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In March this year, nine major retailers in the UK committed to a living wage for banana workers, but campaigners say trade union involvement is needed

Trade unions must have greater involvement in wage negotiations in the banana supply chain to improve fair pay for workers, campaigners have urged.

In March this year, nine major retailers in the UK committed to a living wage for banana workers in their international supply chains, following similar agreements made in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The group of retailers is made up of Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl GB, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose, who all pledged to close the living wage gap by 2027, but campaigners are calling for more worker and union involvement to make a real difference.

“We hope that the retailers will now take the next step towards achieving real progress, which is to involve the organisations that represent workers in the plantations and packhouses,” said Alistair Smith, international coordinator for campaign group Banana Link. “Who better to be involved in ensuring that everybody receives a living wage than workers themselves?”

He advised that change would best be made through “collective bargaining” in the countries concerned to ensure wages were sustainable long term.

One former plantation worker and union leader, Gilbert Bermudez, echoed this and said: “This is the process that should be promoted to implement living wages in the plantations.

“Other approaches that involve only producers and buyers, while excluding workers, have failed in the past and will continue to fail,” he added.

The “living wage” concept should go beyond a wage and cover job security, safe work, healthcare and social security coverage, an environment of mutual respect between workers and employers and zero sexual harassment in the workplace, said Bermudez.

“The challenge is to recognise that this process is not only for the supermarkets to solve, rather it must be a collaboration between all those involved in the fruit production and marketing chain,” he added. “The results could be significant.”