Published: 22/06/2001

The IUF today welcomed the adoption of a Convention and Recommendation on Safety and Health in Agriculture by the 89th session of the International Labour Conference. “These instruments”, said IUF general secretary Ron Oswald, “mark the first time that agricultural workers are formally guaranteed in international law the same rights and levels of protection as other categories of workers. The IUF will now be mobilizing its international membership for wide-scale ratification of the Convention and Recommendation and their effective adoption into national legislation.”
Despite the fierce resistance of the employers’ group at last year’s International Labour Conference, the Convention and Recommendation were adopted this year with only two opposing votes: the employers’ delegations of Indonesia and Malaysia. There were 41 abstentions (28 employers and 13 governments).

The strong vote in favor of the Convention and Recommendation led LeRoy Trotman, general secretary of the IUF-affiliated Barbados Workers’ Union who chaired the Workers Group, to sum up the results as “A victory for all workers, not just those in agriculture, and a strong re-affirmation of the standard-setting role of the ILO.”

Agriculture, which employs an estimated 1.3 billion workers internationally, is one of the most dangerous sectors in the world of work, in both industrialized and developing countries. It is also a sector in which the women and men who work to feed the world are often excluded from systems of social security, from medical insurance, from adequate workplace protections against the many hazards they face, and from the legal systems regulating industrial relations. For these reasons, noted IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald, “It is particularly important that the instruments just adopted by the ILO address in clear, specific language such crucial issues as the safe use of machinery, chemicals and animal handling and risks from biological agents. The IUF also worked very hard to insert language specifying that termporary and seasonal workers are accorded the same safety and health protection as permanent workers, and we are pleased that the Convention sets out this essential principle. Equally important for us was the adoption of language specifying the need for concrete measures to protect women’s reproductive health, and – for the first time in an ILO Convention – the connection is specifically made between working time arrangements and health and safety on the job, an issue which is too often neglected.”

A victory for all workers, not just those in agriculture, and a strong re-affirmation of the standard-setting role of the ILO
LeRoy Trotman, General Secretary of BWU