Investigation launched after newspaper reports Kenyan flower pickers are paid just 48p per hour for products sold in British supermarkets

Fairtrade roses in Kenya
Kenyan roses which were picked at a Fairtrade certified site. Photo: Fairtrade Africa

A Daily Mail investigation has found that Kenyan flower pickers of ‘ethically produced’ roses sold in some of Britain’s biggest supermarkets are paid just 48p per hour, which is less than the ‘living wage’ set by the Fairtrade Foundation charity.

It revealed that some workers who pluck roses in stifling greenhouses, for the likes of Sainsbury’s and the Co-op, receive a mere £96 a month, far below a living wage for the region which is estimated to be £162 a month, according to a 2016 report commissioned by Fairtrade.

After being presented with the Mail’s findings, the Fairtrade Foundation, which campaigns against exploitation of growers, has launched an investigation of its own. 

Fairtrade-certified flower farms receive a minimum price from supermarkets, while workers receive a ‘Fairtrade Premium’ which is money that is invested in projects to improve their livelihoods.

Between 2011 and 2016, Fairtrade received £18 million from the Department for International Development (DfID), however the government body have said none of it went directly to flower farms.

Kenyan flowers at Asda
Kenyan flowers for sale in the UK at Asda.

According to the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union, the lowest-paid workers at Oserian, a farm certified by Fairtrade, receive a starting salary of only Ksh 10,746 (£80) a month, which when housing allowance is added, it comes to Ksh 13,000 (£96).

This is well below the estimated living wage for the region of Ksh 22,104 (£162) a month.

With flower-pickers typically working 46 hours a week over six days, the lowest paid will earn just 48p an hour.

Bosses expect workers to pick 2,400 roses during an eight-hour shift despite the intense heat inside the greenhouses.

A single mother who spoke to the newspaper showed them a recent payslip showing monthly earnings of Ksh 13,000 Kenyan shillings, and said she was struggling to provide for her two-year-old son.

Responding to the report, Oserian said ‘seasonal’ workers are paid a basic wage of Ksh 10,746 (£80) a month, but permanent employees get a basic wage of Ksh 15,732 (£117), with a minimum of 24 days paid holiday. They also claimed dround 200 employees were ‘short-term staff’ who currently earn the lower rate.

In addition, it said most employees live in free accommodation and that benefits, including electricity, healthcare, schooling and transport, brought the value of a permanent worker’s pay package to Ksh 23,694 (£175) a month which was above the estimated living wage.

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