Forestry Giant Cut To Size At Award Ceremony
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Giant Cut To Size At Award Ceremony
Also published at Znet Commentary…
It's that time of year again. The winner of the
Roger Award for the worst transnational corporation
operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand in 2001 was named at an
open-air evening event in Auckland on Friday April 12th.
It was the fifth annual Roger Award, organized by
Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and
GATT Watchdog, two local activist/campaign organizations.
Although run on a tiny budget the award has attracted
overseas attention from organisers in other countries who
are confronting corporate power and control. It is a very
concrete way of raising awareness about a global problem by
concentrating on the impacts on local communities and the
Sadly, since the last award, to Tranz
Rail, owner of the privatized national railways (see my
April 2001 ZNet Commentary, 'Battling to derail the TNCs in
New Zealand'), we have seen more job losses, and the further
dismemberment of the national rail network, as more rail
services have been withdrawn, regardless of the impact on
For a small country with a small
population, New Zealand once had a relatively extensive
railway network. Its private owners are interested in only
the most profitable freight and mainline passenger services.
This year, after learning of its inclusion in the
list of finalists, Tranz Rail senior management approached
the judges and organizers of the Roger Award seeking a
meeting to discuss "safety and company ownership issues" and
to present a letter from the Managing Director.
was declined on the grounds that such an approach was quite
improper in any sort of contest. It is a reminder of just
how sensitive corporate executives are about anything that
may dent their company's image.
The award is given to
the transnational corporation operating in New Zealand
judged to have the most negative impact in each or all of
the following: unemployment, monopoly, profiteering, abuse
of workers/conditions, political interference, environmental
damage, cultural imperialism, impact on Maori, running an
ideological crusade, health and safety of workers and the
public, and impact on women.
And so it was that this
year's Roger Award was won by Carter Holt Harvey.
US-based timber titan International Paper now has a
50.1% share in Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) which was once one
of New Zealand's 'own' transnational corporations. Like its
parent company, it is virulently anti-worker, anti union,
and, in spite of its attempts at greenwashing its image, a
menace to the environment.
As well as New Zealand CHH
has operations in Australia and Fiji. It is one of the
southern hemisphere's largest producers of wood and paper
products. It is the second largest company in New Zealand by
market capitalization with sales of NZ $3.75 billion. It
owns approximately 330,000 hectares of predominantly
plantation radiata pine softwood forests in New Zealand.
Over here, its products are ubiquitous. Its company
website boasts: "Carter Holt Harvey's products are all
around you - like the Handee Ultra paper towels in your
kitchen, the packaging around your next McDonald's hamburger
and the Deeko plastic cutlery you pack on your next picnic.
Our products probably even helped build your house as well
as your desk, dining room table and kitchen cabinets".
CHH's attempts to casualise stevedoring at South
Island ports led to major industrial strife and regular
confrontations between Police and waterfront workers over
the summer of 2000-2001.
The New Zealand Council of
Trade Unions launched a campaign in November 2000 for
permanent local jobs on the waterfront after CHH contracted
casual labour from the North Island on 72 hour contracts to
load its logs at South Island ports. There was strong local
community support for the local (unionised) watersiders in
these small towns struggling to make a living and organizing
the pickets at the waterfront.
were held outside CHH outlets and offices around the
country. The Police operations were highly politicized,
targeting the local waterside workers and their local
supporters. As one local commentator put it, the Police
seemed to be on permanent call when Big Business wanted some
The Maritime Union of
Australia and the Korean Transport Workers' Union came out
in support of New Zealand waterside workers with a threat of
a ban on Carter Holt Harvey ships.
CHH had attempted
to corner the South Island log market by buying up logs at
inflated prices, and bought up an estimated one-eighth of
the total forest pool targeted for Korea. The Roger Award
report reads: "The strategy to create scarcity and keep
prices buoyant, following the suspension of purchases, led
to other industry players having to deal with
In its wake - rotting
trees, excess harvest left on the side of the roads and a
complete waste of money. This boom or bust scenario has left
the industry in tatters and not quite sustainable." CHH's
workers have been the ones to pay for the company's failed
attempt to monopolise the log market.
qualifying period for the 2001 Roger Award, in another
industrial dispute involving the company at its Kinleith
Mill in Tokoroa, workers were forced to take their holidays
while production had stopped to increase demand. Kinleith
workers were also subjected to an illegal drugs search
although no drugs were actually found.
