Workers and farmers on coffee and tea plantations in Laos’ Bolaven Plateau area will have safer working conditions and be able to exercise their rights as workers thanks to an initiative titled “Advancing Social Protection and Labour Rights for Coffee and Tea Farmers” (SOLAR).
The scheme aims to reduce the hazards faced by workers by providing training courses and strengthening local organisations.
Workers in the coffee and tea sector will also benefit from access to social security and improved health and safety measures.
The project is funded by the EU and co-implemented by the Lao Social Security Organisation (LSSO) under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lao Federation of Trade Unions, and the International Labour Organisation.
The opening ceremony took place in Vientiane recently and was attended by the officials concerned, representatives of associated organisations and invited guests, both online and offline.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Padeumphone Sonthany said “Those employed in the coffee, tea and other areas of agriculture face many challenges.”
“Most workers are unregistered and are hired on a short-term basis. They have limited knowledge about safe working conditions and the risks that their work can pose to their health. They also suffer from inadequate employment contracts, infringement of their rights as workers, violence, and sexual harassment.”
“The SOLAR project aims to reduce and solve these problems by providing training that focuses on strengthening labour rights, improving the process to join the social welfare scheme, and improving workers health and safety,” he added.
The project will benefit more than 400 workers in Pakxong district, Champasak province, Thataeng district in Xekong province, and Lao Ngarm district in Saravan province.
The scheme will be rolled out from 2021 to 2024.
Deputy Director of the LSSO, Phetsamone Soukthaviphone, said “Most of the accidents that are reported among workers on tea and coffee plantations are the result of lifting or carrying heavy objects, using unsafe machinery, bites from snakes and insects, and direct contact with herbicide.”
“The project will make it easier for labourers, especially unregistered workers and women, to access the Lao social security scheme, and health and safety will be improved.”
“People working in the project area and who wish to register for social security can call our hotline 1508 or contact the provincial LSSO branch for more information,” he added.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK