Fairtrade International Announces New Workers’ Rights Strategy
Fairtrade is changing its approach to hired labour. The Board of Fairtrade International unanimously approved a new global workers’ rights strategy at its March meeting, based on recommendations from partners within the Fairtrade system, including workers’ representatives. Now we are starting to implement the strategy, in close consultation with our producer networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The new strategy will firmly place Fairtrade beyond a traditional CSR model based on standard-setting and auditing. It will guide us in helping workers become active participants in the decisions that impact their lives.
“Workers have benefited over the years from Fairtrade Premium projects and basic labour rights protection offered by the Fairtrade Standards and certification. But now it’s time to go beyond this, to bring worker participation to the heart of our model,” says Tuulia Syvänen, Executive Operating Officer at Fairtrade International.
Fairtrade believes collective bargaining through an independent trade union is the best way for workers to negotiate higher wages, benefits and better work conditions. We will work with employers, workers and partners to create a supportive environment, enabling workers to organize and bargain on the terms of their employment if they choose. We will do this for example by asking employers to inform workers in writing that they accept freedom of association.
We will begin benchmarking living wage levels and provide a clear roadmap for employers to move towards paying their workers a wage that covers their basic needs. We will work to ensure that companies have the resources they need to pay these wages through their participation in Fairtrade.
Our long-term vision is to build mature systems of industrial relations on Fairtrade farms. We want to enable employee-worker relations based on trust and respect, with regular dialogue about all workplace issues - not just terms of employment. This is good for companies too: according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “the competitiveness and viability – and even survival – of enterprises increasingly depends on the ability to ensure that employees are motivated, skilled and committed. This is best achieved in a progressive workplace environment characterized by a spirit of mutual trust and respect, non-discrimination and good labour-management relations.”
Fairtrade International has already launched a review of our Hired Labour Standard so we can integrate all these principles into our standards requirements. We will also implement some elements of the strategy through partnerships, training and support. We are focusing our work this year on organizations covered by the Hired Labour Standard.
Fairtrade began addressing the problems faced by landless workers with the introduction of Fairtrade certified tea from plantations in 1994. Today 170 000 men and women are employed on Fairtrade certified plantations.