Dhaka Principle 2 As a Risk Management Tool
A few weeks ago, our CEO, Joe Martinez, was asked to write an article on Dhaka Principle 2: All migrant worker contracts must be clear & transparent. Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a news article explaining why this is so important.
The Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity (the “Dhaka Principles”) are “a set of human rights-based principles to enhance respect for the rights of migrant workers from the moment of recruitment, during overseas employment, and through to further employment or safe return to home countries. They are intended for use by all industry sectors and in any country where workers migrate either inwards or outwards.”
Joe was asked to write that op-ed on Principle 2 because CIERTO has long based our model of ethical recruitment on the idea that adhering to the Dhaka Principles is the right thing to do and is also good business. This news story is a prime example of why this is the case.
The short version of the story I linked above is that migrant workers at a Michigan greenhouse were (allegedly at this point) exposed to pesticides, including Virkon S, but were not provided PPE or other safety gear. According to the workers bringing the suit, they were also told to continue working in the greenhouse while the chemicals were being sprayed.
Finally, they accuse the owner of the greenhouse of creating a “deceptive bonus program,” and of coerced, unpaid overtime.
In an ideal world, when migrant workers are hired, they would be fully informed of the full conditions of their job, including potential hazards like exposure to dangerous levels of chemical pesticides.
In the real world, this doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is probably that folks just don’t know about the Principles. They don’t know how adopting them encourages communication, trust, and transparency, which is good for everyone in the food labor supply chain.
Dhaka Principle 2 is designed to mitigate these types of risks.
If the workers at this greenhouse had been fully informed about their working conditions, they may have been able to avoid their exposure, which led to severe headaches, nosebleeds, rashes and nausea. They would at least have been able to request Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so they weren’t breathing the stuff.
As it was, the poor training they received meant that they were exposed to very harmful chemical pesticides without protection (this is actually also a violation of Dhaka Principle 7: Working conditions are to be safe & decent).
Besides the chemical exposures and alleged wage theft, the lawsuit alleges that the bonus structure created by the farm was false and misleading, with constantly changing production standards and moving targets for productivity.
Following the Dhaka Principles Benefits All Stakeholders
Obviously these incidents are bad for the employees involved, but it also illuminates something that isn’t explicitly called out in the news article, but that I want to take a moment to explore here.
Because the growers and the workers were unaware of the Dhaka best practices, the grower ended up causing harm to the people picking their fruits and vegetables, and wound up with some very bad press as a result.
CIERTO strongly supports the right of migrant workers to pursue accountability when they are harmed on the job, including through class action suits when necessary.
I want to further emphasize that the potential financial damage to the grower is categorically different from the health effects of chemical exposure, and I’m not trying to make them seem equivalent.
Why You Should Get to Know Principle 2
- Getting your name in the papers for labor violations is bad, and makes it harder for retailers to support you, given consumers’ growing demand for ethically sourced food.
- The grower here is being exposed to unnecessary financial and legal risks that could easily have been avoided.
- The Farm Labor Contractor (FLC) did a poor job of informing their workers of the conditions of the job they were headed to. This helped to get their client’s name in the news.
In short, had the FLC and their client followed the Dhaka Principles (like we do at CIERTO), these incidents might not have happened at all, because fully informed workers could have insisted upon proper ventilation or PPE.
This is a case where protecting employees and protecting the farm required exactly the same thing: treating clean and ethical recruitment and training practices – based on the tried and true Dhaka Principles – as the default way of doing business.
Good Training, Trust, and Communication Are Key
This whole situation could have been pretty much avoided with transparency, better training, and good communication up and down the line.
Dhaka Principle 2 states that workers should be informed and familiar with their contracts before they sign. An FLC who was fully conversant with the Dhaka Principles would have ensured that the workers understood the job they were taking and the pay structure – assuming the greenhouse was operating in good faith about the bonuses and so forth.
This would have ensured that the wage theft accusations were averted.
The workers would also have been aware that proper PPE was required for the work, and that they were permitted to ask for it, so the chemical exposure allegations could have been averted as well.
CIERTO offers a suite of 10 training modules to address issues just like this head-on. CIERTO-trained workers arrive at their new farm jobs with a good understanding of their day-to-day duties, their pay and contract structure, and the specific farm’s policies, rules, and regulations, among other important topics.
We can only accomplish this comprehensive training goal because developing trust and transparency between the grower and the worker is one of the most important aspects of what we do.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but working with a transparent FLC who was operating under, and fully understood the Dhaka Principles, those workers would most likely not be suing the farm right now.
All we would know about that greenhouse in Michigan is how beautiful and delicious their strawberries are.