COTE D’IVOIRE – Banana exporting companies in Côte d’Ivoire have forged a historic agreement on living wages in collaboration with trade unions.

This is as a result of a three-year program spearheaded by Banana Link, with backing from retailers and the Sustainable Trade Initiative IDH, involving the four major banana exporting companies in the country and a coalition of a dozen trade unions, collectively representing the majority of plantation and packhouse workers in Côte d’Ivoire.

Initiating the process, a bipartite working group was formed during a two-day workshop in Abdijan in February, supported by Afruibana, IUF, and Banana Link.

This group has the pivotal task of establishing a framework for the first-ever national collective bargaining agreement for the banana sector.

Their objective is to garner support from European buyers to ensure living wages for the 13,500 workers employed in the industry.

The participating companies, represented by their associations OBAM-CI and OCAB, and the newly formed national trade union federation of banana workers, FETBACI, engaged in intense social dialogue over two days to draft a sectoral framework for negotiations on wages and other aspects of decent work.

Essential inputs were provided by CIRES-CI, the national research institute, on remuneration systems and wage levels, while the ILO West Africa office shared insights on setting adequate wages and the guidelines for decent work in agroindustry.

The IUF African banana workers’ coordination and CIRAD contributed valuable context on trade unionism evolution and market situations, respectively.

This collaborative effort was made possible through the support of IDH and six European retailers – Tesco, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Lidl France, and Aldi Nord – sourcing bananas in Côte d’Ivoire.

The program, initiated between 2021 and 2023, saw retailers committing to support the sector in collective bargaining for living wages.

CIRES-CI played a crucial role in collecting and validating wage data, leading to a comprehensive report.

Additionally, Banana Link conducted two training workshops on living wages and collective bargaining, empowering 45 trade unionists, half of whom were women.

Several enabling factors contributed to the success of the program, including increased collaboration among sector companies, the formation of a national federation of trade unions, the Ivorian government’s review of the national minimum wage, and public commitments from European retailers to guarantee living wages in their banana supply chains through collective bargaining.

Alistair Smith, Banana Link’s International Coordinator, expressed optimism about the future: “Despite the difficulties of undertaking such a program during the pandemic, the key players in the country have now agreed on a solid national strategy to present to retail buyers and certifiers in the coming months.”

Retailers are invited to Côte d’Ivoire in September to visit plantations, engage with companies and trade unions, and demonstrate their commitment to closing wage gaps for the lowest-paid workers.

 This collaborative effort marks a significant step towards fair and sustainable remuneration in Côte d’Ivoire’s banana sector.

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