Suriname: Workers demand decent work, denounce Amazon rainforest destruction

"Nothing about the Amazon without the Amazonians."

This was the message carried at the meeting of the Amazonian Trade Union Network, held in September 2023 in Belém, Brazil. Aligned with this message and to concretise the commitments made at the meeting, on 16 February, the Progressive Labour Federation 47 (C-47) sent a letter to Suriname's Minister of Labour, Employment, and Youth Affairs. It requested the Ministry's public stance on the government's commitment to integrate the decent work agenda into the Amazon Cooperation Treaty. It asserted that the integration should consider the implementation of measures outlined in the ILO Decent Work Country Programme III (DWCP 3) to address the challenges of precarious formal and informal work. Additionally, it sought to clarify reports suggesting the potential allocation of large land parcels in Suriname's Amazon rainforest to agribusiness. The C-47 said that such actions contradict environmental preservation efforts and directly impact eight indigenous communities.

The C-47's communication pertains to a letter from the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) addressed to Vanessa Grazziotin, the recently appointed Executive Director of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO). It underscored the urgent necessity of integrating a Decent Work Agenda into ACTO's framework, emphasising its pivotal role in ensuring a sustainable socio-environmental future for the Amazon rainforest. Within its political declaration, the trade union federation stressed the significance of the Surinamese government's commitment to uphold and advance decent work standards. It drew attention to the deteriorating working conditions prevalent in remote areas, pinpointing the lack of oversight by the Labour Inspection Department as a critical concern. The case of Greenheart N.V company in Apoera is cited as an example, highlighting numerous reports detailing precarious working conditions. Additionally, C-47 scrutinised Suriname's position during the ACTO meeting vote, particularly its opposition to accelerating policies aimed at combating deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

This initiative is aligned with the agenda of actions set forth by the Amazonian Trade Union Network (ATUN) in 2023. ATUN, a trade union coalition promoted by the BWI, aims to organise workers' unions in the wood sector across the eight Amazonian countries. The significant deficit in decent work within the region, characterised by forced labour, informality, low wages, insufficient vocational training, work-related accidents and illnesses, low union density, and weaknesses in collective bargaining and social dialogue, is extremely alarming. In defense of the world's largest rainforest, ATUN is actively pushing for the promotion of decent work standards and climate justice.