Wood Products was fined NZ $6000 by Occupational Safety and
Health in October 2001 after a Nelson maintenance worker
fell and was seriously injured. OSH ruled that the company
had failed to provide fall-arresting equipment and in its
legal duty to make the worker aware of the risks of falling
as he was working at a height above three metres.
even worse was to follow for the company's New Zealand
workers. Weeks ago, since the decision to award the Roger
Award to Carter Holt Harvey was made, it announced the
slashing of over 400 jobs - effectively over half of the
remaining workforce - at its Kinleith Mill. It plans to
contract out most maintenance and stores jobs, and cut
The news has stunned locals in
Tokoroa, an area of high unemployment. Small communities in
the Central North Island, often built entirely around
forestry have already been decimated by the layoffs in the
industry in the recent past. Union spokespeople and many
others have voiced fears about the broader social and
economic impact of this latest blow to CHH's workforce.
A week after the plan for Kinleith was announced by
CHH chief executive Chris Liddell, who was in the USA at the
time, it was revealed in the company's annual report that he
was getting a 23% pay rise.
During its existence as a
New Zealand-owned company, Carter Holt Harvey had invested
in Pinochet's Chile and, before the radical labour market
deregulation that took place in 1991, its chairman, Richard
Carter, argued for Chilean-style labour laws in New Zealand.
Since its takeover by International Paper, the operations of
CHH's Chilean subsidiary, Bosques Arauco rode roughshod over
Mapuche people's rights.
And I well remember a
Mapuche brother, Francisco Caquilpan, telling me that this
company had been hiring former Pinochet goons as armed
security guards to deal with Mapuche who were trying to stop
logging on their ancestral land, in violation of a court
order not to fell the forest.
In 1990, the US
Environment Protection Agency identified the cancer risk
from dioxin at an International Paper-owned mill at
Georgetown, South Carolina to be ten times higher than any
other US paper mill. Over a decade later and halfway across
the world, the Roger Award judges noted that in New Zealand
the only pulp and paper mills that still use
dioxin-producing chlorine bleaching processes were those
owned by Carter Holt Harvey.
The Roger Award report
also highlighted CHH's role in a joint venture to grow
genetically modified pine trees in secret locations which it
dubbed "Frankenpine". 'Understood to be worth about NZ $60
million, ArborGen has united corporate forestry interests.
Named were Fletcher Challenge, known for its poor
environmental record in New Zealand, Westvaco, US-based
forestry corporation; and Auckland-based bio-tech company,
Genesis. Monsanto, the shameless 1998 Roger Award winner,
1999 and 2001 finalist (with special Watchlist status in
1999), has been included for GE pest-management and,
possibly, Terminator-type technologies for pine trees."
ArborGen's biotech work is likely to focus on
hastening the tree maturation cycle from fifteen years to
seven years, as for eucalyptus, with an incentive to halve
that time; the inclusion of pest-management, and the
introduction of Terminator technology.
centerpiece of ArborGen's work will be on the altering of
lignin - the material that makes trees rigid. While a
reduction in lignin has implications for ease of processing,
but it is unclear what will the implications be in real
terms, for example, the possibility of having "wobbly"
Along with other big players in the forestry
sector, CHH has been pressuring the New Zealand government
not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In a press release of
November 5 2001, its chief operating officer Jay Goodenbour
claimed that recent "independent assessments" suggest that
implementing the Kyoto Protocol "will hurt our ability to
export, will increase costs and cost jobs."
responsibility that Carter Holt Harvey has shown has been to
generate, or more accurately, attempt to generate, profit
for its shareholders", wrote the judges in their statement.
Behind all the TNC sweet talk about triple bottom
lines, social and environmental responsibilities, this, and
this alone, remains the imperative for global capital, in
whichever corner of the world it operates.
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© Aziz Choudry,
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