Global Banana Industry moves forward on living wages

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Commitment from an increasingly critical mass of retail, fruit company, trade union, governmental and certifier stakeholders involved in Latin American and African banana trade chains to actually implement change on the ground in banana exporting countries now looks irreversible.

The aim is two-fold: to gradually 'fill the gap' between national minimum wages and living wages, by supporting mechanisms that deliver higher minimum wages for all workers; and, through dialogue and negotiation, to raise actual wages to living wage levels.

The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating - on the ground, where it matters most. The World Banana Forum (WBF)'s permanent Working Group on the Distribution of Value along the Chain is now set on a clear path to achieving living wages for plantation and packhouse workers over the next few years.

Fairtrade and at least two big European retailers are leading the way, with major brands like Dole and Chiquita as well as Latin American and African fruit companies putting ideas and funding on the table. Workers are also at the table in the shape of independent trade unions representing nearly 20% of those directly employed across the industry.

The excerpts showing the gap between legal minimum wages in agriculture and three living wage indicators (above) are from a September 2013 study by the Center for Intelligence on Sustainable Markets (CIMS) at Central America's most prestigious business school, INCAE in San José, Costa Rica. The five biggest Latin American exporting countries and the largest exporter in the ACP group - Dominican Republic - are also included in the six-monthly studies.

This study, together with a series of practical initiatives and useful tools to help generate new value and/or redistribute existing value, will be presented at the full meeting of the WBF's permanent Working Group in the Dominican Republic on 22nd and 23rd November 2013.

Progress will be reported to the third full conference of the World Banana Forum in 2014.

The World Banana Forum Secretariat is currently hosted by the Trade & Markets Division of the FAO in Rome and can be contacted at wbf@fao.org (attention Gianluca Gondolini and Maria Felicia Arnal).

Find out more on Living Wages, read the Oxfam Policy & Practice blog post by Rachel Wilshaw.

Alistair Smith, International Coordinator, Banana Link/Euroban, and co-convenor of the WBF Working Group on the Distribution of Value along the Chain, 31st October 2013.
Credits: Tables and illustrations from CIMS/WBF
"Tracking minimum and living wages in the banana sector" September 2013.