Fairtrade Project on Workers’ Rights

03 August 2011



The Fairtade Standards protect workers’ basic rights according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. This means bonded and illegal child labour is prohibited, health and safety standards must be followed, employers must allow workers to have freedom of association and collective bargaining, and no discrimination is allowed For more details, see the Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labour here (PDF).

Despite our rigorous Standards and certification system, we know that workers can face many subtle or overt barriers to enjoying quality work conditions and to forming or joining a union, even in Fairtrade. That’s why we launched a major programme to deepen Fairtrade’s impact for workers and hired labourers.

Highlights include:

  • We are conducting a strategic review of our work in hired labour. For the first time since Fairtrade first included workers in its scope, we are reevaluating our entire approach in this area.
  • A group of trade unions, labour rights NGOs, industry experts and Fairtrade members are advising us on how we can deepen Fairtrade’s impact for workers. The Fairtrade Advisory Committee on Worker Rights and Empowerment (WRAC) began in January.
  • We are hosting a series of pilot workshops on workers' rights across Latin America. All groups with a stake in workers' rights in Fairtrade – workers and managers from Fairtrade certified farms, experts from trade unions and national NGOs, and the Fairtrade International team – have sat down together to talk about what workers' rights mean and how they could work together better to make a real change for workers.
  • We are working on a new brochure to inform workers on Fairtrade plantations and factories of their rights and where to go if they have complaints or concerns.

We have a full-time staff person in the position of Senior Adviser on Worker Rights and Trade Union Relations. This person is overseeing the hired labour strategy review, supporting us to build relationships with local and global trade unions, and developing and implementing policies related to workers’ rights in the Fairtrade system.

“It is our vision that workers have the collective power to negotiate the terms and conditions of their work. This way they enjoy a sense of dignity and control over their own livelihoods,” says Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers Rights and Trade Union Relations.

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