Fairtrade response to Guardian article on “Fair Trade Scandal”
In response to an article on Guardian Global Development, which reproduced an extract from the book “Fair Trade Scandal”, Barbara Crowther, Fairtrade Foundation’s Director of Policy & Public Affairs, said:
“The Fairtrade system welcomes constructive debate, as we seek to continually strengthen our system and approach. It is a reality the in many of the commodities where Fairtrade operates – such as coffee and bananas – Latin America has traditionally dominated market access. Overcoming Africa’s historic exclusion from world trade markets is a long and slow process, but one we are actively engaged with. Fairtrade International’s response to Mr Syllah’s book can be found here: http://www.fairtrade.net/1114.html
“By focusing on figures from 2009, the article does not fully capture the changes in Fairtrade in Africa over the last five years. For example in 2012, the number of Fairtrade certified producer organisations in Africa grew by 23%, and six in ten of all farmers and workers in Fairtrade are now in Africa. Increasing their market access on Fairtrade terms is the challenge now. Fairtrade is working to boost the productivity and sales for African co-operatives in the commodities where they have a competitive advantage, such as with cocoa growers in Cote d’Ivoire or coffee growers in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2005, Fairtrade Africa has worked to strengthen the position of farmers and workers, and to contribute to greater sustainable development in Africa, and we are working with businesses to encourage them to do more to boost the volumes that are sourced from African producers. Producers and traders across Africa are also now engaged in establishing Africa-Africa Fairtrade supply chains, starting in South Africa and the Kenya & East African markets.
“Meanwhile it is overly simplistic to suggest geography alone determines wealth or poverty as we all know there are huge disparities of wealth in many Latin American countries, as there are in many African ones too. In Colombia, for example, a Fairtrade workers’ foundation made up of 15 certified farms has used its Fairtrade premiums to build a school because children in their rural villages were having to be taught under trees and in an old disused pigsty. That they have done so through better terms of trade rather than reliance on traditional aid, is something they, and we, can celebrate.”
Happy Valentine’s Day – Saying it with Fairtrade Red Roses
13 February 2014, Nairobi Kenya: Every year millions of people say “I love you” with red roses. For the more conscious buyer, the most beautiful way to say this is with Fairtrade flowers produced by Fairtrade certified farms.
Fairtrade Africa and its members work hard to ensure that these beautiful flowers benefit the workers (hired labour) as required in the Fairtrade Hired Labour Standards. You can download the Standard for Hired Labour from here www.fairtrade.net/hired-labour-standards/
It is, therefore, important that we respond to an article that appears in the Daily Mirror today, on the eve of Valentine’s Day 2014, that posts an incorrect picture on the rights and benefits earned by workers at one of our members’ farm, a highly recognised and committed Fairtade certified flower farm, since 2006, in Kenya namely Finlays Horticulture.
On the matter of the female worker earning 4,255 Kenyan shillings – about £30 per month, as Fairtrade, we follow ILO Conventions 100 on equal remuneration and 111 on discrimination as well as ILO Convention 110 in the case of plantations. All workers must work under fair conditions of employment. The company must pay wages in line with or exceeding national laws and agreements on minimum wages or the regional average. Conditions of employment and in particular salaries are in line with or exceed sector CBA regulations, the regional average and official minimum wages for similar occupations. Furthermore, we quote Finlays response that “The pay slips that the journalist were shown, that they have now shared with us, do not come from Finlays Horticulture although the Basic Pay of Ksh 6949.00 and Housing allowance of Ksh 2,000.00 are the rate that our lowest paid worker receives. The article then bases its wage comparisons on the net pay shown on the pay slip of Ksh 4,255.00; this is after the deduction of Ksh 3993.12 to a SACCO a voluntary saving and loan scheme that the worker would have asked us to pay. True disposable income is Ksh 8218.12 a month (£57.43).”
In the article, the journalist claims that the workers are expected to pick 8,000 roses an hour. Finlays have responded that this is not only wrong but probably physically impossible saying, “We would expect a skilled picker to handle between 100 and 150 per hour. On a typical day during the two harvesting periods a worker would normally fill 8 to 10 buckets with 80 stems not the 40 buckets at 200 per stem quoted. In between harvesting workers do other crop husbandry tasks.”
There are further claims made in the article such as comments about the working day which are incorrect since as per the Fairtrade standard working hours and overtime must comply with applicable law and industry standards. Workers are not required to work in excess of 48 hours per week on a regular basis. Also the article talks about the housing the workers live in. “Finlays Horticulture does not provide housing but pays a housing allowance of Ksh 2,000 per month. In Naivasha, Kshs 2,000/= is sufficient to pay for a house with electricity.” responded Finlays.
The worker is quoted as saying “I need proper medical help but I cannot afford a doctor“. It is a Fairtrade minimum requirement that workers are provided with free and regular medical care and advice, which is offered at the workplace at fixed times during working hours. According to Finlays, their farms have health clinics where trained nurses will see workers free of charge. If a worker needs to see a doctor they can use the Finlays run hospital, that is close to the farms and see a doctor for 40Kshs. This is a subsidised rate available to all employees and their dependants. As a comparison the rate in Naivasha town would be Ksh 500.
Clearly the benefits of buying Fairtrade flowers for your beloved ones at Valentine’s or indeed everyday of the year are clear. We thank you for your continued support and together we will continue to pursue the continuous ethical and sustainable development of Africa for the benefit of its workers and farmers.