Appalling conditions for flower farm workers need addressing – Hivos

Appalling conditions for flower farm workers need addressing – Hivos

By Malawo Malawo

HIVOS says appalling working conditions for flower farm workers need urgent redress.

Launching a global campaign on women’s rights dubbed Women@Work on Thursday, project manager Tambudzai Madzimure complained that flower farm workers were, usually, employed as casual labourers or on short-term contracts.

The project, Women@Work, is aimed at improving labour rights of women working in horticulture value chains.

During the campaign, Hivos would partner and work with other civil society organisations from southern and eastern Africa.

The horticulture sector, according to Madzimure, was a key income and export generator for most countries in east and southern Africa.

“Wages are under the minimum wage (ZMW720), there is lack of safety and security in the work place and social protection for the families of workers. Workers, especially women, also face exploitation and are vulnerable to sexual harassment,” Madzimure lamented, according to a press release issued in Lusaka.

“While the sector has seen tremendous growth in investments, working conditions for flower farm workers still need to be addressed.”

She also stated that although trade generally brought economic gains, women, who were the majority workforce in horticulture farms (60-70 per cent), hardly ever benefited.

“Deeply-rooted inequalities in the social, political and economic sphere keep women in disadvantaged positions and cause women’s work to be considered of less economic value,” she noted.

And Madzimure stated that a 2016 study by Hivos revealed that most workers in Zambian farms were not adequately provided with protective clothing, prospects for personal development and social integration.

“Women are denied their reproductive rights such as maternity leave and are only granted short unpaid leave for an average of two weeks after giving birth. This is a violation of rights of workers and does not comply with provisions of the Zambian employment and labour relations Act,” Madzimure stated.

“There is an urgent need for civil society organisations and trade unions to lobby the governments to improve the working conditions. In addition, businesses have a key role in ensuring decent working conditions for women and implementing corporate social responsibility. Social responsibility is generally under-emphasised. Civil society organisations and certification bodies are important actors to push for social sustainability within the companies.”

She stated that Women@Work would be implemented in the southern African region in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and in eastern Africa in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The countries, Madzimure added, would work with local organisations, businesses, governments, certification bodies, trade unions, media and citizens to improve work place conditions for women in flower farms.