The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) welcomed the adoption of ILO Convention No 184 and Recommendation No 192 on Safety and Health in Agriculture in 2001. These instruments mark the first time that agricultural workers are formally guaranteed in international law the same rights and levels of protection as other categories of workers.

The issue of how to ensure effective schemes of safety representatives in agriculture was central to the negotiations on Convention No 184. Article 8 establishes the right for workers to select safety representatives in agriculture. However, the reality is that in many small to medium-sized agricultural undertakings this right cannot be turned into functioning safety representative schemes due to the small scale of these enterprises, their scattered nature, and general lack of resources and technical support. IUF is also concerned that even on larger farms and plantations, where safety representatives are appointed, or the right clearly exists, these safety representatives may be only have limited scope to improve health and safety standards due to lack of training and technical support.

Therefore a critical issue for IUF and its affiliate unions is how to develop safety representative schemes to cover small to medium-sized agricultural undertakings, and to boost the provision on larger farms and plantations? IUF's analysis is that in both situations, a system of roving safety representatives (RSRs) could be applicable provided the system was crafted specifically to cover at the one end, larger undertakings, and smaller to medium-sized establishments at the other.

Preparatory work
In preparation for the negotiations on the Convention in 2000 and 2001, the IUF held a workshop on RSRs involving the IFBWW, PSI, the Swedish Agricultural Workers Union (SLF) and the UK Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), and a technical advisor (David Walters). The Briefing Note on RSRs produced at this workshop is attached for your information.

Ongoing research
IUF is also researching schemes of RSRs in different countries with a view to finding effective models for applying in agriculture. In particular, IUF has examined in detail the Swedish roving safety representative schemes which has functioned effectively in a number of sectors including agriculture for many years, with a view to seeing what lessons could be learned.

Developing an RSR Scheme in South Africa
Following an IUF African Preparatory Workshop for Convention No184 held in 1999 in Johannesburg, the South African Ministry of Labour expressed interest in evaluating the applicability of a national RSR scheme in agriculture.

Following successful fund raising by the Swedish Agricultural Workers Union (SLF) and the IUF, a South African tripartite delegation visited Sweden from 2-8 June 2002 to study the system with roving safety representatives on the spot. The delegation was made up of:
• two government representatives from the South African Department of Labour;
• two trade union representatives - South African Agricultural, Plantation and Allied Workers Union (SAAPAWU), and South African Worker delegate to the ILO Safety and Health Committee, International Labour Conference 2000 and 2001
• two agricultural employers representatives from Agri-South Africa (under the umbrella of Business South Africa)
• an IUF Geneva representative

The host organisation was the Swedish Municipal Workers Union (Kommunal), with which the Swedish Agricultural Workers Union had meanwhile merged.

The aims of the tripartite visit were:
a) to promote understanding of the way the TU safety reps work on Swedish farms from the point of views of workers and their trade unions, employers and government. In particular, the contribution of each of the stakeholders to the system;
b) to see the system in action and thus understand the actual work of roving safety reps on Swedish farms;
c) to understand the rights and duties of TU safety reps and how they are trained to function, what back up support is needed and from whom, and how the system is financed;
d) to develop ideas of what parts of the system could be applicable transferred to South Africa.

Profiting from the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg, a follow up meeting was held in Johannesburg on 30 August 2002.

The outcome of the tripartite visit, and subsequent discussions, was that there was consensus amongst the tripartite organisations that the Swedish RSR system was very interesting and helped raise and maintain HSE standards in agriculture. By way of testing its applicability in South Africa, the tripartite organisations have agreed to hold two pilot RSR projects in agriculture in selected regions. Tripartite discussions will continue to be held on the issue. Indeed, the tripartite RSR visit has resulted in the trade unions and agricultural employers requesting the Government to hold a wider meeting on general health, safety and environmental issues in agriculture in the near future.

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is an international trade union federation composed of 340 affiliated organisations representing a combined membership of over 12 million workers in 126 countries. Members are employed in agriculture, the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages, hotels, restaurants and catering services, and all stages of tobacco processing. The IUF secretariat is in Geneva, Switzerland, with regional offices in Brussels, Belgium (Europe); Barbados, (Caribbean), Montevideo, Uruguay (Latin America); Nairobi, Kenya (Africa); and Sydney, Australia