Helping South African Workers Know Their Rights

South African workers taking part in the Spring School workshops, organized by FLO and AFIT

11 November 2011


Though the days of South African apartheid may be over, the effects linger on. For many people this means, among several issues, poor or no access to information on their rights as workers. However, through Fairtrade International (FLO) and the Association of Fairness in Trade (AFIT), workers are learning what these rights are and are able to make a difference to their lives and to their communities.

The Association of Fairness for Trade (AFIT) is a network of small-farmer and farm-worker representatives in South Africa, aimed at ensuring that fair trade works for the people it represents. From the 10 -13 October, AFIT in conjunction with FLO held its second Spring School: a series of workshops to inform and empower workers on their rights. Topics that the 80 participants chose to specialise in were Fairtrade Premium and project management, organizational management, worker’s rights, labour law and Fairtrade and climate change.

“It is fantastic to see that, thanks to AFIT and Fairtrade International’s joint efforts, workers are now able to come with unions to the farm and negotiate a salary rise,” said Benjamin Cousin, Fairtrade International’s Regional Coordinator for Southern African and Indian Ocean region.

Coming from a range of different farms such as rooibos tea, citrus fruits and table grapes, the workers learned invaluable skills to take with them to share among their colleagues and communities. Participants came from five provinces and were joined by representatives of orange, pineapple and grapefruit farms from Swaziland.

“My experience of the course was that it was very instructive and I learned a lot. What was most interesting for me was how you can implement projects and what you can do with the Fairtrade Premium,” said one participant.

“Learning about the different projects that have been undertaken by other farms was very interesting for me and I can see what the needs are on my farm.”

AFIT is supported by the NGO Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG)


Exchange visits between farms are another valuable way for workers to connect with each other and gain knowledge about their rights. One of our liaison officers recently accompanied South African fruit farmers on such a visit. Read the blog here.

Fairtrade is committed to deepening our impact for workers and hired labourers. Read more on our workers’ rights project here.

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