Between 2013 and 2016, Banana link worked with General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU) to educate and empower workers and their unions to negotiate living wages and improved conditions on banana and pineapple plantations.
Poor wages, debt, long hours and hazardous working conditions
Ghana has only developed a commercial banana and pineapple industry in the past couple of decades, exporting to Europe, mainly France and the UK. Workers on plantations suffer from poor wages that don't meet their basic living costs, leaving them in poverty which leads many into spiralling debt, while working long hours in hazardous conditions, with poor protection from illness and injury.
Education programme for union representatives and workers
To address these problems, Banana Link’s Securing Decent Work in tropical fruit export production project has delivering an education programme for trade union representatives and workers to help them understand their rights and negotiate better wages and working conditions.
In the video below, workers and union officials talk about how they have benefitted from this training programme.
GAWU have negotiated pay increases which have seem average monthly take-home increase by 92%: from GHC 198 in 2013 to GHC 380 in 2015. 54% of workers now report that their wages are sufficient to cover the costs of daily necessities such as food, housing, utilities and their children’s education and identify that the wage increases negotiated by GAWU have caused this increase in capacity to cover household costs. Workers have also received financial management education via the unions to enable them to better handle their limited incomes, resulting in them borrowing money at lower interest rates.
Since 2013, working hours have reduced from an average of 48 hours a week (despite the legal maximum being 40 hours) to 37.5 hours a week, with most working days not exceeding 8 hours. The amount of unpaid overtime has significantly been reduced as well: in 2013, 89% of workers believed that overtime was compulsory and were unclear about whether additional preparatory work constituted employment, whereas now, the majority of workers receive payment for overtime.
Awareness of labour rights
As a result of the education project in Ghana, 66% of workers are now aware of at least one of their labour rights, compared to only 28% at the start of the project. Nearly 80% of workers attended a GAWU meeting or workshop in Year 3 of the project, from informal sessions run by their peers, to workshops to better understand the company rules, labour laws and collective agreements relevant to their daily lives. GAWU’s goal is now to ensure that 100% of workers know their rights.
Provision of protective clothing
Provision of appropriate equipment is essential in order to protect workers from hazards. Poor quality or incorrectly sized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can lead to various injuries.
97% of workers reported receiving PPE across the 4 plantations surveyed, and improvements can also be seen in the number of workers using their own resources to purchase and repair PPE - a fall from 40% to 25%. However, many workers still report that the PPE they receive is insufficient for the tasks they undertake, so there is still a way to go.
Using findings from our 2015 research, that showed women would prefer an allowance for off-site childcare, GAWU is better able to engage in dialogue with management about appropriate provisions to meet workers’ needs.
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