The initial engagement of civil society in Kenya’s cut-flower industry began with the Delmonte campaign research and analysis done by WRW, KHRC, and shops steward then later a group of workers and human rights activists came together in the name of solidarity with workers joined hands. After the violations were highlighted – both the government and the plantation union strongly objected to the idea in the name of the tripartite structure that exists in this country.
The struggle continued without the support of the union except for a Commercial union which without the fear of victimization joined us. The company felt that if this would go to the consumers then it would destroy the reputation and markets. This was happening during KANU’s regime and there was a marriage between them and COTU and due to the fact that very strong politicians and government officers had and have continued to own shares, in big investments in this country. The company used their consultant in luring the governments to take a strong stand and action against us and through him, the former president was invited to Delmonte and was compromised to intimidate the process and the issue of the campaign came up. That did not stop solidarity groups from forging ahead until there was a boycott of the product internationally.
Today the campaign brought in the issue of certifications, traceability, and clean bill of health as a requirement for selling goods internationally, and that has trickled down to other sectors like e.g. flower industry in the country. Together we have been able to achieve.
Code of conduct is a good tool where unions are weak like in Kenya and the government intentions to protect the investors, though it’s a voluntary document that cannot be enforced and lack of goodwill to improve the working conditions of workers.