January 10,2019,Nairobi.Following an article about effects of chemicals on flower farms appearing in the Blooms of Death article published in the Standard newspaper, on Saturday, September 22, 2018, key market players, stakeholders and the top management of flower farms in Naivasha met on September 26, 2018, to look into the issues raised and came up with a rejoinder.
As members of the flower growers’ network in Naivasha, we critically went through this article which we found to be entirely incorrect about the state of flower farms in Naivasha regarding “deaths of workers as a result of chemical poisoning”. We encourage journalism that shines a spotlight on the challenges faced by farmers and workers in global supply chains. We committed to Fairtrade certification because we believe in improving the working and living conditions of our employees, and have continued to do so over the years.
Flower plantations must meet the requirements of Fairtrade’s Hired Labour Standard and the additional Flower Standard in order to obtain and maintain Fairtrade certification. The standards prohibit pesticides that pose the greatest health risks to workers and the environment.
Fairtrade also requires progressive elimination of all other pesticides that are classified as highly hazardous. The use of proper personal protective equipment and training on safe handling, storage and administration of pesticides are mandatory requirements of the Fairtrade Standards. The standards strictly determine re-entry intervals after spraying.
The standards also prohibit pregnant or nursing mothers from engaging in any potentially hazardous work. Free occupational health care is provided and it’s required that workers who engage in handling any potentially hazardous chemicals are examined regularly by a medical doctor to monitor for possible changes in health due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. These examinations must be free and confidential to the respective worker.
All wages paid to our workers are benchmarked against the sector Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) and set minimum wages for the sector. We also ensure that real wages are increased regularly to continuously close the gap with inflationary rates. The incremental steps are negotiated with trade union/elected worker representatives
In order to check compliance with Fairtrade standards, certified farms are regularly audited by the independent certifier FLOCERT. FLOCERT is accredited against the ISO 17065 norm for certification bodies and is itself independently audited.
Fairtrade certification includes a combination of both announced and unannounced audits. These include detailed physical inspections of fields, plants and offices; document and finance reviews; and confidential interviews with staff members at all levels.
Auditors are regularly trained on interview techniques and rules, and they are instructed to. Always personally chose the interview partners and never interview workers suggested or brought to them by management. Explain to the interviewee that a considerable number of workers will be interviewed, that their name shall not be taken, and that management will under no circumstance be informed of what they say.
Conduct interviews in a place where the workers feel comfortable, never within sight of management or in management offices.