• It is urgent to prevent and reduce risks in the agricultural sector’s labor system and promote a fair and equitable industry.  
  • Migrant agricultural workers are essential to the economy.  
  • Municipal, state, and federal governments must promote public policies to ensure dignified work. 

(January 17, 2024) Polaris, Fundación Avina through the PERIPLO Project, and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) highly encourage government stakeholders and the agricultural sector to take action in order to protect migrant agricultural workers by promoting public policies that ensure dignified work that fully respects their rights.  

Workers who plant, harvest, process, and pack food as part of the agricultural supply chain are essential, as evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential for the economic success of the agricultural sector. For example, in 2022, Mexico had a record $50 billion in food exports, particularly avocados, berries, and tomatoes (National Agricultural Council, 2023). 

Despite leading brands’ economic success and factors such as the increased remittances fueling the Mexican economy, companies and government institutions must ensure that practices and policies include a human rights approach. This approach should identify key risks through due diligence processes, respect the rights of workers, and, in cases of abuse, provide redress and promote non-recurrence mechanisms. In this context, the absence of effective supervision, sanction, and protection systems by the government authorities creates or amplifies vulnerability. 

During the Dialogue on Dignified Work in the Agricultural Sector in Mexico, attendees highlighted challenges and concerns companies and authorities face, in addition to the needs of migrant agricultural workers and the organizations that support them. Some of these challenges and needs include: 

  • Low wages do not ensure the bare minimum resources to guarantee a quality of life for migrant agricultural workers; for example, in states like Guerrero and Oaxaca, income can be less than a thousand pesos per month (ENOE, 2023). 
  • Lack of contracts; according to data collected by the National Network of Day Laborers in 2020, only 3 percent of all migrant agricultural workers had a contract 
  • Lack of access to social benefits 
  • Risks of human trafficking and forced labor 
  • Health risks due to long working hours, as well as exposure to agrochemicals in the fields 
  • Lack of secure transportation 
  • Fraud in recruitment, hiring, and employment, such as charging fees or costs for recruitment 
  • Lack of public information and data on the agricultural workforce, as well as mechanisms to ensure transparency in the agricultural sector 

During the event, attendees shared experiences and good practices promoted by the private sector, civil organizations and workers.

“Most of the objectives focused on dignified work have not been fully met, which presents a worrying scenario for millions of Mexican workers who today more than ever demand respect for their right to dignified work. We will continue the struggle until labor dignity is achieved.”

Leónides García Ramírez, Independent National Democratic Union of Agricultural Day Laborers. 

Event participants identified the following recommendations for the public and private sectors: 

  • Ensure that all agricultural workers have a contract they understand, as well as necessary information about working conditions, considering various spoken languages and different literacy levels 
  • Employers should commit to explicit policies and their implementation, as well as cover the costs of recruiting agricultural workers.
  • Promote an inclusive dialogue on the “payment per day of work” model to ensure models in which the right to access statutory benefits such as medical care, vacations, payment for overtime, Christmas bonus, profits, sick leave, among others, is not violated. 
  • Guarantee all rights under equal conditions and without discrimination based on age, gender, nationality, ethnic or social origin 
  • Promote human rights-driven due diligence models that allow for the sustainable transformation of practices employed by the companies in this sector  
  • Ensure remediation mechanisms 

Any policy or action aimed at strengthening dignified work in the agricultural sector must take into account the families traveling with the workers; that is, the needs for decent housing, education, and health must be recognized with an intercultural and gender perspective. Likewise, these policies must protect migrants from their place of origin, considering transportation to their workplace and safe return.  

About the convening institutions of the multi-stakeholder dialogue on dignified work: 

Polaris works to change the systems that allow sexual and labor trafficking to happen in North America and operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the United States. 

Fundación Avina is a global organization that drives systemic changes on a large scale. Born in the Global South, Fundación Avina impacts through collaborative processes, in favor of human dignity and care for the planet. 

Proyecto PERIPLO is a collaborative project driven by Fundación Avina since 2021. It focuses on creating bridges between the public, private, and social sectors to transform the agricultural labor migration system into a fairer and more accountable one that respects human rights at every link in the value chains of the sector in the corridors between Central America, Mexico, and the United States. 

The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) is a think tank that shapes policies, drives practices, and strengthens accountability with the mission of making human rights a daily part of business. 

 

Media Contacts: 

Jimena Reyeros, Communications Coordinator at Avina jimena.reyeros@avina.net  

Rafael Flores, Communications Director at Polaris, rflores@polarisproject.org