International Farm Workers Forum established

90 trade union activists from over 30 countries worldwide gathered in Stellenbosch, South Africa between October 5th and 8th to discuss new forms of organisation in agriculture.

 

The Forum was co-organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and IUF, the International Federation of trade unions in agriculture, food and the hotel service sector. One outcome was the tremendous potential for different unions in different countries to coordinate their campaigns targeting specific corporations across borders along the value chain. The migrant workers union FLOC in the US for instance, is successfully cooperating with unions in Europe and in Malawi. Significant increases and improvements in labour inspection and in occupational health and safety on farms were achieved in those cases, where unions ran targeted campaigns but in parallel cooperated with progressive governments, such as in Uruguay.

In the joint declaration, the forum’s participants pointed at the threat that private, so-called ‘Codes of Conduct’ can often undermine the legal rights to organise and to collective bargaining. Furthermore, the declaration underlines that farm workers are one of the most affected classes by climate change; demands land rights for farm workers; and calls for the urgent need of agro-ecological innovations.

Tough price pressure and fierce competition is dominating the global food system, to the detriment of wage workers along the chain, from the farm down to the supermarket shelves. Those wage workers at the beginning of the chain, around 400 million of women and men worldwide that earn their living from cultivating the soil, planting and harvesting on farms and plantations, are in the most difficult situation. Oftentimes, they are only employed seasonally. Shop stewards on remote farms have to organize on their own. And, the agro-industrial “reserve army” of labour which can easily be manipulated against each other. At the same time, International Labour Organisation statistics show that in most regions of the world, the share of wage workers from the total number of people working in agriculture is steadily increasing.

See more background info, multimedia, and the declaration at: www.farmworkersforum.org