Farmworkers: Considered essential but exploited

A three-part online event series hosted by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung on 25 March, 29 April, and 27 May 2021.

 

The roughly 300 to 500 million waged workers employed in agriculture worldwide constitute one of the most marginalized groups in the global economy. In addition to these workers, large numbers of casual and temporary workers are hired by small and large growers. Work in agriculture is characterized by systematic violations of basic human and labour rights, including little or no right to join or be represented by a trade union and poor occupational health and safety standards. Agriculture ranks alongside mining and construction as industries with the highest rate of accidents, where the widespread use of migrant, temporary, and seasonal workers is a key feature.

Farmworkers are discriminated against in many ways, yet they rarely appear in debates around rural development or agricultural policy. At the same time, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns in many parts of the world have made the role of agricultural workers and migrant workers in particular more visible. Instead of being considered “unskilled labour” as in the past, they are now seen as “essential workers”.

This series of three online events seeks to highlight the experiences of farmworkers and shed light on their working and living realities. The series will discuss, among others, the following questions: Who are farmworkers? What are their working and living realities? What role does migration and migrant labour play in the agricultural sector, especially migrant women farmworkers? What approaches to organizing them and making their interests more visible are available to trade unions and other worker organizations? Are there ongoing processes of self-organisation, and what are their demands? What needs to be done to improve their lives?

All these questions and more will be discussed with farmworker representatives and farmworkers themselves from various parts of the world.

Each online event will be held in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation.

The three online events are organized by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

 

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Online event 1: Farmworkers: Rendering Visible the Invisible

Time and date: Thursday, 25 March 2021, 10:00 Buenos Aires (ART), 14:00 Berlin (CET), 15:00 Johannesburg (SAST) and 18:30 New Delhi (IST)

Farmworkers work hard to put food on our plates every day. Despite their important work, they belong to an often neglected group. Only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic have they received more attention. In this online event, we want to learn more about the people and fates behind the general category of farmworkers. How many farmworkers exist worldwide? Where do they live and what are the main challenges they face, such as precarious labour conditions, handling hazardous pesticides, landlessness, and the casualization of work. What are the major trends in the sector? How do new trends like digitalization and mechanization affect them, and what does their future look like? What is the situation of women farmworkers in particular?

Speakers:

  • Patrick Konde, Unione Sindacale di Base (USB), Italy
  • Colette Solomon, Women on Farms (WoF), South Africa
  • María Eugenía Apartado, FENSUAGRO, Colombia
  • Vijoo Krishnan, All India Farmers Union, India

Moderation: Jan Urhahn, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Southern Africa

Registration required: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TZb6hvXoQUazTTgu2dhaTg

The event will be held in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation.

 

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Online event 2: Migrant Labour on the World’s Farms

Time and date: Thursday, 29 April 2021, 10:00 Buenos Aires (ART), 15:00 Berlin (CEST), 15:00 Johannesburg (SAST) and 18:30 New Delhi (IST)

Globally, capitalist agriculture seeks to lower labour costs as much as possible. Working as a farmworker in rural areas is very precarious as a result. Migrant labour is being used on more and more farms around the world. Migrant labour includes either foreign migrant or internal migrant labour. In many circumstances, farmers replace permanent staff with seasonal and migrant workers, fostering tensions among workers. Racism within the workforce is becoming a problem. The position of migrant farmworkers is often weaker than that of other workers. Do they face more exploitation than

others? How do they live? How is migration organized, which networks are involved, and who benefits from it in the end?

Speakers:

  • Sudhir Katiyar, Centre for Labor Research and Action, India
  • Deneco Dube, Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union, (CSAAWU), South Africa
  • Benjamin Luig, European Migrant Workers Union (EMWU), IG BAU, Germany
  • Sinthia Hernandez, Lideres Campesinas, USA

Moderation: Jan Urhahn, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southern Africa

Registration required: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cv-e6jQuTiiNVAcP1ZkZGg

The event will be held in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation.

 

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Online event 3: The Struggle for Farmworker Organization

Time and date: and date: Thursday, 27 May 2021, 10:00 Buenos Aires (ART), 15:00 Berlin (CEST), 15:00 Johannesburg (SAST) and 18:30 New Delhi (IST)

In many circumstances it is difficult for farmworkers to be visible in conflicts and make their voices heard. Getting organized and speaking with a unified voice is certainly crucial for farmworkers to defend their interests in struggles with farmers and against diverse forms of exploitation. What are the different sources of power trade unions have? How do they seek to organize farmworkers and what are the challenges they face? What other forms of organizing are possible and how can workers organize themselves? What different strategies and approaches exist to strengthen farmworkers and give them a say in decisions that affect them? What are innovative forms of organizing and how can we forge exceptional alliances?

Speakers:

  • Anuradha Talwar, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, India
  • Alicia Muñoz, Union of rural women workers and sea workers (ANAMURI), Chile
  • Roman Pinal, United Farmworkers (UFW), USA
  • Heiner Köhnen, Transnationals Information Exchange (tie), Germany

Moderation: Patricia Lizarraga, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Southern Cone

Registration required: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Kp9GkWIHTmKerI9Z_tspZA

The event will be held in English and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation.