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Working Group 03: Labour Rights

One of the WG03 sessions in Guayaquil, photo by Bara Mrazkova/Nazemi
The Forum's work on labour rights has prioritised three inter-related areas: 
  • freedom of association and collective bargaining, 
  • discrimination in the workplace and in employment policies, 
  • and occupational health and safety.
Research in thirteen countries has underlined the importance of dialogue between employers and employees in overcoming barriers to the freedom of independent trade unions to operate and enter into collective contracts. Dialogue processes in several countries have started to bear some fruit, but need reinforcing through greater commitment from some corporate players. 
The role of the ILO in facilitating dialogue in countries like the Dominican Republic, where none has previously existed, is also proving to be critical. Nor should the role of progressive companies be underestimated, as has been demonstrated by the resolution of recent conflicts in Peru. In countries like Guatemala, now the most dangerous by far to be a banana trade unionist, it is hoped that companies and trade unions can start to break down the barriers to social dialogue that exist in a climate of insecurity and impunity. 
In the days leading up to the conference, the workshop organised by women trade unionists that brought together not just plantation workers' representatives and small producers from Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, but also women from the industry and certifiers, was able to develop common analysis and an agenda for eliminating workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. The model of the recently established Chiquita-Colsiba-IUF women's committee provides a framework which can be replicated in other companies.  

Women workers' call for increased employment in the industry (currently ranging from around just 5% to over 30% of all jobs) has been backed up by one company's experiment in Ecuador: maximising the number of women employed in the plantation led to an increase in productivity and reduced absenteeism. In Colombia, employers committed themselves in the most recent collective agreement to employing more women. 
In the vital area of occupational health and safety, where it should be possible to make tangible improvements on the ground without the investment of huge external resources, the call from the Working Group is to improve the functioning of joint committees at plantation level and, at a more macro level, for the Forum to lead a campaign for exporting countries to ratify and enforce ILO Conventions 184 and 187 on Health and Safety in Agriculture. So far, Ghana is the only banana-exporting country to have ratified the Conventions.

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