Unifor, Government visions for Sustainable Forestry

The Future of Forestry: A Workers Perspective for Successful, Sustainable and Just Forestry was released on October 16 by Unifor’s Forestry Industry Council, representing the union’s 24,000 members in the forestry sector.  The report provides an overview of the size and health of the forestry industry, and after the past several years of declining employment, asks, “What could lie ahead?” The answer given:  “Technologies that put forestry resources to uses never previously imagined; transformative innovations in building materials and green construction, and a sustained transition toward higher-value growth products and markets. There is also a coming wave of retirements that means the industry could need upward of 60,000 new workers within the decade.”

The report sets out Unifor’s aims for each of five focal points in an integrated forestry policy, involving the federal and provincial governments and prioritizing the role of First Nations.  The report calls for “ sustainable rules for wood harvesting that secure investments and jobs while meeting the highest environmental standards. There must be stable and appropriately priced hydro-electricity; as well, transportation infrastructure, pricing and access need to be modernized. Trade policies need to support high-value forestry exports, maintain stable access to key markets, while ensuring we are not the target of unfair trade measures. And we need to control the export of unprocessed raw logs.”  A key message is the need to involve workers in a sustained dialogue for  policy-making process: “forestry ministers must lead efforts to bring together business, government, labour, Indigenous leaders, environmental organizations and community leaders in a reinstated National Forestry Council.”

Related reading: In mid-September, Natural Resources Canada released the 2017 edition of The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report and L’État des forêts au Canada.

At the September annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM), their Innovation Committee released A Forest Bioeconomy Framework for Canada , with the vision to make Canada “a global leader in the use of forest bio-mass for advanced bioproducts and innovative solutions” including as a source of renewable energy.   Note the first of the 4 pillars of the framework: “Communities and Relationships. This section in the Framework advances policies towards  “creating green jobs, offering opportunities for rural communities through education and skills training, improving overall quality of life, and enhancing partnerships with Indigenous peoples.”

Also at the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers annual meeting, the Minister of Natural Resources announced a call for proposals   for the next wave of projects through the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program, a federal grant program to encourage :

  • new or increased production of bioenergy, biomaterials, biochemicals and next-generation building products by the forest sector;
  • increased deployment and encouraging broader adoption of first-in-kind innovative technologies, particularly Canadian, across the industry; and
  • the creation of innovative partnerships with non-traditional forest sector partners as a way to develop new business models for the sector.

New green jobs policy adopted at the Canadian Labour Congress Convention-Updated with link to Policy document

clc-logoThe 28th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress was held in Toronto from May 8 to 12, 2017  under the theme “Together for a Fair Future”.  The agenda was packed – including  equity issues, younger workers, putting an end to precarious work, and the fight to implement a $15 minimum wage. Executive officers were elected, and Hassan Yussuff was acclaimed as President for a second mandate – all serving  from 2017 to 2020. On May 10th, the Convention addressed the issue of climate change, and heard from a Green Jobs Panel, consisting of  Sharan Burrow of the ITUC, Sheila Watt-Cloutier from Inuit Circumpolar Council, Matt Wayland of the IBEW, and Patrick Rondeau of the FTQ, with Rick Smith of the Broadbent Institute moderating.  Although no documents have been posted to the CLC website yet, a Unifor press release states:  ” … As one of the greatest challenges facing workers in Canada the Convention adopted a plan, outlined in the Green Jobs for a Fair Future policy, to guide the country through a necessary just transition to a green economy.  Unifor’s delegation voted overwhelmingly to support the position paper and delegates pledged to take action for just transition…The policy paper calls on the CLC to lobby and work towards green jobs in home and building retrofits, expand public transit, ensure responsible resource development, and at the core, just transition for workers whose lives are already dramatically changed by climate change.”

