Food and farm workers in Pakistan call for a sustainable sugar industry
IUF affiliates in Pakistan representing workers in sugar mills, transnational food and beverage companies and agricultural farms and plantations launched a joint campaign for “sustainable sugar” and a rights-based approach to mitigating climate change.
Representatives of the Sindh Sugar Workers Federation, the Pakistan Food Workers Federation (PFWF), the All Sindh Agriculture Research Regional Employees Union, and the newly formed Sindh Haryani Union identified unsustainable practices in the sugar supply chain from farms to food products and beverages, and called for collective action in several key areas, This includes securing access to potable drinking water on farms, plantations and sugar mills and addressing water pollution and unsustainable water use in the sugar industry that threatens the ability of rural communities to cope with climate change.
The call by unions to “clean up” the sugar industry’s pollution, excessive water use and ineffective waste management included the demand to end the exploitation of bonded labour, abuse of seasonal employment, poor health and safety conditions and the elimination of corruption. Widespread corruption stemming from the role of “brokers” in buying sugar from growers is linked to poverty and debt in rural communities and extensive human rights violations.
The unions called for a “just transition” to support the elimination of bonded labour in sugar cane planting and harvesting by ensuring the elimination of debt, compensation, and guaranteed living wages through waged employment supported by the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.