Options for Code of Conduct IFOAM traders

 

Basic Labour Requirements for Organic Traders and Suppliers

Background:

IFOAM traders do not have to re-invent the wheel regarding basic labour requirements in codes of conduct. In the 1970's the International Labour Organisation (ILO) established a number of international labour principles and standards that have since been used as a common reference point for businesses around the world. In the past decade international companies involved in the marketing or manufacturing of brand-name goods started using unilaterally-adopted codes of conduct to address consumer concerns regarding the working conditions of their suppliers and subcontractors. Many companies in the labour intensive agricultural sector, also started adopting codes in response to negative publicity regarding child labour in the production process. Currently codes are a major part of a responsible business strategy, which calls for integrating social, environmental and economic performance. . According to SAI (Social Accountability International) companies who are implementing the SA8000 code will perform better; this can lead to benefits that outweigh the costs of certification by a factor of three.

There is a great deal of convergence on what an international code of labour practice should contain. The ICFTU/ITS Basic Code of Labour Practice (annex 1), the Social Accountability International SA 8000 code (annex 2), the Base code adopted by the Ethical Trading Initiative (annex 3), the model Code of Labour Practices for the Apparel Industry adopted by the Clean Clothes Campaign (annex 4) and the code for the production of cut flowers (annex 5) are very similar and are used by NGOs and trade unions as benchmarks of codes of labour practice. IFOAM traders who are considering adopting a code of labour practice can adopt any of these codes as a basis, all of which reflect and reference ILO standards. These codes also clearly establish that the provisions are minimum standards and as such should not be used by suppliers as maximum standards or to discourage collective bargaining in any way.

Suggestions as to Basic Labour Requirements

In the annex full information about the criteria of ICFTU/ITS Basic Code of Labour Practice, SA8000 code, the ETI code and the code for the production of cut flowers can be found in this section only the headings of the labour criteria, which are mentioned, are listed to get an idea of the topics:

SA8000 code

ETI code

ICFTU/ITS code

Cut-flower code

Child labour

Child labour shall not be used

Child labour is not used

Child labour is not used

Forced labour

Employment is freely chosen

Employment is freely chosen

No forced labour

Health and Safety

Working conditions are save and hygienic

Working conditions are decent

Health and Safety

Freedom of Association & right to collective bargaining

Freedom of Association and the right to collective bargaining are respected

Freedom of Association and the right to collective bargaining are respected

Freedom of Association and collective bargaining

Discrimination

No discrimination is practised

There is no discrimination in employment

Equality of treatment

Disciplinary practices

No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed

-

-

Working hours

Working hours are not excessive

Hours of work are not excessive

Working hours

Compensation

Living wages and paid

Living wages and paid

Living wages

Management systems

-

-

-

-

Regular employment is provided

The employment relation is established

Security of employment

It is suggested that in the drafting of a code of conduct for organic traders, either one of the SA 8000, ETI or ICFTU codes of conduct be accepted as a base code for general labour requirements.

Discussion

Given that the IFOAM World Board has decided to develop the project "Social Audits in Agriculture: developing best practice and co-ordinating with environmental certification" in collaboration with Fair Trade Labelling Organization and Social Accountability International, it could make sense to use the SA 8000 code as the base code for basic requirements on labour practices. Another alternative is to design a base code drawing from a combination of the above codes or others.

It should be noted that in chapter 10 of the IFOAM Basic Standards on Social Justice, the recommendations relate directly to many of the issues addressed in the base codes. These include access to potable water, food, housing, education, transportation and health services, equal wages and non discrimination as well as health and safety issues requiring that labour conditions regarding noise, dust, light and exposure to chemicals be within acceptable limits with workers supplied with adequate protection. Adopting a code of conduct for traders provides a vehicle to ensure that these recommendations are implemented throughout the supply chain.

 
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last updated: 24 october 2000
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