This training, organised by Ethical Trade Norway, followed a workshop in Ho Chi Minh City on September 25th for the Vietnamese cashew nut supply chain. The workshop was a collaboration with key local stakeholders such as the Vietnam Cashew Nut Association (VINACAS) and Binh Phuoc Farmers’ Union. It was opened by the Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam, Grete Løchen, and marked the official launch of the activities of Ethical Trade Norway’s Project Work Plan, which sets out to address the findings of a due diligence study carried out in 2018.
Issues in the Cashew Sector
Project Manager Ole Henning Sommerfelt explains that most issues on labour standards in the sector are found among sub-contractors and cashew farmers, which are further back in the supply chain. Exporting processors, which frequently face the demands of Western buyers, are generally at a much higher level. Yet, they commonly lack effective systems for dialogue between management and workers and handling of grievances, and usually trade union representatives belong to the companies’ management.
The trainer and expert on industrial relations, Dr. Do Quinh Chi, conveyed that lack of effective communication channels easily leads to discontent and high employee turnover and strikes. Research also shows that it leads to reductions in the companies’ productivity.
Actions by Vietnamese Processors
Symptomatically, a Vietnamese processor attending the training experienced worker strikes over salaries that were not well explained to them. Based on the training, the processor decided to share detailed information with the workers on how the salaries are calculated, and have the workers elect the trade union representatives, to provide a channel to voice grievances.
Sommerfelt says he was impressed both with how open the processers were about their own practices and their willingness to improve. The cashew processors committed to a number of specific actions, including:
- having trade union representatives be elected by the workers
- establishing informal contacts that can receive feedback from the workers
- publicising information about existing grievance so that they are known by the workers
- classifying information according to importance and use appropriate communication channels
The cashew processors attending the training are part of the supply chain of Scandinavian/European food retailers and producers that participate in Ethical Trade Norway’s due diligence project on cashew nuts. At present, Orkla, Unil, Rema, Coop, Foodman, Intersnack, Aldi and Sørlandschips take part and there is a growing interest to join. The project is to a large degree funded by Norad (The Norwegian Development Cooperation).