The Bible has several stories about the worth of a person's labour and Jesus says several things about it, including whole parables. Parables are stories told to teach a point. 'The labourer is worthy of their hire' is one of the lessons that has come down to us but anyone looking at today's zero hours contracts and attempts to get around minimum pay and maximum hours laws will know that many organisations have no respect for this Christian principle.
Fairtrade is no exception. It has been quite a learning journey for the people of St Luke's, as we have discovered that companies have managed to get Fairtrade logos on their products that, when one looks closely, turn out to be a kind of 'working towards' declaration. In other words, that means business as usual by getting the lowest costs from exploited farmers and producers, many in poor countries but our own farmers get the same harsh treatment. Some of the biggest companies have such practices and St Luke's has been dodging using them.
One of the more serious ones concerns a small company in Cheshire that produces Fairtrade chocolate products that avoid the use of palm oil; demand for palm oil production is a huge cause of deforestation and thus of climate change.
The little company in Cheshire produces 'Real Easter Eggs'. These are not the usual ones coming from the multinational confectionary companies, many using the brand names for their well-known products; those eggs never feature the reason why Easter exists in the first place. They are just another product designed to make money by exploiting a Christian festival. In many ways they are a reminder of the story of the moneychangers in the Temple, whose tables Jesus overturns. Those moneychangers were at least supporting Jewish traditions within the Temple, whereas the anti-Easter eggs of the big manufacturers do the opposite.
Over the years, the Cheshire company has donated significant sums to charity and gradually got a place for its Real Easter Eggs on the shelves of the major supermarkets. That's tough as supermarkets will actually sell that space to producers, so a small company has to work extra hard to get noticed. The Real Easter Eggs carry emblems of the Christian Easter on their packaging and usually contain little picture books that tell the Easter story in a simple way. Since the eggs are to a Belgian recipe, they are delicious too.
That all changed last Easter, when all the supermarket chains acted to stop selling Real Easter Eggs, instead selling the eggs of the big confectionary companies. The Fairtrade Real Easter Eggs were completely squeezed out.
The same is happening this Easter. Virtually the only way to sell them is by selling direct online. Clearly the labourer is NOT worthy of their hire and this once-a-year opportunity to show support for Fairtrade is being squashed.
So, in this Fairtrade fortnight, here is a mention for a Fairtrade producer. If you are thinking about buying Easter eggs, think of The Meaningful Chocolate Company of Lymm, Cheshire. We did.