- Attendees shared their experiences and the processes companies have implemented to secure improvements in agricultural workers’ labor conditions.
- They also discussed the need to formalize these workers and make them more visible within the value chain.
The fourth meeting of the Comunidad Marco sobre Debida Diligencia en Derechos Humanos (COMADH – Framework Community on Human Rights Due Diligence), created as part of the PERIPLO project and led by the Business & Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) and Oxfam México, was held on December 1, 2022, in Mexico City. This community brings together companies and civil society organizations interested in advancing human rights due diligence processes and promoting good practices in recruiting and hiring in the agricultural industry.
The COMADH, established in March of this year, has already made great strides towards its prime objective, which is to share and analyze good practices for incorporating a human rights approach into the value chains of companies in the agricultural sector.
This latest meeting was attended by civil society organizations such as the Centro de Estudios en Cooperación Internacional (CECIG – Center for Studies on International Cooperation), the Business & Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), Oxfam México, and Stronger Together, as well as by private sector stakeholders such as the Alianza Hortofrutícola Internacional para el Fomento de la Responsabilidad Social (AHIFORES – International Fruit and Vegetable Alliance for Social Responsibility), Driscoll’s, and producers who participate in this company’s supply chain.
Top among the issues discussed was the importance of approaching debates about companies and human rights from a multi-stakeholder perspective that includes the companies themselves, the communities with which they interact, workers and their labor organizations, suppliers, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders.
Antonio Mendizabal, a representative of AHIRFORES, an association made up of producers and industry trade groups, shared his organization’s experience in the development and implementation of practices that improve labor conditions, access to social security, and hiring processes. He also described the challenges that companies and workers face from fraudulent recruiters.
Another topic of discussion was the positive impact social responsibility has on businesses. When they improve their hiring practices and labor conditions, they strengthen their business continuity, eliminate fines, improve their business reputation, attract investment, establish medium and long-term relationships with suppliers, and contribute to a more informed market that is willing to pay more.
At the same time, attendees emphasized the lack of legal certainty, which is a perennial concern for migrant workers. In addressing labor shortages and the lack of competitive wages, attendees explained that the ease with which workers are currently able to obtain H-2A work visas means that there are more incentives for workers to take jobs on farms in the United States.
In his comments, Esdras Ambriz, the Workforce Manager at Driscoll’s México, shared that, after documenting cases of labor abuse, the company proposed creating a protocol for tracking cases of abuse within its supply chain. Its priority was to create a communication system that could be used to document and more effectively follow up on complaints but also outline a plan for responding to or mitigating abuse on farms. Some of the company’s proposed goals include providing:
- Legal, fair, and proper labor conditions.
- A safe environment, free from abuse and discrimination.
- Employee capacity development.
- Dignified employment.
Also participating in the meeting were three producers who mentioned the challenges they face when attempting to implement good labor practices, including the lack of public policies that would allow them to facilitate the process. As an example, they explained that, while they pay social security taxes, they do not receive the benefits of the services for which they are charged under the new subcontracting policy, which affects them directly in this regard.
These producers also mentioned several positive changes they have achieved, such as the inclusion of women in the workplace through a gender equality perspective, and worker retention, which boosts production.
With the robust participation of the private sector, the COMADH continues to be an open space for constructive dialogue that emphasizes the value of workers’ rights. The aim is to bring in even more stakeholders from the private sector and work together to effectively influence government decisions.