In the past, jobs in the flower industry were often insecure with short-term contracts, low wages and no benefits. While much has improved in the industry, there is still room for workers on flower plantations to improve their conditions.

Problems facing workers on flower farms

The Netherlands produces half of world flower exports, but a growing proportion of cut flowers are produced and exported by countries such as Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, and Colombia and Ecuador in South America. Over the past years, conditions have vastly improved for workers in these countries, but there are still challenges.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission has found evidence that workers are being paid less than $1 US a day for an 8- to 12-hour shift and housing them in crowded facilities.  Workers are often required to handle dangerous chemicals without proper protective equipment, putting them at risk of being poisoned.

In addition, relatively few workers belong to unions which would allow them to collectively negotiate better working conditions.  Instead many flower companies work to actively prevent the establishment of unions. A 2004 report from Oxfam claims that 88% of Colombian flower workers either believe they would be fired for joining a union or did not want to discuss the issue.

Benefits of Fairtrade for workers

Fairtrade aims to protect and benefit workers on flowers farms by certifying those farms which ensure safety and good working conditions for their employees. Consumers can now purchase Fairtrade flowers with the assurance that the rights of the workers who have produced them are being respected.

Fairtrade Standards for flowers

Among other things, Fairtrade Standards for flowers ensure the following:

  • A Fairtrade Premium Committee made up of elected workers is formed to manage the Fairtrade Premium. They report to a general assembly of workers.
  • The Premium must be used for projects that benefit workers, their families and their communities.
  • Forced labour and child labour of children under 15 years old is prohibited. Children aged 15 and over cannot do work that compromises their health or education.
  • Workers have freedom of association and collective agreements. They have the right to establish or join an independent union, elect their advisors and design their own programmes.
  • Salaries must be equal to or higher than the regional average or the minimum wage. If wages are below living wage benchmarks, employers and workers representatives negotiate annual increases on real wages.
  • Health and safety measures must be established in order to avoid work-related injuries. A detailed set of safety regulations specific to flower production limit the use of agrochemicals and prohibit the use of banned pesticides.

To find out more about the Fairtrade Standards for flower production, please download and read the full product Standard.

Fairtrade Flowers Facts & Figures: 2014 Monitoring & Evaluation Report, 6th Edition from Fairtrade International

Fairtrade certified producers

You can read a number of case-studies of Fairtrade flower producers on the Fairtrade Foundation website.

To find out which flower producer organizations are currently Fairtrade certified, you can check the database available on the FLO-CERT website.

Buying and selling Fairtrade flowers

If you want to find out what products are available in your country, visit the website of your national Fairtrade organization. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade flowers in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.

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