Santa Clauses on strike – Christmas endangered

12/18/2013 - 14:16

On December 5th, Santa Clauses in Germany, Austria, Estonia and the Czech Republic went on strike. Protesting against poor working conditions of cocoa farmers, they call for the chocolate industry to ensure fair payment for cocoa beans, to act against exploitative child labour and to improve working conditions of farmers. The Santa Clauses are supporting the international campaign Make Chocolate Fair!.

“The campaign Make Chocolate Fair! has opened our eyes. We are shocked by the inhuman living conditions of cocoa farmers in West Africa” the speaker of the Berlin Santa Clauses explained the reason for the strike. In West Africa, the main production area of cocoa, about 2 million children are working on cocoa plantations. More than 500,000 of them do so under conditions which are classified exploitative by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and which are thereby forbidden.

In Vienna, Santa Clauses were roused by a report by the organizations Südwind, Greenpeace, the labour union Produktionsgewerkschaft (PRO-GE) and consumer protection association VKI. The report revealed that out of 23 tested chocolate Santas, only 3 were produced under acceptable social, ecological and animal welfare conditions.

In Estonia the shocking reality awoke Christmas dwarfs who bring sweets to Estonian kids every morning during the Christmas month. The dwarfs marched through the center of the capital to announce their supplier Santa that they no longer agree to deliver unfairly produced chocolate. Santa supported their demand; however, change can only take place if there was more fairly produced chocolate available. “Chocolate companies can and need to adapt independent certification systems that guarantee a consumer that the cocoa is fairly produced”, said Siisi Saetalu, Make Chocolate Fair! campaigner in Estonia.

In Prague St. Nicolases accompanied by Angels marched through the city center to show their dissatisfaction. „The negotiating position of the cocoa farmers is weak unlike the immense power of the multinational chocolate companies. We believe these have enough instruments to improve the farmers' lives immediately if they were willing to” summarized Markéta Vinkelhoferová, Make Chocolate Fair! coordinator in the Czech Republic.

Evelyn Bahn, coordinator of the European Make Chocolate Fair! campaign reports that also in the producer regions degrading labour conditions increasingly attract resentments. Future generations are not willing anymore to take over the cocoa plantations of their parents. “If the chocolate industry does not start to improve the situation of cocoa farmers soon, they could get problems with the supply of cocoa beans. Without that resource, there will be no more chocolate.”

“If we care about exploitation, we all can do something against it” declared Bernhard Zeilinger, Make Chocolate Fair! campaigner in Austria. “We can buy fair trade products, send written complaints and suggestions to chocolate companies and retail stores, and we can sign the petition online at www.makechocolatefair.org. Only under public pressure will companies care about fair trade products.”

“How can we celebrate Christmas if its sweetest ingredient is produced under degrading conditions?” asks the speaker of Santa Clauses in Berlin. Together with his counterparts in Austria, Estonia and the Czech Republic he urges consumers to sign the petition. If the Santa Clauses continue their strike, this year’s Christmas could be the first without chocolate.