Coffee and tea workers the focus of new ILO project launched in Lao People's Democratic Republic

New project set to reduce vulnerability of workers in the Bolaven Plateau region through training and strengthening of grassroots organizations.

Press release | 28 April 2022
Workers in Lao People's Democratic Republic's coffee and tea sectors are set to benefit from better access to social protection and improved occupational safety and health following the launch of a new International Labour Organization (ILO) initiative funded by the European Union (EU).
The “Reducing vulnerability in Lao People's Democratic Republic: Advancing Social Protection and Labour Rights and Entitlements in the Coffee and Tea sectors of Lao People's Democratic Republic (SOLAR)” project was launched on 28 April 2022 in Vientiane by representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MOLSW) together with the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), ILO and EU.

The project will focus its activities on three districts of the Bolaven Plateau region, well known for its production and export of high-quality coffee and tea. However, the workers are mostly dependent on informal and seasonal employment. They usually lack proper employment contracts and social security coverage and have been known to experience labour rights violations, violence and sexual harassment. Often workers suffer from accidents and diseases due to heavy lifting, unsafe use of machinery, snake and insect bites, and exposure to pesticides.

Activities will help workers – especially informal and women workers – gain access to the National Social Security Fund and improved occupational safety and health. Awareness will be raised among workers and their representatives and the capacity of civil society and other grassroot stakeholders enhanced. The project also aims to strengthen collective mechanisms for workers to share their problems and concerns and equip them to better realize their labour rights.
Addressing the event, Mr Padeumphone Sonthany, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare said, “The project will help us to ensure that the benefits of growth in the Lao coffee and tea sectors also translate into improved working conditions and better lives for people in the Bolaven Plateau. Social protection is important as all workers have the right to safe and decent working conditions. We will work with tripartite partners and grassroot organizations to improve our services and ensure that workers can access them widely.”

Mr Graeme Buckley, ILO Country Director for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic said, “A unique aspect of this project is that we will be working with partners ranging from government ministries to grassroots organizations to reach the coffee and tea workers. We can link policy interventions with on-the-ground support and by providing training to workers’ groups, greatly reduce their vulnerability.”

The EU-funded project will work with the government (Lao Social Security Organization and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare at central, provincial and district levels), workers' organizations (Lao Federation of Trade Unions, Lao Women’s Union, informal workers and smallholder farmers), and employers' organizations (Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lao Coffee Association, and the newly-formed Tea Association).

It is jointly implemented by ILO and Oxfam together with local authorities and grassroots organizations. These organizations will be supported through training, dialogue and technical assistance in areas such as women workers’ rights, social protection, occupational safety and health and labour rights to develop their capacities and assist their engagement with workers.

The project is supported by the European Union and responds to the EU objectives of supporting responsible businesses and decent work in supply chains. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė, EU Ambassador to Lao People's Democratic Republic expressed appreciation for the “fruitful collaboration established between the EU, ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare”, and highlighted “the added value of this new intervention that would complement the ongoing European engagement in agriculture, forestry and nutrition, as well as the EU support to fair trade to Europe”.

The event was followed by the first Project Advisory Committee meeting with the participation of representatives from the target provinces of Champasak, Sekong and Salavan.

For further information please contact:

Ms Loveleen De
SOLAR Project Manager (English)
Tel.: +856 20 5590 3483
Email: del@ilo.org

Ms Noutthong Alounthong
National Project Coordinator (Lao, English)
Tel.: +856 20 2241 3183
Email: alounthong@ilo.org

Mr Khamphy Khammavong
Program Manager (Lao, English)
Tel.: +856 20 5555 2220
Email: khamphy.khammavong@oxfam.org