The local wine industry has given their support to a programme to fast-track the implementation of fair labour practices on wine farms and in cellars, under the aegis of the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA) that will monitor compliance.
Established a decade ago, WIETA is a local not-for- profit association that actively promotes ethical trade in the wine industry value chain through training, technical assessment and audits to assess compliance with its code of good practice. Stakeholders include producers, retailers, trade unions, NGOs and government.
The fair labour initiative, supported by foreign retailers, the Food & Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU), Sikhula Sonke, Women on Farms, as well as established industry organisations such as the SA Liquor Brandowners’ Association (SALBA), Wine Cellars SA and producer organisation VinPro, envisages the creation of an ethical seal that will testify to reasonable working conditions, based on rigorous and closely monitored qualification criteria. This is believed to be a world-first amongst wine-producing countries and only those producers who meet the criteria will be entitled to use the seal on their wines.
The WIETA code of good practice is premised on the base code of the International Labour Conventions’ Ethical Trading Initiative and also incorporates South African labour legislation. It precludes the use of child labour, asserts that employment should be freely chosen and that all employees should have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. Amongst the conditions it sets are that workers should have the right to freedom of association, a living wage and to be protected from unfair discrimination. Worker housing and tenure security rights should also be respected.
‘By introducing the seal, we want to acknowledge and accredit wineries and farms that follow ethical practices and to protect them from any potential negative publicity resulting from those who flout the law,’ comments WIETA CEO Linda Lipparoni.
She explains that the fully traceable seal is being modelled on South Africa’s sustainability seal developed to promote awareness of the production integrity followed at every stage of the supply chain from vineyard to bottle. To be entitled to carry it, brand owners will have to enter an annually renewable, legally binding agreement with WIETA. To ensure total traceability brand owners will have to identify all their suppliers. At least 60 per cent of these suppliers will also have to be WIETA-accredited, with the other 40 per cent demonstrating that they are preparing themselves for accreditation.