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The Benefits of Collective Bargaining for Women: A Case Study of Morocco

The Challenge

Morocco is hardly unique in its treatment of agricultural workers; generally underpaid, farm workers toil in an informal economy often without benefits, in harsh conditions, and are denied opportunities for advancement. Amid this cohort, women farm workers experience these injustices, along with sexual assault and sex-based discrimiatnion, to a far greater extent than men. They are also generally responsible for maintaining their households--in effect, a second and unpaid job that makes the need for delineation of and respect for their rights in the farm sector all the more pressing. Yet the plight of farm workers--and the women among them--is not a foregone conclusion. In 2015 in Morocco, the Confédération Démocratique du Travail (CDT), a union, negotiated a landmark collective bargaining agreement in the agricultural sector that sought to formalize and guarantee worker protections and to create a more transparent and effective chain of responsibility.

What’s in the Report

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Solidarity Center, an international workers’ rights group, lays out the reasons a CBA was needed. In particular they examine it insofar as it pertains to women workers in the wine and olive oil sector in Morocco’s Meknes region; indeed, women make up a quarter of Morocco’s labor force, but account for nearly half of the workers in the agricultural sector and though the country has labor laws that govern wages and the number of hours a person can legally work, they are not enforced.
Researchers conducted interviews with farm workers, union and management representatives as well as with those from the government sector to ascertain the concrete gains made by this agreement and the feelings toward it from these different stakeholders. They also considered how the affect of women’s involvement in the bargaining process impacted outcomes.

The gains the CBA achieved are remarkable. Foremost among them was the elimination of a wage gap between full-time men and women workers who do equal work. Similarly notable was the elimination of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination. Whereas there was no maternity leave before the agreement, new mothers now receive a three-month leave, a delivery allowance, and, once back on the job, a daily one-hour break to breastfeed for two years. The agreement furthermore entitles fathers to three days paternity leave. Both men and women farmworkers told report investigators that wages are more transparent and stable in the post-CBA era; they now get regular weekends off, some holidays, and are entitled to time off for family emergencies and illness. Processes for interaction with management have been standardized, and a line of communication between unions, their members, their employers, and government officials has been opened.

Though the CBA made significant strides, the union hopes to broaden its gains when it comes up for renegotiation this year by codifying rights for seasonal workers, attaining provisions for childcare, and increasing the number of training opportunities, for example, that would allow women workers to advance to more complicated and better-compensated tasks and responsibilities. That said, the advances enumerated in the report belie a less quantifiable but equally critical outcome articulated therein--of restoring to workers a sense of freedom, respect and dignity in the workplace.