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Better Working Conditions in the Shea Sector

Publicatiedatum: 31/05/2019

Trade union and a company processing cashew and shea nuts signed memorandum to improve the living and working conditions of 4.000 laborers.

COSI and the management of FLUDOR Benin, a company processing cashew and shea nuts, have signed a memorandum of understanding to improve the living and working conditions of the 1,000 employees of the factory and 3,000 shea growers. COSI is a trade union in Benin, and partner in the Civic Engagement Alliance.

Thanks to the actions carried out by the alliance, COSI Benin has found FLUDOR Benin prepared to commit itself to a constructive social dialogue. At first, the management of Fludor Benin was reluctant to cooperate, as it had a negative experience with a trade union that, during a demonstration, burned the company’s packaging manufacturing unit.

Win-win strategy

To circumvent the reluctance of the company, COSI Benin adopted a win-win strategy, showing the management of FLUDOR the advantage that the company can draw from a constructive dialogue, in terms of performance and training for the workers. Amongst their actions were training on good agricultural practices and referencing workers to the health system for subsidized care.

Workers in the shea sector are confronted with wounds and the risk of snakebites or scorpions on a daily basis. The lack of protective equipment against occupational hazards is only one of many challenges the workers face: low income, hard work, and lack of a health insurance system.

Improved labor conditions

As a result of discussions within the Civic Engagement Alliance in Benin, in which different partners working in the shea and cashew sectors are involved, COSI Benin conducted a contextual study in 2016 in cooperation with CNV Internationaal about the challenges of the two sectors in connection with decent work. Since 2017, COSI Benin started to raise awareness on labor legislation in the agricultural sector amongst workers, collectors and primary processors of shea nuts. Also addressed were health and the safety of work. Thanks to its interventions, at least ten groups of producers of shea have been formalized and 200 workers are already in a process of registration in a mutual health insurance to through the ‘Caisse Mutuelle de Prévoyance Sociale’ (CMPS).

Another happy prospect is organizing the dockworkers union of the Common Organization Benin Niger (OCBN) of the railway, located in Parakou, in the north of the country. These workers evolve in very difficult conditions in the shea transport chain, at the service of the company Knar Benin. They do not have reliable work contracts, have no stable income and do not benefit from sick leave. Today, thanks to the interventions of COSI Benin, these workers are aware of their conditions and are determined to organize themselves into a union to better defend their rights.

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