Decent work in the banana industry

Review of the Voluntary Code of Good Practices on decent work in the banana industry

Government, workers and employers from the banana industry in the Davao region had a dialogue to review and update the Voluntary Code of Good Practices (VCGP) to promote decent work amid the COVID-19 pandemic and changing demand of the global market.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) held a technical meeting on 20 October 2021, via Zoom with partners from the government, employers, and workers organizations, to review and update the Voluntary Code of Good Practices (VCGP) on Decent Work in the Banana Industry in Region XI in the Philippines. The event is aimed at promoting the achievement of decent work in the Philippine banana industry by providing support to the review and updating of the Voluntary Code of Good Practices on Decent Work in the Banana Industry (VCGP).

This technical meeting was jointly organized by the ILO Responsible Supply Chains in Asia” Programme (RSCA), and the ILO project on Improving Workers' Rights in the Rural Sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on Women”(Rural Sectors’ Project), with support from the European Union (EU); and the US Department of Labor (US DOL) respectively,

In his opening statement, Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines said, “Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is very much linked in advancing social justice and promoting decent work…A human-centered approach in the context of COVID-19 pandemic is vital as outlined in the Global Call to Action for a fully inclusive, sustainable, and resilient recovery”.

Acting Regional Director and Chairperson of the Banana Industry Tripartite Council (BITC) in Region XI, Atty Randolph Pensoy, lauded the timely review of the VCGP for the Banana Industry considering the new economic realities and constantly changing demand of the global market. He stressed that the Code must be updated, and the principles therein strengthened to address specific work-related issues and build up promotion for workers’ rights.

The President of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Mr Sergio Luis Ortiz emphasized the significance of the banana industry being among the main drivers of employment in the fruits industry in the country.

BITC’s Vice-Chairperson for the Workers’ Sector Mr Samuel Cardeno cited that the banana industry is being hampered by several issues such as plant diseases and non-compliance to general labour standards.

Ms Beatriz Francia, Vice-Chairperson for the Management Sector of BITC expressed that the technical meeting is welcomed, considering its importance in improving the banana industry which provides benefits not only in Region XI but, in 16 provinces of Mindanao. The Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretaries Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero and Evelyn Lavina, also attended the event.

ILO Programme Manager Fredy Guayacan of the Responsible Supply Chain in Asia Programme provided a briefing on the MNE Declaration and its relevance to the updating of the VCGP, and the salient findings of the ILO study on the fruit and vegetable supply chain and CSR/RBC towards social and economic upgrading.

The more than 30 participants were later divided into 2 breakout groups to discuss in details specific parts or components of the VCGP that need amendment and/or new provisions/components, which can help address the issues and challenges identified by the stakeholders during two previous dialogues.

The Project team from the ILO Rural Sectors’ Project supported the facilitation of the workshop, where key recommendations included - translating the Banana VCGP into a strategic plan with clear targets , capacity building of tripartite partners in setting up assessment, reporting and monitoring mechanisms in support of VCGP implementation, capacity building of the regional labour inspection service in the conduct of targeted inspections in the industry, development and delivery of targeted sectoral technical advisory services, strategic compliance campaigns that would target and engage small growers, particularly on OSH and integrating this in the work and capacity building of agricultural extension workers. Furthermore, there were recommendations and suggested immediate next steps in strengthening links and access to credit and skills development for the Banana industry.

Ms Cerilyn Pastolero, Project Manager of the ILO Rural Sectors Project, signified that the Project will be working closely with the Banana ITC in region XI, in implementing major recommendations from the workshop.