Working for Workers

03 February 2011

Last June Fairtrade International (FLO) launched a major workstream to deepen Fairtrade’s impact for workers and hired laborers. Last month a group representing trade unions, NGOs, and Fairtrade experts met to advise FLO as part of the new Advisory Committee on Workers' Rights and Empowerment (WRAC). The team offered invaluable insights on the challenges to achieving worker empowerment.

“This was a historic meeting, the first time so many high level trade union and workers rights activists have come to the FLO offices,” said Charlotte Opal, FLO’s Worker Rights and Trade Union Relations advisor. “They are helping us to build our vision of worker empowerment – how we can change the Fairtrade model to have a bigger impact for workers.”

The group shared their challenges and experiences in protecting the freedom of association, encouraging workers to organize, how to increase wages, and how to involve management and companies in the supply chain. These insights will contribute to FLO’s review of the Fairtrade hired labour strategy.

“Our goal is that workers have the tools and power to defend their own rights. The Fairtrade audit is then just a tool, not the main way to ensure compliance,” explained Charlotte.

“This was one of the best meetings I have attended in a long time. Now it’s time to translate this momentum into changes in the ground,” said Bert Schouwenberg of GMB, Britain’s General Union.

Members of the Advisory Committee include (membership of the committee is not an endorsement of FLO):

  • Trade Unions: Sue Longley, IUF - UK, Steve Grinter, ITGLWF - UK; and Bert Schouwenberg, GMB - UK
  • NGOs: Gopinath Parakuri, Cividep - India; Esther Kapisa, Fidelity Labor Consultants - Zambia; Peter Williams, Oxfam International - UK; Alistair Smith, BananaLink - UK; Brian Campbell, International Labour Rights Fund - USA; Mandy Moussoris, Environmental Monitoring Group - South Africa
  • FLO members: Peter Gaynor, Fairtrade Mark Ireland; Aruna Anand, NAP; Heather Franzese, Fair Trade USA; and Markus Staub – MH Switzerland (shared seat)
  • Companies: Louise Herring, Sainsbury's - UK

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