ILO COOP participates in a #CoffeePeople webinar on Occupational Safety and Health through Cooperatives

ILO COOP unit joined the ILO’s LABADMIN/OSH Branch to talk about the relevance of cooperatives in promoting occupational safety and health in the coffee supply chain.

News | 01 December 2023
Under the framework of the Vision Zero Fund programme, funded by the European Union, ILO COOP Unit and the LABADMIN/OSH Branch jointly conducted a webinar on “Enhancing Cooperatives’ Capacity to Promote Occupational Safety and Health”. The Vision Zero Fund (VZF) is a programme that aims to improve health and safety up and down the global supply chains.

The webinar was part of the #Coffee People Campaign that was launched on October 1st, 2023. It seeks to promote the right to a safe and healthy working environment in the coffee supply chain. The campaign is a call to action for stakeholders to pledge concrete actions that they will implement to enable meaningful change for coffee workers. The webinar brought together 35 participants from around the world representing governments, employers’, and workers’ organization as well as cooperatives unions and associations directly involved in the coffee supply chain.

The webinar was moderated by Ms. Maria Munaretto, ILO Technical Officer on Occupational Safety and Health in Global Supply Chains in the VZF programme, with the participation of Ms. Simel Esim, Head of ILO COOP Unit, Mr. Rayann Koudaih, ILO Technical Officer on Cooperatives and Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) Development, and Ms. Ana Catalina Ramirez, ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health as speakers.

Ms Esim provided an overview of the history of cooperative development at the ILO since 1920. She noted that the Office has been providing policy advisory, research and knowledge sharing, and capacity building services to the constituents through development cooperation projects and in close collaboration with ILO constituents and in partnership with the cooperative movement. She reflected on the notion of advancing decent work in and through cooperatives, and other social and solidarity economy entities. She provided examples of the role cooperatives can play in eliminating child labour in agriculture, transitioning from the informal to the formal economy, addressing care deficits and advancing social cohesion and peace.

Mr Koudaih spoke about the importance of cooperatives in agriculture and more specifically the coffee sector starting with the ILO definition of cooperatives, the principles and values according to ILO Recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Cooperatives and the application of these principles in the way cooperatives are formed and operate in the coffee supply chain. He noted that farmers often come together in informal or formal ways to increase their bargaining power and better negotiate input and output prices, and establish stronger relationships with bigger actors (buyers, suppliers, distributors, etc.) in the value chain.

In addition, he pointed out these groups, often in the form of cooperatives, have a mandate to serve their producer-members by facilitating access to markets, training and education, and financial opportunities. In the coffee sector, cooperatives face additional challenges related to high-quality control, certification costs, competition with large companies, and market access and Fair Trade. Cooperatives also play a role in increasing women’s economic participation notably in leadership positions and contribute to the pillars of the ILO Decent Work agenda by combatting forced labour, helping eliminate child labour, ensuring non-discrimination, promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining, and more recently promoting occupational safety and health (OSH).

Ms Ramirez provided insights on the importance of integrating OSH within cooperatives. She argued that workers in the agricultural face a range of risks including exposure to biological hazards, physical work intensity, long working hours, and lack of access to social protection. To decrease these risks, cooperatives have several features that favour the integration of OSH within their operations. These include their outreach capacity to members, facilitating easy access to quality production supplies and services, and access to information on disease and injury prevention. At the same time, adequate OSH measures implemented by cooperative producer-members contribute to their well-being thus increasing cooperative business continuity and profitability through sustained/increased surpluses. Key actions to promote OSH through cooperatives include: 1) making OSH part of cooperative values, 2) creating awareness about OSH hazards and assessing risks, 3) prioritizing consensus-based and collective control measures, 4) providing OSH education and training, 5) compiling data on injuries and diseases and 6) having an action plan and engaging members and workers.

The webinar presentation  ended with quick recommendations provided by the three speakers on the way to efficiently engage cooperatives in the promotion of occupational safety and health in the coffee supply chain. These included continuing raise-awareness on cooperative development in local and rural economies, identifying champions to present cooperatives as viable enterprise models, and making sure core cooperative definition and principles are applied.

It is worth noting that the idea of the webinar stemmed from work-in-progress that the ILO COOP Unit is conducting with the LABADMIN/OSH Branch on the development of a dedicated training tool on the promotion of OSH for and through cooperatives in the agriculture sector. The tool has been pilot tested in Arabic in Jordan under the PROSPECTS Jordan programme and in partnership with the Jordanian Cooperative Corporation (JCC). English, French and Spanish versions will soon be available for roll-out in Member States.