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Fairtrade leads way to living wages for banana workers

The Fairtrade Base Wage for banana plantations comes into effect today, 1 July 2021, meaning wage increases of up to 15 percent for banana workers and a significant step towards creating a living wage for thousands of banana plantation workers worldwide.

The Fairtrade Base Wage is set at 70 percent of the take-home pay needed for a living wage, as established by the independent Global Living Wage Coalition. Fairtrade is the only certification scheme to put such a floor wage in place and make a concrete step towards a living wage - that is, a wage that provides workers enough for food, healthcare, schooling and other essentials for themselves and their families, plus a little extra.

Every Fairtrade banana plantation worker will now get at least the base wage, even if the legal minimum wage is lower. In origins where workers currently earn less than the Fairtrade Base Wage, such as West Africa and the Dominican Republic, wages are estimated to increase by up to 15 percent. More than 12,000 workers are set to benefit – that is around half of the total number of workers on Fairtrade certified banana plantations worldwide.[1] In countries where workers already receive more, their wages can’t be lowered.

“Fairtrade has realized that the minimum wage which we workers currently receive is not enough to cover the basic family needs and, thanks to this new fairer wage, we and our families will be able to feed ourselves better and we migrants will be able to send some resources to our families in Haiti,” said Minel Bellamy, a banana worker and Chair of the Fairtrade Worker Network in the Dominican Republic.

Fellow leader of the worker network, María Jorge: “This base wage proposed by Fairtrade means for us more access to health, education, self-improvement, happiness and motivation to continue working. With perseverance, hard work and a living wage, anything can be achieved.”

The new base wage is part of Fairtrade’s strategy to achieve living wages for banana plantation workers. After applying the Fairtrade Base Wage, employers must agree on steps and timelines with trade unions or other elected worker representatives to bridge any remaining gap. In the meantime, up to 50 percent of the Fairtrade Premium can be paid out in cash to supplement worker’s incomes until they reach a negotiated living wage. This fixed Premium, unique to Fairtrade, is paid by buyers on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and set at $1 US per box of bananas sold. Workers on banana plantations received more than €14.8 million in Fairtrade Premium money in 2019.

At the same time, Fairtrade is continuing its work to strengthen industrial relations and the ability of workers to unionize, to ensure a sustainable living wage rooted in collective bargaining.

For more information:
Fairtrade International
Bonner Talweg 177
53129 Bonn Germany
Tel: +49 (0) 221 - 94 20 40 0
Fax: +49 (0) 221 - 94 20 40 40

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