Members of the Sabah Timber Industries Employees Union (STIEU) are unsurprised that their employer, Sabah Forest Industries (SFI), has been stripped of another certification label for their continued refusal to recognise the union. According to the decision, SFI chose not to undergo the required surveillance audit and could not provide evidence of conformance to the requirement. Accordingly, SFI’s chain of custody certificate under the PEFC scheme has now been terminated.
“This is another step on STIEU’s long struggle to achieve basic labour rights”, said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “As the world’s consumers increasingly demand forest products that are in compliance with international labour standards, the reputation of forest industries that fail to do this will continue to slip.”
The PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system, and requires forest owners to uphold labour standards including the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. This decision to terminate the chain of custody certificate comes less than a year after the other major forest certification body, FSC, decided to disassociate SFI on account of their failure to protect workers’ rights.
On top of this, the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the International Financial Corporation, the investment arm of the World Bank, which has invested a total of US$250 million in SFI and its parent company, is investigating whether due diligence procedures were followed in making this investment. Such a finding will do further damage to the industry’s reputation.
In the meantime, many SFI workers have had very little work to do since November, when most of the site has been shut down by Sabah’s health and safety regulator. With creditors lining up in the courts and growing wage irregularities, workers are concerned that their job security could be at risk.
“For years now the plant has been in dire need of investment, and SFI is now paying the costs of that neglect”, said STIEU General Secretary Engrit Liaw. “We want to make sure that those costs are not pushed onto workers. Without action, the industry as a whole will pay the price.”