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International delegation reports on labour violations at Fyffes owned melon plantations in Honduras

Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust is keeping a watch on the developments of labour rights activities that are taking place in Honduras on farms which produce for Fyffes. Below is a press release from our parnters in the fight for workers' rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

                     

 

     

Press Release

 

9 February 2017


 

Between 23 and 25 January an international delegation of representatives from European and North America trade unions and civil society organisations visited Honduras to follow up on evidence of serious violations of labour rights, highlighted by the Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers! campaign.

 

Over the course of the visit, the delegation was able to observe the continued systematic violation of the most basic labour and trade union rights, often with the complicity of public officials; including the non-payment of minimum wages; long and extensive working hours; lack of affiliation to the social security system; and lack of respect for the right to bargain collectively and freely organise.

 

During their visit, the delegation met with workers from Melon Export SA (Melexsa) and Sur Agrícola SA (Suragroh). The international support that these seasonal workers have received has given them the courage to join a union despite repression including 35 union members who have not been rehired for the current season.

 

"I have worked in Melexsa for several years, but they did not want to contract me this year because I joined the union" said STAS union member Doña Petrona, adding "Now, I want them to pay us what they actually owe us for all the years we have worked. They didn’t even pay the wage that was really due to us either".

 

Delegates also had the opportunity to discuss Fyffes failure to respect labour legislation and international conventions ratified by the Government of Honduras with the Labour Minister, Carlos Madero. They also met with the attorney presenting the lawsuits filed by the workers against Melexsa and Suragroh for a failure to pay minimum wages, social security contributions and other financial benefits.  These Fyffes subsidiaries in Honduras ignored requests to meet with the delegation.

 

The visit followed a complaint lodged by Banana Link and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) alleging breaches of the UK’s Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code for failure to respect unions, provide a safe workplace and pay living wages. Fyffes has failed to engage in ETI facilitated mediation to remedy these substantiated complaints. 

 

Delegation members from the GMB union and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) also visited Costa Rica, following up complaints about labour rights violations there by another Fyffes subsidiary, Anexco S.A.  The Costa Rican Ministry of Labour reiterated, when meeting delegation members, that Anexco was failing to engage constructively, although the Ministry remains willing to host dialogue between unions and the company. Anexco management themselves reneged on a promised meeting with delegation members.

 

The delegation were, however, able to meet union members from Anexco away from the plantation, from whom they heard that there is clear systematic repression of union and labour rights, with local management feeling that they have impunity to verbally and psychologically abuse the workers without punishment.

 

“They look for ways on how to discriminate against those that are in the union so that others can see that they treat us like dogs. They do this so other workers don’t see the value in joining the union. They treat us like dogs completely”. – Anexco worker and union member, Ricardo Centeno Soza

 

The examples of discriminatory practice towards union members by Fyffes subsidiaries in both countries, illustrates why the Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers! Campaign is calling on the company to establish and implement a global company wide policy to ensure the respect of workers’ rights throughout its supply chains, including the right to join an independent trade union and for unions to engage in collective bargaining.

 

The Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers! Campaign is also calling on Fyffes to ensure that local plantation management ends the discrimination against union members in Costa Rica and Honduras, and to recognise unions and engage in collective bargaining with these unions to provide opportunity for workers to be represented in negotiations on pay and working conditions on plantations.

 

Alistair Smith of Banana Link said: “What Fyffes is doing is unacceptable. It is an arrogant and authoritarian company that makes a mockery of its workers and their rights.”

 

IUF General Secretary, Ron Oswald said, “Fyffes must take responsibility for ensuring that their local management in Honduras recognise and enter into good faith negotiations with local unions and that company-wide freedom of association and collective bargaining is respected at every level “.

 

Notes for editors

 

1. More information on the delegation visit to Honduras is available here http://makefruitfair.org/international-delegation-gathers-evidence-of-labour-rights-violations-at-fyffes-subsidiaries-in-costa-rica-and-honduras/

 

2. The international delegation comprised representatives from Banana Link, GMB, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), 3F (General Union of Danish Workers) and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). The delegation was accompanied by the Union of Agro-industrial & Allied Workers (STAS) and the Honduran Federation of Agro-industrial Workers' Unions (FESTAGRO).

 

3. The Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers campaign is supported by a global alliance of civil society organisations and trade unions, and is calling on Fyffes to establish and implement a global company wide policy to ensure the respect of workers’ rights throughout its supply chains, including the freedom of workers to join an independent trade union and for Fyffes to recognise and engage in collective bargaining with unions. Over 6000 people have already signed an email to Fyffes chairman, David McCann, in support of the campaign. http://makefruitfair.org/fyffes/

 

4. The latest information on the Banana Link/IUF complaint to the ETI is available at http://www.ethicaltrade.org/blog/update-dispute-between-fyffes-and-honduran-plantation-workers

 

5. The Honduran trade union STAS (Sindicato de Trabajadores/as de la Agroindustria y Similares) estimates that workers are owed around £3.5m in unpaid wages and withheld social security payments. 

 

6. The rights abuses at ANEXCO are the subject of an ongoing action launched by the Europe-wide Make Fruit Fair! campaign in September 2015. The key demands of respect for labour rights and an end to harassment and discrimination against union members have yet to be met. http://makefruitfair.org/anexco-harasses-and-fires-union-members-act-now/

 

7. Fyffes is currently the subject of a take-over bid from the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation. At the Fyffes EGM in Dublin on Monday 16 January, Ted Eguchi, senior vice-president and general manager of Sumitomo’s food business group, was quoted by the press as saying “Obviously when you are in the farming business, you do have those issues. But we have to . . . make sure we do the right thing and we’ll look into what they’re asking for and what they’re protesting about. And if there are things that need to change, they’ll change.” http://www.irishtimes.com/business/agribusiness-and-food/investors-back-751m-takeover-of-fyffes-by-sumitomo-1.2938620

 

8. Photographs of union members protesting at Fyffes office in Honduras are available here http://www.rel-uita.org/galerias/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=904Itemid=1

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