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Innovation Hub Impact Story

Impact Story 4: Enabling Workers to Win!

In this series, we highlight the Innovation Impact Stories of our members. They share their projects with a focus on new, innovative ways to make an impact and accelerate change to a better world!

25 August 2023

The 100% Fair Work Monitor

By CNV International

Working long days, with a lot of overtime, in an unsafe environment… Unfortunately, this is the reality of millions of women who work in clothing factories in Asia and hundreds of thousands of sugar cane workers in Latin America. And despite all this, both groups do not make enough money to get by.

To make it worse, many sugar cane workers suffer from kidney failure due to working long hours in the sun without any water. And, regarding the clothing manufacturers, they often face sudden unemployment when demand decreases, without any severance pay.  

The 100% Fair Work Monitor

This status quo should not and cannot stay! Therefore, labour unions like CNV International try to intervene. However, labour unions often do not have a strong position during negotiations to secure safer working conditions, shorter hours and a living wage for workers. That is why CNV International has created the 100% Fair Work Monitor.  

Labour Unions have all the facts

The 100% Fair Work Monitor of CNV International is a tool that local labour unions can use to conduct an anonymous and straightforward survey among workers. The results can tell more about labour conditions or the minimum cost of living for workers. Additionally, local labour unions can decide on relevant questions based on the regional context, and they own the outcomes. The information helps them during negotiations, granting them the strong position they need in discussions with employers or authorities. Furthermore, CNV International and its partners can also add general questions to the questionnaire to map out problems of an entire chain and monitor developments.  

March 25, 2022 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Workers at the T&K garment factory fill out a survey on an application developed by the Coalition for Cambodia Apparel Worker Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) that surveys workers to negotiate for a higher living wage. © Andy Ball

Widely applicable

International companies have to work with due diligence. This means they have to take care of all workers in their production chain. Big clothing companies or companies that buy sugar cane, such as Adidas, H&M, Coca-Cola, and Unilever, can use the outcomes of the 100% Fair Work Monitor to make inquiries at a plantation or factory. That way, companies can avoid child labour, forced overtime, underpayment or unsafe working conditions in their international chains. Labour union freedom, or the presence of an independent labour union, which can also conduct this survey, is, of course, an absolute precondition for this. 

Success in Latin-America

In 2021, labour unions in Latin America used the 100% Fair Work Monitor for the first time in the sugar cane sector. More than half of the workers indicated that they did not earn a living wage. Female workers earned the least. Furthermore, workers stated that many accidents happened at work and that there was a lack of protective equipment, which mainly affected temporary workers. 

Fortunately, these confronting outcomes immediately led to results. For example, workers in Nicaragua gained a pay raise of between 8 and 10 per cent. Furthermore, thanks to the powerful voice of CNV International and its partner unions, workers’ rights are now on the agenda of Bonsucro, the worldwide standard for sustainability in the sugar industry that all major players from this sector follow. It is encouraging that Bonsucro now has a workgroup focused on agreements on labour rights and a living wage for workers. 

This is a powerful tool for local unions. It will strengthen the position of workers during negotiations. – Elles van Ark, director of CNV International

Challenges in Cambodja

The local partner unions of CNV International in Cambodja used the 100% Fair Work Monitor for the first time in 2022. During labour union meetings, textile workers could fill out a survey anonymously on a tablet or mobile phone. It became clear that people needed to make more money. So, the labour union partners of CNV International tried to increase the minimum wage during negotiations. Unfortunately, it has not yet had the desired result because the pay raise still does not provide enough income – about 100 USD – for workers to make a living. 

Keep on going

Labour unions will need to keep pushing for a long time to bring about structural, positive changes. But still, thanks to the 100% Fair Work Monitor, workers’ voices can be heard. With all the facts locked and loaded, CNV International and its partner unions are better equipped to have discussions with factories, plantation owners and international companies about safe work and a living wage. 

CNV International’s partner organisations include: CLC & C.CAWDU (Cambodia), CONFETRAYD (Nicaragua), Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Zafreros de la Caña de Azúcar de Santa Cruz – FSTZCASC (Bolivia), Festralva, Fesinuval y Fertrasucol (Colombia).