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Open letter from ASTAC to Lidl

The letter below was sent to Lidl and was signed by many members and supporters of the Make Fruit Fair! project.

Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
Mr. Robin Goudsblom & Mr. Florian Schuetze
Stiftsbergstr. 1
D-74167 Neckarsulm

29 May 2017

Dear Sirs,

A year ago, we, the Trade Union of Agricultural Workers and Farmers of Ecuador – ASTAC, met with you at your headquarters. The objective of this meeting was to discuss the report “Sweet Fruit, Bitter Truth” that Oxfam Germany had published in May 2016, in order to bring the serious situation of labour and human rights as well as of the environment, on the farms that supply the German market to the attention of the world, and seek solutions to these problems.

At this meeting, you told us that you were very concerned with the respect of the rights of workers on the farms which supply you with bananas, and that this was the reason why you had contracted the services of the certification body Rainforest Alliance. So it is in this way that, from your offices located eleven thousand kilometers away from Ecuador, you want to reassure consumers that you control the farms which supply you with bananas and that the human rights of the workers and the inhabitants from the surrounding communities are respected. Except that during that last meeting you did not want to put much emphasis on the human right to freedom of trade union association.

Unfortunately, one year on, the working and human rights conditions in the aforesaid farms are still serious. The exploitation of labour and violation of rights continues to persist – although compliance, as you reassured us then, is of such concern to you. In past weeks we visited the following 5 farms which supply your supermarkets: La Palma, Matías, San José de Pongarbel, San Juan and El Naranjo. After having interviewed around 50 people, most of them men and women farm workers and some local residents, we must note that the national laws and other international standards are still violated:

  • The majority of workers are not paid wages that allow them to cover their basic needs. There are various irregularities in the payment methods.

  • Workers are in constant danger of poisoning through the use of highly hazardous agrochemicals and the almost total absence of protective measures in case of air spraying while workers are still in the plantations or absent for a brief period of time. Air spraying also contaminates water sources, animals and people living in the surrounding areas of plantations.

  • Workers who want to join our union or form their own union, are also threatened. In fact, any form of workers’ organisation is threatened. Therefore, workers fear talking to people who are from outside the community about the working conditions in your company of about any subject, in case they are seen by one of the farm supervisors.

  • Workers are not allowed to meet even on rest days in their communities, and even though the meeting is with workers from other farms in the sector. If the management of the farms find out that they have met for any reason, workers are victimised, a fact that is taking place nowadays.

You will find in the attachment a report prepared by us, which includes a testimony by workers from the farms in Ecuador that supply the supermarket LIDL. We decided to prepare the report because ASTAC does not want to keep silent about what could be seen as deception by millions of consumers in Europe, who believe that their feelings of solidarity towards the workers, who grow the fruit that you sell, are both taken into account and respected. Keeping silent would make us accomplices, and we will not do that.

We hope that after reading the attached report, you will apply decisively, once and for all, the code of conduct that you claimed to have. In addition, we ask you to inform us about the steps you will take in the dialogue with your suppliers to overcome the different forms of violations that we have found. It would be a pleasure for us to receive delegates from your company on your next visit to Ecuador to discuss this issue and seek solutions to end the constant violations of human and labour rights at your suppliers’ farms.

Yours sincerely,
Efrén L. Vélez C., General Secretary, ASTAC
Jorge W. Acosta O., General Coordinator, ASTAC

Koperattiva kummerc gust: 

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