A tripartite ILO meeting adopts conclusions to promote decent work and safety and health in forestry

The first global ILO meeting on forestry in 14 years took place in Geneva between 6 and 10 May 2019 and provided a unique opportunity for ILO’s tripartite constituents to discuss developments, challenges and opportunities in the promotion of decent work and occupational safety and health (OSH).

News | 10 May 2019
GENEVA (ILO News) - Sustainable forestry can be a driver of decent jobs, economic growth and development of rural areas worldwide. In recent years a lot has been said on the role of forests in combatting climate change and their key contribution for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Less focus has been placed on employment and decent work aspects related to forests and forestry.

Participants of the Sectoral Meeting on Promoting Decent Work and Safety and Health in Forestry
More than 80 participants representing governments, employers and workers, in addition to international organizations met in Geneva from 6 to 10 May 2019 to discuss the promotion of decent work and safety and health in forestry. The Meeting adopted conclusions on decent work challenges and opportunities, occupational safety and health, and social dialogue in the sector, and provided concrete recommendations for future action on the sector by the ILO as well as by governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations. 

Despite progress made in the past decades, working in forests remains dangerous. Decent work deficits such as poor and unsafe working conditions, absence of a voice at work and obstacles to the right to organize, inadequate OSH measures, low productivity, low wages and lack of access to social protection continue to exist in the sector. Reflecting on this, the Worker Vice-Chairperson, Mr Robert Don Walls of the United States noted that the progress in the sector had been slow, and accident rates remained elevated, including in comparison to other sectors such as road transport or construction. Good examples of safe work in forestry were often the result of robust national laws and their enforcement, and with workers participating in safety decisions as equal partners.

The Employer Vice-Chairperson, Mr John Beckett of Canada, stated that the challenge for creating decent jobs in the forestry sector included the high prevalence of informality, illegal logging and the lack of reliable and comparable national data.

The ILO has some widely-used tools on forestry, most importantly the Code of Practice on Safety and health in forestry (1998) and the Guidelines for labour inspection in forestry (2005), in addition to the international labour standards such as the Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129) and the Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention, 2001 (No. 184), as well as other international labour standards that apply to the sector. In the past decades forestry, like any other sector, has changed, but much of the contents of the ILO tools remain relevant to promote safe work in forestry. The Meeting called for revising and updating these tools, to include emerging issues such as climate change, deforestation, technological developments, informality, migration and gender. The Government Vice-Chairperson of the Meeting, Ms Vibha Bhalla of India, joined the call to further promote the existing tools in countries where they were less known and ensure high-quality training for the workers on them. Furthermore, governments would benefit from sharing good practices on inter alia legislative and inspection regimes.

The Chairperson of the Meeting, Ms Toni Moore, of Barbados, congratulated the Meeting on the tremendous collaboration among tripartite constituents and on the strong conclusions that will support advancing OSH in forestry. Ms Moore also noted how the discussions in the Meeting feed into the future of work debate that will take place in this year’s International Labour Conference and the years to come.

As concluded by the Secretary-General to the Meeting, Ms Alette van Leur, the importance of forests and forestry for millions of people around the world depending on them, many of whom are indigenous people, cannot be underestimated, and the ILO is very well-placed to promote its constituents in ensuring decent and sustainable work in forestry.