This post originated from Fairtrade International (May 14, 2014)
Fairtrade’s new Workers’ Rights Strategy has thus far focused on increasing the benefits of Fairtrade for workers on large commercial farms.
However, we also recognise that many small producer organizations and their members also employ waged workers and that the number of such workers is increasing as a result of the growth of Fairtrade and the development of small farmer organizations. While the Fairtrade Standards do provide protection for all workers through our strict minimum labour requirements in terms of child labour, forced labour, freedom of association, discrimination and pesticide handling, we have increasingly recognised that deeper benefits of Fairtrade do not automatically extend to this group. In recognition of this, in 2013 our first step in bringing improvements was to strengthen the certification criteria for workers’ rights on small producer organizations.
However we equally recognise that, in order to improve the situation of workers, Fairtrade must work harder to ensure that all farmers within Fairtrade co-operatives have a secure and sustainable income that meets their needs and those of their workers. The welfare of the one is inextricably tied to that of the other.
As Marike de Peña, Chair of Fairtrade International puts it. “We must at all costs avoid that farmers and workers start to be regarded as being in adversarial camps. Many farmers are also workers, the two live side by side in the same small communities, both struggling against poverty and injustice.”
This year we are embarking on a wider project to understand how we can improve the situation of workers within small farmer organizations. This will be a two-pronged process. We will seek to enable Fairtrade to be a stronger tool in the empowerment of workers. At the same time we will explore how we can strengthen the security of small farmers, many of whom are also highly vulnerable, and support them to become model employers. We are delighted that the Fairtrade Producer Networks are working in partnership with us to lead this work, and the project will also be supported with expert advice and input from Fairtrade’s Workers Rights Advisory Committee.
The first task to be carried out is to understand the diverse situations of workers on small farms and the equally diverse situations of those who employ them. Quantitative and qualitative research will give us an over-arching picture of who works on Fairtrade farms. We will examine where there are good employment practices on small farms and conversely where workers rights and welfare are being inadequately addressed. We will learn what has enabled Fairtrade farmers to become good employers and where the principle barriers lie to improving conditions for their workers.
The information we generate will help us co-design a strategy, with farmers and workers themselves, as to how Fairtrade can become a stronger change agent. Our findings may point to inadequacies in our current Standard and processes, with regard to enabling workers’ rights, which Fairtrade would then need to address. However experience tells us that Standards will only be one step in the process.
Our Producer Networks are already urging us to invest more in the capacity of co-operatives and farmers to become better employers. We must continue to fight for farmers to receive fairer prices for all of their production and not just the small proportion that is currently sold under Fairtrade conditions. We must work with Fairtrade co-operatives to ensure that the benefits of Fairtrade are shared among all their members.
And we must continue to listen to workers, supporting the development of programmes which meet their concerns, in particular empowering them to understand their rights and voice their concerns and to strengthen their capacity to negotiate wages and other conditions with their employers.
Our work is far from over. This new Standard provides the support framework, and we have to work hard to make sure workers have the capacity and the freedom to negotiate fairer workplaces.
Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations at Fairtrade International. Read more about the new Standard for Hired Labor.
Fairtrade International has overhauled its Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labor to strengthen the position of workers in Fairtrade certified plantations and estates.
The newly revised standard includes detailed requirements to guarantee workers’ right to freely organize and collectively bargain. Certified producer companies must not only declare this right publicly to workers, but allow unions to meet with workers and offer to engage in a collective agreement process with worker representatives if there is none in place.
Fairtrade International is also introducing a new methodology to set living wage benchmarks and a clear process for plantations to progress towards a living wage. The new methodology has been developed and benchmarks have already been set in some areas. Fairtrade International is now in the process of calculating rural living wage benchmarks for each region with Fairtrade certified plantations.
Fairtrade presented the new methodology and benchmarks to industry partners and at the recent European Conference on Living Wages to build wider agreement.
“Our work is far from over. This new Standard provides the support framework, and now we have to work hard to make sure workers have the capacity and the freedom to negotiate fairer workplaces,” says Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations at Fairtrade International.
“We will continue building partnerships with global union federations and local trade unions to engage workers; at the same time we will continue pushing for fairer prices, and a better distribution of value along the supply chain.”
Other changes include new criteria to strengthen Fairtrade benefits for workers, including temporary and migrant workers. Workers will have more control on how they spend the Fairtrade Premium, the funds for workers’ development. Elected worker representatives will report expenditure to a general assembly of workers. Workers can newly use a portion of this money for cash or in-kind bonuses.
The new Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labor will be published January 15, 2014 and come into effect for companies in June.
The release of the new Standard for Hired Labor on plantations follows the release of the 2012 Strategy for Hired Labor and is part of Fairtrade’s ongoing work to improve and extend the benefits of Fairtrade to all waged workers involved in Fairtrade supply chains.
Climate change related events are on the rise, notably in developing countries. Producers in the Global South are increasingly feeling the brunt of climate change effects, including higher temperatures, increased rain, floods, and droughts.
Research carried out by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich indicates that climate change “will have mainly negative impacts upon agricultural production, food security and economic development, especially in developing countries.”
Fairtrade coffee producers in Latin America are currently being severely affected by the spread of the leaf rust disease which is affecting over 50% of the total coffee growing area in Central America, and within the range of 30 - 40% in some South American countries. Climate change has been identified as a key factor facilitating the outbreak. Fairtrade producers are also being affected in Africa; tea farmers in East Africa, for instance, suffered heavy frost events in early 2012 which destroyed thousands of acres of bushes.
Unfortunately, the picture of the future does not appear promising. In fact, several modeling studies predict that by 2050 the productivity of coffee, cocoa, tea or cotton will severely be affected and production in some areas might even disappear. Many farmers will need to adapt their practices to the new climatic conditions or risk losing their livelihoods.
The Fairtrade Approach
As the effects of climate change become more evident, Fairtrade producers need additional technical and financial support to confront these new challenges. Beyond the benefits that Fairtrade offers to producers (Fairtrade Minimum Price, Fairtrade Premium, strong environmental standards, etc.), the system supports basic pre-conditions that are needed to implement climate change adaptation measures such as: organizational development, environmental sustainability, financial stability, investment possibilities, and greater autonomy.
Fairtrade acknowledges that the current benefits of the Fairtrade system are insufficient to help producers confront the effects of climate change. As a result, we have developed a climate change strategy that defines the scope, establishes Fairtrade priorities and provides a framework for action.
A global work plan for climate change has been developed, focusing on producer services (i.e. climate change standards), producer support for climate change adaptation (creating partnerships for adaptation projects), and producer-driven advocacy. The overall mission is to enable vulnerable producers to adapt to climate change and support them to mitigate the impacts, while promoting further sustainable development practices.
Fairtrade International and some member organizations have also introduced carbon reduction plans to reduce their operational impact on climate change.
Learn more about the global work plan, how climate change is addressed in the Fairtrade Standards, and how the Fairtrade movement is going even further to tackle this growing challenge.
Today is World Day Against Child Labor. According to the International Labor Organization there are around 215 million child laborers in the world; around half of them work in hazardous conditions.
In the agriculture sector alone, an estimated 170 million children and youth are working. Many of them do not attend any form of school, have little time to play, do not receive proper nutrition or care and more than half of them are exposed to the worst forms of child labor (e.g. work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labor). Many of the types of work girls and boys are involved in are hidden and therefore difficult to track, suggesting that the actual number of child laborers could be much higher, especially for some girls.