Updated on May 29:  By permission of the CLC, the 20-page policy statement is available here at the ACW Digital Library.  It lays out detailed proposals and establishes a Climate Change Task Force to carry the initiatives forward until 2020, with extensive lobbying for policy changes at the federal government level. Proposals include expansion of renewable energy, building retrofits, expanded transportation and transit infrastructure, and labour market policies to promote a Just Transition for workers and communities who are affected by the shift from oil and gas to clean energy. The document also announces an initiative for the CLC and local labour councils to create and train a network of environmental representatives at the workplace level, based on the occupational health and safety model.

Reaction from Canada, California as Trump attacks Obama fuel emissions standards

solar-power-1020194_1920The rest of the world is driving towards new technologies, but U.S. state governments are rolling back EV incentives   and  on March 15,  Donald Trump took the U.S. a further  step away from reducing  transportation emissions.  Following pressure from U.S. auto companies, and in the name of creating American jobs and reviving American manufacturing,  the White House announced that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will re-open the evaluation of the  Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for light-duty vehicles manufactured in 2022- 2025 .  Never mind that the EPA, in the waning days of the Obama presidency in January 2017, had already issued its official  Determination  to leave the standards in place, stating that they  “are projected to reduce oil consumption by 50 billion gallons and to save U.S. consumers nearly $92 billion in fuel cost over the lifetime of MY2022-2025 vehicles”, with minimal employment impacts.  The New York Times   compiles some of the U.S. reaction to the announcement, quoting Harvard’s Robert Stavins, who states that rolling back the Obama-level regulations would make it  impossible for the United States to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.   A sample of  U.S. concerns appear in:   “Trump Fuel economy rollback would kill jobs and cost each car-buyer $1650 per year “ by Joe Romm in  Think Progress ; DeSmog BlogTrump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation”   ; and the Detroit Free Press,  reporting on a lead-up Trump speech in Ypsilanti, Michigan ,  “Trump visit puts UAW politics in crosshairs”  http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/2017/03/14/trump-visit-puts-uaw-politics-crosshairs/99165906/    (March 14). The Detroit Free Press  states that autoworkers were bused in to the Trump event by their employers, with Fiat Chrysler and General Motors offering their workers a day’s pay as well.  No immediate reaction to the announcement came from the United Autoworkers union, although  the DFP article states: “UAW President Dennis Williams has repeatedly said he disagrees with Trump on health care, immigration, the environment and most other major issues. But Williams supports Trump’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) …..”

In Canada, where Unifor represents autoworkers,  president Jerry Dias spoke out  in “ Auto workers union takes aim at Trump’s examination of fuel standards ” in the Globe and Mail (March 16), and in a CTV News report . He  states that “ he would fight any attempt to roll back environmentally friendly regulations in the auto industry following Trump’s announcement”. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was in Washington on March 15th,  meeting with EPA head Scott Pruitt, but her reaction was guarded and diplomatic,  as reported in “As Trump eyes reprieve for gas guzzlers, Canada looks to China  ”  in the National Observer and in “Trump targets fuel-efficiency standards” in the Globe and Mail  (March 16).  Traditionally, Canadian  fuel emissions standards have been harmonized with the U.S. , as a result of the strongly integrated auto industry.  For example, at the end of February, Canada released  its proposed regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, and according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, Canada continued to follow the  U.S. model.  Similarly,  Ontario announced a Memorandum of Understanding on auto manufacturing with the state of  Michigan on March 13, pledging cooperation on regulatory standards as well as technology  and supply chain management.

Harmonization will be more difficult after Trump’s announcement on March 15, just as Canada and Ontario are reviewing their own revisions to fuel emissions regulation . Ontario reacted to the Trump  announcement with a  pledge to continue to cooperate with California and Quebec in the Western Climate Initiative – read “Ontario plans to team up with California against Trump on climate change” in the National Observer (March 16). California won the right to set its own fuel emission standards in the 1970’s, and today, fifteen other states voluntarily follow  California’s tougher standards, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the New York metropolitan area – translating into more than 40% of the U.S. population.  “The Coming Clean-Air war between Trump and California” in The Atlantic surveys this  latest conflict between California and the Trump administration .  A press release from Governor Gerry Brown called the fuel standards  announcement  “a cynical ploy” that puts politics ahead of science, and pledged that California will fight it in court.

