Colombian, Kenyan flower industry workers exploited

This video says about itself:

Fair Trade Romance? Why Fair Trade Flowers Matter on Valentine’s Day

12 Feb 2013

This Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend .5 billion on approximately 220 million flowers, most of which are roses grown in Colombia and Ecuador. The billion dollar flower industry in Colombia, in fact, employs over 100,000 workers.

Unfortunately, the truth about this booming market is that working conditions on flower farms are often far from rosy (pun intended). Many workers find themselves stricken with asthma from inhaling fuel and pesticide fumes; work seven days a week; and rarely receive vacation or overtime. Access to medical care and educational opportunities are also scarce–a harsh reality for those who need it the most.

The good news is that you can still give that special someone a bouquet of beautiful red roses this Valentine’s Day AND support the farmers and workers that grew them. Fair Trade Certified™ flowers are a great way to celebrate this 700-year-old holiday—a way to share the love with folks at home and give special thanks to farmers and workers abroad.

Take the case of Ana Salome Sivinta, a 25-year-old woman who works among 175 employees at Jardines Piaveri, a Fair Trade flower estate in Ecuador. Prior to working at Piaveri, Ana worked at a broccoli farm where she had no benefits–not even those required by Ecuadorian law. She had no job or labor protections, no access to healthcare, was not paid minimum wage, and did not earn overtime for extra hours worked at the farm.

Ana’s life changed significantly after she began working at a Fair Trade estate. She now has access to medical care, enjoys 21 vacation days a year, can afford to see a dentist, earns higher wages, and is also able to borrow money through a loan program made possible by the Fair Trade Community Development Premium.

With this additional income, Ana was able to buy a small plot of land and build her own home. She also purchased a washing machine, and can now spend less time washing clothes in the river and more time at home with her family and friends.

When we asked Ana what message she would like to send to American consumers this Valentine’s Day, she replied:

“I would ask that they continue buying Fair Trade flowers, because with that income the families that work on the certified farm can improve our standard of living and can provide a better future for our children.” — Ana Salome Sivinta, Jardines Piaveri flower estate

A gift of Fair Trade flowers also supports women’s empowerment, and education for workers and their families. Meet María Carmelina Chimborazo Guamangalle, a 22-year-old single mother who came to the AGROCOEX estate in Ecuador after working for years on a conventional flower farm.

In addition to feeling that she is valued as both a woman and a worker, Fair Trade makes it easier for María to balance her job with parenthood. She now has access to things like transportation subsidies, child care services and monthly incentive bonuses to further support her family. Student grants made possible by Fair Trade Premiums also helped María complete her secondary education; she now aspires to grow her leadership role at the farm. “I want to see this company grow, and I want to grow within this company,” said María.

María is deeply proud of her work at AGROCOEX, and believes that Fair Trade has played an important role not only in her own life, but in the future life of her child.

“I live today, and for tomorrow I see better days for myself and my little daughter.” – María Carmelina Chimborazo Guamangalle, AGROCOEX flower estate

We cannot think of a better message to share with you this Valentine’s Day. By giving the gift of Fair Trade Certified flowers to your loved ones at home, you’re also showing support for women like María and Ana who are working hard for a better tomorrow. So go forth, and share the love.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Blooming flower industry exploits Colombian and Kenyan workers

Friday 14th February 2014

War on Want research finds women toiling for half the living wage in unsafe conditions

Valentine’s Day is the most lucrative date in the flower retailers’ calendar yet workers in developing countries are risking their health and toiling for a pittance supplying British supermarkets.

Bouquets are sold for vastly inflated prices but research by anti-poverty charity War on Want has found the mainly female workforce in Colombia and Kenya supplying those flowers continues to slave for as little as half the living wage.

Workers also suffer problems such as disabling repetitive strain injuries and miscarriages through exposure to toxic pesticides, the charity said.

Supermarkets sell around 70 per cent of all the flowers bought in Britain — the highest proportion in Europe.

While many British firms have adopted voluntary standards for their suppliers, these are still failing to protect the health and safety of workers or ensure basic workers’ rights.

War on Want believes government regulation is necessary to introduce binding legislation to hold companies to account for the impacts in their supply chains.

It argues that workers supplying multinational companies in Britain should have the right to redress in this country and the ability to seek compensation for damage to their health or loss of earnings as the result of actions of British companies and their suppliers.

The charity is calling for the establishment of a supermarket watchdog to tackle abuses by British firms and their suppliers.

War on Want spokesman Paul Collins said: “Millions of people buying Valentine’s Day roses for their loved ones will be shocked to learn that many workers supplying them face poor pay and conditions.

“It is nothing less than a disgrace that company bosses are piling up profits while Kenyans on flower farms struggle to feed themselves and their families, and live in slum housing. British corporate leaders must ensure a living wage and decent conditions for them.”

Mr Collins added that with London Fashion week due to begin today, “we urge shoppers not only to press retailers on flower workers’ treatment, but on the need to guarantee a living wage and good, safe conditions for those who make our clothes or supply fruit, tea and wine sold in UK stores.”

4 thoughts on “Colombian, Kenyan flower industry workers exploited

  1. Kenya flower farm strike

    Around 600 workers at the Red Land Roses flower farm, Ruiru, Kenya went on strike last week, protesting poor working conditions. Most of the flower workers are paid SH6, 300, ($72) a month. They are also demanding their employer honour an agreement over transport allowances. One worker said he had been hit with a metal bar over the head by a supervisor and suffered head injuries.

    The farm workers are also demanding lunch breaks. They say they are overworked and cannot eat their packed lunch until 4pm. The police responded to the nonviolent strike by throwing teargas canisters at the workers, including some pregnant women.


  2. Protest by Kenyan flower workers

    Workers at the Karuturi Flower Farm, Naivasha, Kenya, which is under receivership, went on a go-slow to protest the sacking of seven union officials last week. The seven union officials are accused of inciting their fellow workers.

    A Kenyan Plantation Workers Union spokesman said the sackings followed a meeting which had been called on the issue of proposed wage increases.


  3. Kenyan flower growers demand hygienic work conditions

    Some 2,000 Kenyan workers at Karutura Flower Farm (rebranded Twiga Roses) have gone on strike demanding the provision of soap. One worker explained the farm is obliged to provide the soap but has failed to do so for the last five months.

    A representative of the Kenyan Agricultural Workers Union said the soap was only a minor issue and that the company was sitting on a time bomb. He followed up by saying the company had not passed on union subscriptions for the last five months.


  4. Pingback: Colombian workers fight for their rights | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.