13 September, 2011

Union chops link to forestry body

Ben Butler
The Age, September 13, 2011

GAPS have widened in the formerly close alliance between the CFMEU and the forestry industry with the resignation of a union official from a key industry body.

In a scathing letter to Australian Forestry Standard chairman Geoff Gorrie, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union forestry and furnishings policy research officer Travis Wacey said he was resigning from the board of the environmental standards body because ''I do not want to be associated with a company which has such standards as I see it as detrimental to my professional reputation''.

The union's forestry and furnishings division has been a staunch friend to the forestry industry, even to the extent of supporting the timber policy of former prime minister John Howard during the 2004 election campaign.

But late last year the union signalled a move away from its support for logging in native forests, saying it would attempt to secure a plantation timber-based future for its members by talking to the green groups with which it had been locked in conflict.

In his letter to Mr Gorrie, sent on Thursday, Mr Wacey said the process used by the AFS to appoint Richard Stanton, formerly head of plantation timber lobby group A3P as chief executive, was ''potentially or actually compromised'' and said corporate governance at the organisation needed to be overhauled.

It is believed Mr Wacey's concerns about corporate governance relate in part to the dominant position state-owned native logging companies, including VicForests, enjoy on the AFS board.

AFS differs from its rival, the Forest Stewardship Council, by placing more emphasis on the views of industry than those of green and community groups.

Directors appointed by government-owned loggers hold four of nine board seats.

The private forestry sector has three seats, while community organisations and employees have one seat each. Mr Wacey represented employees as the representative of AFS's sole employee sector member, the CFMEU.

While Mr Wacey's letter to Mr Gorrie made it clear he regarded Mr Stanton as a ''quality appointment'', he raised concerns that the position was not advertised.

He said the appointment process ''lacked transparency'' and did not deal with ''serious conflict of interest issues''.

Mr Gorrie said he had received the letter but did not wish to comment

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