Unifor joins First Nations and Environmental Groups in Court against the Northern Gateway Pipeline decision

Eighteen lawsuits were consolidated and heard in a Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver, from October 1 to 8, as eight First Nations, four environmental groups and Unifor challenged the decision of the Federal Joint Review Panel on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Lawyers representing Unifor argued that the Joint Review Panel erred by focusing on the economic benefits of oil sands development and refusing to consider greenhouse gas emissions produced by upstream development (see Unifor’s detailed Memorandum of Fact and Law here). West Coast Environmental Law provides a Legal Backgrounder with official documents, a day by day summary of proceedings and will cover the decision when it is announced in the coming months. “How Harper triggered a First Nations legal war over Northern Gateway” in the National Observer (Oct. 1) provides background.

Canadian Forestry Industry Rebrands Itself as Innovative and Green

Canada’s forestry companies, through their organization the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), recently released two “report cards” to measure their progress towards their Vision 2020 goals for productivity, environmental performance, and people . Regarding people, their Pathways to Prosperity report states: “the sector recruited 8,000 workers in the period 2010 to 2012, mainly to replace retiring baby-boomers.” The environmental performance measures get far more attention: “

In 2010-2012, the reduction in waste to landfill was 31%, …. with 98% of wood residue now being used for either energy generation or composting. More than 66% of mills’ waste water sediment is being used for either energy generation, composting or land application. The recycling rate also improved by another 4%. Canada has one of the highest recovery rates of waste paper and packaging in the world at 73% … Energy use decreased by 8%. For example, the sector continued to invest in energy reduction projects including the installation of energy-efficient equipment to improve mills’ competitiveness and increase the production of green energy. This has also served to improve the quality of air emissions with a reduction in particulate matter (PM) (11%), sulphur oxide (SOx) (6%) and nitrous oxide (NOx) (11%)” .

The Productivity Scorecard report is based on a detailed analysis by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS). That study documents the trends in the labour force and in labour productivity, and concludes that the driving force behind rapid labour productivity growth in the forest products industry is multifactor productivity growth, made possible by investment in change and innovation. The report describes the two major initiatives: Future Bio-pathways Project (begun in 2010), and Construction Value Pathways (begun in 2013). The report recommends renewed focus on human and physical capital investment, as well as on R&D spending.

To rebrand the industry and attract a new generation of workers to the sector, FPAC launched The Greenest Workforce.ca website. The website states: “The industry’s traditional products like pulp, paper and lumber are fundamental to the success of new products like renewable bio-fuels, green bio-plastics, bio-pharmaceuticals, bulletproof vests, car parts and airplane wings which are part of the dynamic new face of the Canadian forest products industry.” Using videos and Twitter, the site includes job postings, job profiles, descriptions of the industry and career prospects.
Unifor, which represents more than 21,000 forestry workers, and just completed bargaining for a pattern agreement with Resolute Forest Products, agrees that the industry is in transition. In a President’s Statement of June 8, Jerry Diaz calls for the reinstatement of a Forestry Industry Council with “a specific mandate to investigate and make public recommendations for a strengthened high-value forestry industry.”

LINKS:

Vision2020 Pathways to Prosperity (June 17) is at http://www.fpac.ca/index.php/en/page/vision2020
Productivity Report Card summary (May 2014) is at http://www.fpac.ca/publications/14-FPAC-0349-ProductivityReportDesign2014-EN-Rev5.pdf with the detailed analysis prepared by the Centre for the Study of Living standards (CSLS) at http://www.csls.ca/reports/csls2014-01.pdf .
Greenest Workforce.ca is at http://www.thegreenestworkforce.ca/index.php/en/
Unifor Statement is at http://www.unifor.org/en/blog/new-resolute-collective-agreements-covering-2000-workers