Empowering Moroccan tomato workers to voice their rights

1 October 2014

Our collaboration with local agricultural union FNSA empowers Moroccan tomato workers

Imagine you are a tomato picker in Morocco. The tomatoes you harvest, thousands of kilos of them, are destined for the European supermarket shelves. You work hard every day to provide food on somebody else’s grocery list – your own sustenance you have to buy on credit. The money you get is simply not enough to cover your basic needs. You and tens of thousands of other tomato pickers could stand up and voice your right to a living wage – in theory the freedom of association isn’t disallowed. But there is chance that you end up getting fired or harassed; your management frowns upon any unionization. You remain stuck in a poverty cycle.

We are working on your way out

In our Morocco ‘hotspot’ project, Fairfood International aims to put a stop on the abuse of Moroccan tomato workers, and to ensure they are finally paid living wages. We do this together with the local agricultural union FNSA. Fairfood is pressurising EU retailers to pay a living wage in their supply chains, while the FNSA is empowering agricultural workers on the ground to stand up and voice this right.

How do we do this?

Fairfood International targets European retailers which have a record selling Moroccan tomatoes picked by workers who are paid poverty wages. We recently published a report revealing that such retailers are Tesco and Sainsbury in the UK and Albert Heijn in the Netherlands. We work to ensure that Moroccan tomato workers are paid what they are entitled for: a living wage. Currently we are trying to get the retailers in question around the table. Our next step may be a public campaign in which we will call upon the European consumer to help us fight for living wages for the tomato workers in Morocco.

In conjunction with Fairfood, the FNSA has set up a campaign on the ground to raise awareness of the issue of poverty wages and to mobilize workers. To this end, the FNSA will inform Moroccan agricultural workers of their rights and why joining a union can help make a difference. Further, the FNSA will raise awareness amongst the local companies and government of the responsibility to pay and sign a living wage into law. Fairfood’s Knowledge, Learning and Innovation (KLI) department will coach the FNSA members on successful negotiations and bargaining skills. Earlier this year, the KLI provided the FNSA with a training session on campaigning.

We will always know the exact real wages

Our collaboration with the FNSA is critical to our success. It enables us to be constantly up-to-date with what Moroccan tomato workers are actually paid, and to keep track of other issues affecting them. Retailers may try to throw us off their case by misleading us about the wages in their supply chains. However, through our research and cooperation with the FNSA, we will always know what the real wages are exactly — and if they are enough to cover the most basic needs of Lahcen, Zahra and tens of thousands of other tomato workers in Morocco.