Fair flowers for human rights
ISLAMABAD, October 5, 2010: On the occasion of the Global Day of Decent Work, the international campaign ‘Fair Flowers -- for Human Rights’ demands living wages and sufficient protection against highly toxic pesticides for flower workers.
Salaries which do not reach a living wage and lack of protection against highly toxic pesticides are still a daily reality for many flower workers in the global flower business. While consumers in Europe enjoy flowers as a symbol of love and friendship, the flower workers’ human rights to adequate food and health are constantly being violated.
Most governments do not set a minimum wage which would allow workers to cover all basic needs. In addition, employers take advantage of the lack of control by governmental institutions.
“In Uganda, the government has even refused to set a minimum wage”, reports Gertrud Falk from FIAN Germany, international coordinator of the Fair Flowers campaign. “General flower workers earn between 25 and 30 Euros per month while they would need 50 Euros per month only to feed a family of five people adequately.”
Even if a country has a legal minimum wage, in most cases it is not sufficient. “Ecuador has a legal minimum wage of 240 US dollars. But the authority for statistics says that a minimum of 500 US dollars is needed to meet basic needs of a family”, adds Sophie Vessel from FIAN Austria.
In addition to the low salaries, most of the flower farms in Africa and Latin America use highly toxic pesticides, many of which can cause nervous diseases and cancer. “Flower workers are not protected against those pesticides”, knows Marketa Novotna from Ecumenical Academy Prague. “For example, workers from Zimbabwe and Uganda report that the pesticide sprayers do not get adequate protective gear and harvesters are often forced to enter the greenhouses after spraying without respecting re-entry times as advised by the World Health Organisation.” “And when they fall sick, they are often sent on sick leave without pay”, adds Stéphanie Lecharlier from FIAN Belgium.
“To avoid these exploitative working conditions, all flower traders, public institutions and consumers should buy only fairly produced flowers”, demands Steffi Neumann from Vamos e.v. Munster. “These flowers are offered by the Flower Label Program (FLP) and Fairtrade”. “The more people, companies and institutions buy fairly produced flowers, the more producers will respect human rights of flower workers”, says Barbara Janssens from Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken, highlighting how the enjoyment of human rights can be supported through conscious consumption