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FLA comment on April 29 article by The New York Times

Issues Child Labor Forced Labor

The New York Times on Monday, April 29, 2019, published an article by David Segal about the hazelnut sector in Turkey. The reporter highlighted labor issues that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and many of its stakeholders know all too well. However, his account failed to give visibility to the hard work and the successes of the FLA and its partners, including the Government of Turkey which has generously provided millions of Syrians displaced by a brutal civil war with a temporary home and safe refuge. No country has done more to provide a safe haven for Syrians than Turkey.

The FLA believes The New York Times missed a significant opportunity to share the full story of the on-the-ground efforts that individuals and organizations undertake every day to improve conditions for farmers, workers, and their families. Since 2013, the FLA and its partners, the Turkish government, civil society organizations, and our member companies have been working to understand and improve conditions for workers and their families in the Turkish hazelnut sector.

In our experience, the hazelnut harvest is seasonal, and most workers are Turkish citizens who temporarily migrate from southeastern Turkey to live in camps or farms and work in the hazelnut gardens for 6-8 weeks during the summer. The FLA’s 2017 worker demographic report, part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, surveyed 702 workers and their family members in Duzce, Sakarya, and Ordu and found less than one percent of the workers to be Syrians. In our view, the focus of the article on Syrian refugees diverts attention from the broader demographic of hazelnut workers in Turkey and what’s most needed to improve conditions for these workers.

Further, the article as edited misrepresents the visibility that the FLA has into specific company supply chains. The FLA was not able to offer insights about Ferrero’s farm-level working conditions because Ferrero is not an FLA member and we do not monitor its supply chain operations. On the other hand, as a multi-year FLA member and project partner in Turkey, Nestle has collaborated with the FLA and provided 100 percent visibility into its hazelnut supply chain allowing unprecedented access to more than 1,000 farms.

We recognize that decent working conditions are often challenging to achieve. This is true globally, not only for Turkey. The FLA over the past decade has conducted monitoring visits to over 15,000 farms in 15 countries. Our work in Turkey’s hazelnut sector over the past six years, despite challenges, has resulted, thanks to the efforts of our many partners, in documented progress and measurable impact on the lives of hazelnuts growers, workers, and their families. The FLA’s 31-month pilot project to test guidelines to eliminate child and forced labor in agriculture supply chains funded by the U.S. Department of Labor is an excellent example. The project brought together Nestle, Balsu, Olam, and the Turkish government and 1,000 hazelnut farms to identify the systemic barriers and develop solutions.

  • 2,470 hazelnut harvest workers reached and educated about their rights.
  • 509 children, who otherwise would have worked alongside their parents in the fields, were provided safe spaces during the workday.
  • Training was provided for 219 labor intermediaries and 89 labor contractors registered with the local authorities, thereby improving their labor recruitment practices.
  • 24 housing renovations were completed for workers, providing them with a decent place to reside with their families including hot water to wash after the work day.
  • Training was provided on improving conditions for workers and their families to 287 farmers, 139 government official, 123 teachers, and 34 personnel from Nestle, Olam, and Balsu.

It is through collaborative efforts that focus on identifying and testing solutions, that we are able to provide the building blocks to improve conditions for workers. These types of initiatives are at the core of the FLA’s efforts and will be going forward. 

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