Are Trade Unions and NGOs Leveraging Social Codes to Improve Working Conditions? A Study of two Locally Developed Codes in the South African Fruit and Wine Farming Sectors

The paper explores one aspect of the food security question, namely the livelihoods of farmworkers, which ultimately speaks to the sustainability of farms and the provision of food. It focuses on the emergence of locally made private social codes in the Western Cape fruit and wine sectors and how compliance with such codes has increasingly become a requirement to export to certain markets. The paper analyses key sections of the two locally made social codes against the Fairtrade code and Sectoral Determination 13 (SD13). The analysis indicates where the codes improve on SD13 and how they compare to the Fairtrade code, which is generally seen to offer the best enabling standards for workers. The paper then presents the results of empirical research on the extent to which worker organisations – that is, trade unions and labour-oriented non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – have leveraged relevant standards to effect improvements for workers. The role of the state in facilitating such leveraging is also explored.