Fruit and vegetables

Emphasis on social dialogue

Many of the fruits and vegetables in Dutch supermarkets come from low- and middle-income countries. They are often grown and harvested by workers who have few rights, if any, and earn a very low wage. Mondiaal FNV is currently focusing on Peru, establishing social dialogues to achieve safe and healthy work for everyone.

What does the work look like?

Long working days in poor conditions with little or no protective equipment characterise the experience of a Peruvian worker in the export-oriented fruit and vegetable sector. Wages are low; permanent contracts are scarce; prospects for the future, such as moving on to a permanent job, are lacking; and the formation of trade unions is often hindered. The sector is subject to a special regime, as a result of which workers have fewer rights and social security than colleagues in other sectors. Half of the workers are women, who sometimes earn less than their male colleagues, and are given little protection during pregnancy. They are frequently also victims of sexual harassment. Officially, it is possible to be a union member, but employers are usually anti-union. Therefore, few people dare to join for fear of losing their job.

We have succeeded in setting up constructive consultations with a number of large companies, which has resulted in better collective agreements and a better approach to work-related problems. In these companies, for example, satisfactory agreements were made with regard to working safely during the corona pandemic. Consultations have also begun at the sectoral level, between employers' organisation Association of Agricultural Producers Guild of Peru (AGAP) and the Federation of Agricultural Unions (Fentagro). Cross-company issues are discussed, such as health and safety, or acknowledging professional expertise by awarding certificates.

How does the market work?

The chain is quite simple. Importers and supermarket chains buy up the fruit and vegetables. The products usually arrive at the supermarket packaged but unprocessed. The buyers set requirements in terms of price and quality, and increasingly also in terms of sustainability. Dutch importers and supermarket chains participate in the Sustainability Initiative Fruit and Vegetables (SIFAV) programme. An International Corporate Social Responsibility covenant (ICSR) has been concluded with regard to food, and one is underway for agriculture and horticulture. We maintain contacts with SIFAV, but as yet we are not in formal cooperation with this programme. We do cooperate officially with British importers and supermarket chains, which are working on concrete steps for improvement in Peru within the Ethical Trading Initiative. The Dutch Employers' Cooperation Programme (DECP) also supports this process. The collaboration is conducted under the name ‘Fruits of Peruvian Dialogue’.

Our goal

We want work in the fruit and vegetable sector to become decent. This means permanent jobs; good working conditions; social security; the elimination of violence, discrimination, and intimidation; union membership; and free negotiations.

How do we operate?

We follow three paths:

  • Entering into social dialogue with strong trade unions. We believe that social dialogue contributes more to our goals than certification alone. We are helping to strengthen unions in six major export companies in Peru, and setting up unions in other companies. By strengthening capacity and increasing the degree of organisation, we ensure that unions have a strong voice in social dialogue. Together with the DECP, we provide training during the process of creating a social dialogue. Member recruitment campaigns pay specific attention to issues that concern women. We have achieved success with a number of large companies, including Camposol.
  • Influencing the chain. Because not all employers are open to a dialogue, we joined forces with British importers and supermarket chains. As buyers, they can put pressure on their suppliers. We are working together to make the chain more sustainable. We work hard to get Dutch importers and supermarket chains actively involved as well.
  • Putting pressure on the government. The special regime that is in place for the agricultural export sector in Peru has been extended until 2031. The unions continue to pressure the government to consult on improvements, and they have partly succeeded. In the meantime, Peru has ratified the ILO Convention against Violence and Harassment in the Workplace in 2022. This is a tremendous achievement, and of great significance for a sector in which many women work.

Where do we operate?

We are active in the special fruit and vegetable export zones of La Libertad, Piura, and Ica in Peru.

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