Press Release: First Union
New Zealand’s forest exports are being put risk as the industry continues to drag the chain on a key aspect of its certification, a union for workers in the wood industries says.
Appalling forest safety statistics have been in the spotlight last year and in the first two months of the year with two deaths already reported.
And as a two-month round of safety briefings for forestry workers gets underway in Kaitaia today, FIRST Union is warning that the continued barriers being put in the way of forestry workers accessing union advice and support will not only have a counterproductive effect on workplace safety, but also put forestry’s critical certification at risk.
“New Zealand forest owners have responded to growing international awareness around the environmental and social issues embedded in wood production by obtaining certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an internationally recognised certification body,” FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid said.
“Certification allows producers to charge a price premium for their product and increasingly certification is essential to be able to sell into the global market.”
“However a key aspect of FSC certification is an obligation on forest owners, their managers and contractors to facilitate the activity of unions in the industry, recognising the union’s role in representing and supporting the forestry workforce.”
“This is clearly not happening in New Zealand with unions side-lined in the production of the local FSC standard and years of antagonism from the industry to unions playing any role at all. Now unions have been locked out of the current round of safety briefings.”
“At its core, this issue is about safety. Unions have established expertise in workplace safety programmes and in helping workers to give meaningful effect to a cornerstone of the Health and Safety in Employment Act – worker participation.”
“Workers are the ones risking their lives every day when they go to work in our forests and attempting to improve health and safety without the systematic involvement of workers is ineffective and completely misguided.”
“Forest owners put the entire New Zealand forest and wood processing industry at risk if they do not facilitate unions in the sector and work constructively with us to bring down the horrific accident and death rates in the industry,” Robert Reid said.