Revised Fairtrade International Standard for Hired Labour bolsters support for workers
(by Fairtrade International)
On 14 January 2014 Fairtrade International announced a new Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labour, taking one of the most important steps in realizing the new workers’ rights strategy, going further Fairtrade Premium projects and basic labour rights protection.
To get to this point, Fairtrade International’s Standards Unit travelled the globe to meet with more than 400 workers in 14 countries, asking for feedback on the proposed changes during 18 workshops and on-site group interviews. They also interviewed close to 170 management representatives from Fairtrade International certified plantations and factories, receiving over 120 written responses from certified producer groups, traders, retailers, unions, NGOs, and Fairtrade International member organizations. Some of the changes received nearly unanimous support; others were hotly debated even among workers themselves. They include democratic elections of independent workers´ organisations, the clear recognition of the right to unionize and of the freedom of association. The company must in fact sign a ‘Freedom of Association protocol’ confirming that they allow workers to associate and submit this protocol to FLO-CERT, the Fairtrade International certifying body, before they can be Fairtrade certified. Fairtrade International will also introduce local points of contact that can support workers to know and understand their rights.
The revised Hired Labour Standard introduces furthermore a clearer requirement for wages to progress towards living wage level. Companies must regularly increase workers’ real wages and these increases are negotiated with elected workers’ representatives, laying on the information about Living Wage levels that Fairtrade International will calculate according to each region.
Other important steps were also taken on the way to ensure protection of minorities against discriminations and in order to make sure that also migrant workers can benefit from Fairtrade. Hence they must be consulted on Fairtrade Premium spending, and have the right to be elected as representatives or to the Fairtrade Premium Committee, as all the other workers. This is particularly important for these migrant workers, who support their families in their regions of origin.
“Our work is far from over. This new Standard provides the support framework, and now we have to work hard to make sure workers have the capacity and the freedom to negotiate fairer workplaces,” says Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations at Fairtrade International. “We will continue building partnerships with global union federations and local trade unions to engage workers; at the same we will continue pushing for fairer prices, and a better distribution of value along the supply chain.”