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Contact: Nora Ferm 202-380-8231, Bama Athreya 202-347-4100
ILRF joins leaders in organic production and third party certification to announce Fair Labor Practices certification for cut flowers
The International Labor Rights Fund’s Fairness in Flowers Campaign has promoted the occupational health and safety and the labor rights of workers in the cut flower industries of Colombia and Ecuador since 2003. There are 40,000 flower workers in Ecuador and over 100,000 in Colombia, working to grow, harvest, and package the roses and carnations sold in US florist shops, supermarkets, and online retail sites. These workers routinely experience a number of labor rights violations, including:
· Violations of the right to organize: Workers are prevented from organizing independent unions through tactics such as illegal firings, threats to close plantations where workers are organizing, and black-listing unionists.
· Sexual harassment: A 2005 study by ILRF and Ecuadorian NGO partners found that over 55% of Ecuadorian flower workers have been the victims of sexual harassment. Many women said that they had been asked out by their bosses or supervisors, who offered to improve their jobs in exchange. Alarmingly, we also learned that 19% of flower workers had been forced to have sex with a coworker or superior and 10% had been sexually attacked.
· Occupational health and safety: Use of toxic pesticides and fungicides has caused work-related health problems—including skin rashes, respiratory problems, eye problems, and miscarriages—affecting over half of Ecuadorian and Colombian flower workers.
ILRF has been involved in a dialogue with Scientific Certification Systems since 2005 to help ensure that the labor standards in the Veriflora cut flower certification program are as strong as possible. We are pleased to note that this process has resulted in a much stronger set of standards on issues like freedom of association, safety trainings for workers, the appropriate use of subcontractors, and protection for women workers against sexual harassment and discrimination. ILRF congratulates Scientific Certification Systems on the progress that they have made in this direction and on the launching of the draft national standard for Fair Labor Practices certification, which will be announced by SCS, ILRF, Quality Assurance International (QAI), NSF International, and Numi Organic Tea at:
The Natural Products Expo West on Friday, March 9, at 6 pm
Hilton Anaheim, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim, California, Palos Verdes Room, 4th floor.
Most Colombian and Ecuadorian cut flowers are sold in the US. We hope that initiatives like Veriflora and the Fair Labor Practices certification will help increase consumer demand for certified cut flowers and thereby encourage flower plantations to make changes to guarantee fair labor practices and safe workplaces for their employees.
ILRF also looks forward participating in and monitoring the trial use of this new certification, because in addition to having strong standards it is also important for the auditing and implementation of the program to be transparent and rigorous. Ultimately, we hope that this standard will provide both incentives and an effective enforcement system so that plantations will guarantee the health and labor rights of flower workers.