30 Apr 2021

International Labour Day – Five Ways Fairtrade Supports Workers’ Rights

870 Bananaworkers 2021
Banana workers in Colombia
© Dina Ramos

On the eve of International Labour Day, we stand in solidarity with workers and trade unions around the world.

We celebrate the hard-fought gains made by workers and the labour movement over the years – safe working conditions, better pay, equity, and even the weekend! We recognize the immense courage and sacrifice it took for many trade unionists around the world to attain these rights for others.

We want to help ensure that all workers in Fairtrade producer organizations are able to claim these entitlements through free and independent trade unions that can collectively bargain on their behalf. Here are some of the ways that Fairtrade supports workers’ rights for the hundreds of thousands of wage workers involved in producing Fairtrade flowers, tea, bananas and countless other products:

1. Workers’ rights embedded in our standards

Fairtrade Standards are based on the conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Hired Labour Standard sets out the requirements for plantations and any large farms that employ regular workers, includes rules on health and safety while also establishing employment conditions for topics like wages, leave time, social security, and contracts. They also include requirements to ensure better protection against gender-based violence and sexual harassment through gender committees and grievance procedures.

2. Supporting workers to organize

Fairtrade is dedicated to the labour movement and to solutions co-created with workers. In collaboration with trade unions and labour rights organizations, we support workers to know their rights and to negotiate agreements via collective bargaining on various aspects of decent work, such as working conditions or job security. An example of this is our work with the labour movement on banana plantations in Cameroon and Ghana.

3. Supporting dialogue

Fairtrade works to support dialogue between workers, and their employers. Wherever there are grievances or obstacles to good labour relations, we want to help remove them, working in partnership with producer organizations, local unions, and labour experts.

One example is the round table in Peru to strengthen labour relations between farmer organizations and trade unions in the banana sector.

4. Enabling Living Wages

Enabling workers to earn a living wage is one of the core objectives of Fairtrade’s strategy. Our ambition is that workers have the power to improve their own livelihoods and negotiate their wages and terms of work.

We firmly believe that a living wage is best achieved through collective bargaining. Wage issues are closely linked to other working conditions, such child and forced labour, health and safety, working hours, gender equity and harassment. By ensuring that wage setting happens as part of a collective bargaining process, a coherent approach to decent work is possible.

Earlier this year we revised the fresh fruit standard, marking a major step towards living wages for workers on banana plantations. Read more.

5. Increasing representation of workers in Fairtrade

Producers are represented in every level of our governance – including representation from both small-scale farming cooperatives and plantations. But we recognise that we still have more work to do to ensure workers themselves also have a strong voice in Fairtrade.

One step towards this is the appointment of a new labour representative on the Fairtrade Standards Committee – the body that co-shapes and ultimately decides on every single Fairtrade standard requirement. A Latin American trade union leader was nominated to this role by our Workers’ Rights Advisory Committee, bringing a worker perspective, expertise and a collective mandate to a key decision-making body at Fairtrade.

Step by step, we aim to contribute to better lives for workers; recognising we don’t have all the solutions but always seeking to learn and improve. Happy Labour Day!