29 May 2017

Revised Standard Aims to Improve Wages for Flower Workers

In some countries there are no legislated minimum wages for flower workers which could serve as a basis for wage negotiations. Fairtrade has recently started tackling this issue by revising the standard requirements for flower farms, aiming to better protect flower workers against extremely low wages.

Fairtrade workers in the Fairtrade certified Harvest Limited Athi River flower farm.
Image © Nathalie Bertrams

Fairtrade requires certified plantations to pay workers at least the regional average or national minimum wage. They must then increase real wages annually to continuously close the gap with living wages as defined via the Anker methodology for living wage measurement. The incremental wage increases and timeline are negotiated with elected worker representatives.

Recent research has highlighted the extremely low wages in the Ethiopian flower sector. Since there is no national minimum wage or collectively agreed wage level for agricultural workers in Ethiopia and other flower-producing countries, Fairtrade has so far only had limited influence on the initial base wages which then must be increased in line with the standards.

As a first step to address this, Fairtrade has revised the Standard for Flowers and Plants. It now requires employers to apply the World Bank’s global poverty line as the minimum above which base wages must be set. This is a novel approach Fairtrade has developed and implemented for the first time.

The new requirement will improve wages for thousands of flower workers, particularly in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. It can also reduce wage-driven competition between flower farms and initiate the journey towards a living wage.

Newly Fairtrade certified flower farms must pay the floor wage from day one. Existing certified flower farms must reach 85 percent of the floor wage level within the next year, and arrive at 100 percent within two years.

Fairtrade is committed to playing our part in increasing wages in the East African flower sector. We view a living wage as vital for a decent standard of living and a key tool for worker empowerment. Fairtrade strongly believes that all stakeholders – including employers, trade unions, buyers and retailers – must make a joint effort to enable flower farms to pay living wages and produce sustainably in a highly competitive environment.

The Standard for Flowers and Plants applies in addition to Fairtrade’s Standard for Hired Labour. Both can be found on our standards webpage.