One of the reasons that horticulture farms set up shop in East and Southern Africa are the low wages. Many countries have a very low minimum wage, and some countries do not even have one in order to attract business. Although cost of living in most of the producing countries is lower than in the importing countries, the wages in the horticulture sector are so low, that it is also for these countries too low to make a decent living.
To understand what somebody at minimum needs to earn to sustain him/herself and a family, the concept of ‘living wage’ has been introduced. According to the Global Living Wage Coalition, a living wage is “[t]he remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.” This is a human right, agreed upon in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.
Tambuzi flower farm, Kenia. Photos: Leonard Fäustle
To calculate a living wage per country and/or region, the Anker Methodology has been developed by Richard and Martha Anker. This methodology uses the prices of local goods to establish the living wage per region. For example, the living wage level in Lake Naivasha, Kenya, where most of the flower farms are based, is 264 US dollar per month, while a living wage in Ziway, Ethiopia is 148 US dollar per month.
Barely any of the women who pick the flowers earn a living wage. This means they do not have enough money for nutritious food, proper housing or to pay for medical care. Some companies substitute the salary by providing in kind benefits, such as daycare for the workers’ children or a clinic. However, workers should still earn a certain minimum wage; in kind benefits can only make up for a limited percentage of the total wage. We believe a living wage should be paid out as much as possible. Otherwise, workers become trapped at the farm, and they won’t have any freedom to decide for themselves on what they want to spend their salary on.
The Women@Work Campaign has been at the forefront advocating for a living wage. We work together with frontrunner farms to find innovative ways to increase wages.
We bring together different stakeholders such as producers, retailers and certifiers in our Living Wage Labs, to work together towards living wages. These Labs are a platform for co-creation and experimentation; and just like in a laboratory, new ideas, tools and prototypes are developed to address the living wage issue.
To help companies further, we offer various tools to help determine their current wage level and offer ways to increase the wages.
Our partners include trade unions, who negotiate for higher wages through Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). Workers are also informed on the topic of living wage, so they can make better decisions and ask for their rights. At some farms, women have started a savings group and/or received training on saving, giving them more financial literacy.
We lobby governments to put a minimum wage, and to ensure the minimum wage level is at a minimum the same as the calculated living wage.
Through public campaigns, we want to make consumers aware of the low wages in the sector, and put pressure on companies to work towards a living wage.
Janepher Nassali from UHISPAWU and Leah Eryenyu from AMwA at The Only Way is Up! conference.
- Trade unions have negotiated higher wages 18 times in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tanzania.
- In Uganda, the Women@Work partners have successfully lobbied Parliament to set up the Minimum Wage Bill, revising the minimum wage level that was set in 1984.
- The Living Wage Lab has been established in the Netherlands, Uganda and Malawi. In the Netherlands, 16 sessions have been held.
- Wagagai, a Ugandan farm, and Faritrade met each other during one of the Living Wage Labs in the Netherlands, after which they joined hands and set up the Fair Cents Pilot. Through this project, the workers at Wagagai receive additional income in the month of December through the sale of poinsettias.
- We were the initiator and one of the seven organizers of the living wage/living income conference ‘The Only Way is Up!’, which took place in November 2019 and attracted 300 participants.
- Through the Dutch public campaign ‘Small Change, Big Deal’, the Women@Work Campaign has started talks with Dutch retailers, exploring the possibilities of living wage pilots for roses.
- CSR Africa has been developed, where producers and retailers can request a social impact scan. This gives more insight into the social performance of a company, including how the wages relate to the living wage level.
- Certifier Fairtrade has included floor wages and a growth path towards living wage in their Flower and Plants Standard for Hired Labour and Traders.
- Through our efforts,the topic of living wage was included in the International Responsible Business Conduct (IRBC) Agreement for the floricultural sector. Each party will set up a living wage project and, starting from April 2020, will all ensure that they pay their workers at least the World Poverty Line of 1,90 US dollar per day.
- The ALIGN tool is developed, together with Fairfood and Rainforest Alliance, funded by BMZ and implemented by GIZ. ALIGN is a guidance tool for agri-food companies aiming to reduce complexity around the topic of living wage and living income. ALIGN brings together the work of leading organizations and experts, and directs users to relevant resources, tools and partners.