02 December 2004
Fair trade "must embrace trade unionism"
As the Christmas shopping frenzy hots up, trade unionists are increasingly looking to buy "ethically" - as long as unions are not locked out of the food chain.
The latest issue of Labour Research magazine reveals that unions are supporting the fair trade movement as part of their international solidarity campaigning, particularly through the promotion of fair trade products in the workplace.
For example, shopworkers union USDAW has a policy of encouraging its members "where family finances allow, to buy fair trade products where possible and to campaign for fair prices to be paid to farmers for tea, coffee and bananas".
Public services union UNISON urges its members to get fair trade tea and coffee at work, while the PCS civil services union is committed to a programme of action around ethical trading issues, including the promotion of fair trade products in the workplace.
However, unions warn that fair trade does not necessarily mean unions are welcomed at all stages of the chain from source to shopping basket.
The Fairtrade Foundation says the right of workers to form unions is a key standard for companies to get the fair trade mark. But Labour Research contacted a number of fair trade companies operating in the UK who were not unionised, although none said they were opposed to unions.
The TUC is to issue advice to unions on how best to "promote the principles of fair trade and to press the fair trade movement to uphold and promote the principles of free trade unionism".
Notes to editors
1. More details are published in the December 2004 issue of Labour Research magazine, copy enclosed.
2. Labour Research is published by the Labour Research Department, an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 92 years ago. More than 1,800 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.
3. Labour Research Department press releases are also available on the LRD website at www.lrd.org.uk
4. For further information contact Paul Hampton on 020 7902 9226 or 07984 356110.