A delegation from Afruibana recently visited Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon to meet with the authorities, how did your exchanges go?
The visit of the Afruibana delegation is part of a process that we started a long time ago. Afruibana has been working for several years in close collaboration with the governments, to protect the interests of the producers while defending a sustainable mode of production. We are in a permanent dialogue with the different ministers of each country. Together, we are making progress on major issues for the agricultural and banana sectors, which are making a living for many people in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and other countries.
We are convinced that the involvement of governments is essential to establish effective reforms, especially on living wages. Without national regulations, no approach can succeed. This is the meaning of the commitment made by the governments of Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire on living wages.
Several issues are currently at the heart of our priorities: the recognition of fresh fruits and vegetables as essential and priority products in transit, the development of green lanes that will allow perishable products to be processed more quickly to reduce waste and the establishment of a living wage.
You have recently issued a ‘Declaration for the implementation of a living wage in the banana sector’, why are you doing this?
Afruibana is indeed advocating for the establishment of a decent wage for all employees in the sector. We have been fighting for this for several years. We act for a positive evolution of the world banana sector. The commitment and fulfillment of employees are the cornerstone of any company’s performance. This is particularly true in the horticultural sector, where everyone knows the importance of technical excellence and teamwork. Creating dignified and sustainable jobs is therefore a priority for African banana producers. Guaranteeing a decent salary for all employees in the sector is also a guarantee of rural development.
From this point of view, the implementation of decent wages on a global scale corresponds to a need for social justice and an imperative for sustainable development. We, African producers, fully support this objective.
However, the very notion of “living wage” is debated from one country to another, from one sector to another. What is Afruibana’s position on this subject?
We certainly support this will to establish a living wage because it is a social justice approach to which we adhere, nevertheless, this approach must imperatively be part of a collective bargaining process. The International Labour Organization has not yet established a definition of “living wage”, so it is essential that the method used to calculate and update it is the result of a global consensus and that it is clear, stable and predictable.
Today, the method used to calculate the living wage, known as “Anker”, has been imposed without consultation with banana producers. We are faced with a methodology that is not adapted to the realities of the sector. It only includes 30% of the benefits in kind that we offer to our employees. Health, education and housing services are not included in the calculation of the living wage, even though they contribute significantly to improving the standard of living of employees.
Moreover, as the World Banana Forum recently reminded us, the cost of implementing the living wage must be shared among all the actors in the value chain. This is the real priority. Indeed, each actor, from the producer to the final buyer and the consumer, has the responsibility to contribute to making the banana sector more fair and sustainable.
It is therefore a global reflection that we must carry out in consultation with all the actors of the sector. First and foremost, decent wages require fair prices, so that producing companies can be healthy and profitable and finally achieve a fair distribution of value between the different actors.