A 31 March World Trade Organisation (WTO) and United Nations’ World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) joint call for coordinated international action to keep international food supplies flowing ignored the welfare of workers in the sector, the global food and farming union IUF has said.
The IUF has written to the three global bodies to highlight a ‘supremely irresponsible defect’ in their appeal for ‘responsibility’: the total absence of advocacy for action to protect the lives, safety and livelihoods of the agricultural workers on whose labour food security depends.
In a letter to the FAO and WHO, the IUF emphasises that in the COVID-19 crisis food security, worker health and safety and public health converge. “With borders closing and markets collapsing, these agencies are now discovering that workers normally considered ‘unskilled’, exploitable and disposable are in fact essential,” IUF notes.
“Protecting food security requires coordinated action to protect food workers, including the nearly 500 million women and men working for wages on farms of all sizes, plantations, in orchards, greenhouses and in livestock and dairy production.”
The IUF letter asserts: “Substantial, open-ended funding from national governments and international institutions must be made immediately available to ensure adequate protection and safe work for agricultural workers as an elementary measure for saving lives and protecting public health and food security.”