"Working towards a fair and sustainable banana and pineapple trade"
20 Years of Banana Link
Banana Link was 20 years old in 2016. Over two decades we have made a significant contribution to making tropical fruit export production more ethical and sustainable. To mark the occasion we are celebrating 20 achievements:
20/20 Tesco commits to Costs of Sustainable Production
In 2014, following pressure from campaign groups, including Banana Link, Tesco made a commitment to pay a price for its bananas that covers the Costs of Sustainable Production for their bananas, using the Fairtrade Minimum price as a guide. Tesco will also, by 2017, ensure that living wages are paid along all of its dedicated supply chains.
Between 7% and 30% of the workforce in Latin American banana production, for example, are women, who are increasingly struggling against instability, inequality and discrimination in the workplace. Banana Link has always strived to promote gender equality in the banana trade, and has in recent years coordinated two global meetings of women leaders to develop strategies to increase and improve women’s economic engagement in the banana industry.
“Improving the situation for women is a difficult task, but an important one. We need to focus on the gender-based discrimination at home and in the workplace and on maternity rights to allow the women who have the courage to become workers and producers to also become mothers.” - Adela Torres, SINTRAINAGRO, Colombia
18/20 Strengthening Fairtrade standards for workers
In 2014, Fairtrade International published its new Standard for Hired Labour, which guarantees the right of workers to freely organise and collectively bargain, and gives workers more control over how to spend the Fairtrade premium. Fairtrade International also introduced a new methodology to set living wage benchmarks and a clear process for plantations to progress towards a living wage.
"Banana Link welcomes the inclusion of a Freedom of Association Protocol and a Right to Organise Guarantee, among other new elements, which strengthen Fairtrade’s standards for hired labour. Banana Link and our partners are pleased to have played a role in this process through our membership of the Workers’ Rights Advisory Committee (WRAC) of Fairtrade International. The new standard means that trade unions are now recognised as the best vehicle to empowering workers in the exercise of their rights." - Alistair Smith, Banana Link International Coordinator
In 2015, the government of Ecuador achieved its aim of raising wage levels within the country to that of a living wage. ensuring the average household could purchase a basket of household goods and services used as a measure for a living wage. This was the culmination of an 8 year policy to gradually raise the legal minimum wage to the level of a livng wage. With Ecuadorian banana exports hitting record levels in recent years, and the country having one of the lowest unemployment levels in the Americas, Ecuadorian bananas are no longer the fruit of poverty wages, as was undeniably the case at the turn of the 21st century.
16/20 Regularisation of Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic
For decades, Haitian migrant workers have had no protection from the law, and have suffered discrimination and harassment in the Dominican Republic’s banana trade. Banana Link, along with the Fairtrade Foundation, has played a key role in convincing the government to set up a regularisation programme for Haitian migrant workers enabling them to work legally and secure their rights. It is estimated that around three quarters of the migrant workforce now have legal status.
"This means a considerable and positive change to our lives. Before we had the [identity] cards, a return journey home could cost us up to $80 (£52). Now, we won't have to pay cross border feeds, which means the journey will only cost us $10 (£6.50)" - Jean Francois, Haitian migrant worker
In 2005, Banana Link cofounded the Tescopoly campaign, calling for a curbing of supermarket power. Tescopoly has successfully lobbied for the creation of a Groceries Code of Conduct and an Adjudicator to enforce the Code in the UK. Campaigning work continues to extend the remit of the Code and powers of the Adjudicator to cover the whole of supermarket value chains.
"Tesco has a lot of power and they msut use it positively... I am telling you that people are going to bed hungry and conditions are terrible." Fatima Shobodien, Women on Farms
Our Make Fruit Fair! campaign is now active in 19 European countries, in partnership with small-scale farmer and plantation worker unions across Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. From Latvia to Portugal, the awareness of millions of consumers is being raised to encourage action to improve working and living conditions in tropical fruit industries.
13/20 - Lobbying on regulation of supermarket buyer power
At the initiative of Banana Link, a Written Statement to the European Parliament in 2008 was overwhelmingly supported by MEPs calling for the regulation of supermarket buyer power and end the negative impacts of the abuse of this power on small scale producers and workers in the Global South.
Banana Link has continued to campaign and in 2016 more than 600 MEPs voted for European wide regulation to end the Unfair Trading Practices of supermarkets.
12/20 - Critical approaches to creating responsible global value chains
1 in 5 workers is now employed in a global value chain. In cooperation with the University of Montpellier, Banana Link has launched a website that connects academic staff and NGOs on critical approaches to creating responsible global value chains.
The platform aims to enhance the visibility of research and teaching approaches that offer perspectives on responsible management in global value chains, while acknowledging the prominent role of social movements in making visible and debatable their social and environmental challenges.
More than 10,000 banana and pineapple workers participated in our education and empowerment programme with trade unions in Ghana and Cameroon. This project successfully enabled workers to know rights, and empowered unions and their representatives to secure wage increases and improve working conditions for the majority of these workers. It also led to the creation of the first African network of banana workers unions.
“Now I am bold. I can talk to anybody. I can express myself anywhere just because I know my rights. I know because I’ve been trained so I know more. I will quote you from the Labour Code and from the Collective Agreement. Now I am bold.” Anna, banana worker and trade union representative, Cameroon
Watch: Securing Your Rights – workers in Cameroon and Ghana talk about how our programme has empowered them
Read: Now I Am Bold! – leaflet setting out how our programme has improved wages and working conditions for workers on plantations in Cameroon and Ghana
10/20 - A “go-to” authority on the banana trade
Banana Link has become a respected authority on global banana supply chains, and is a “go-to” voice for UK and international media on all important developments in the industry. Our voice is respected by fruit companies and supermarkets.
"Banana Link is the go-to authority on information about what is happening within the banana industry" - Ethical Consumer Magazine May/June 2017
9/20 - Survival for Caribbean Windward Islands farmers
The formation of the European single market in 1992 made it more difficult for the small scale banana producers of the Caribbean Windward Islands (St Lucia, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines), to export to the UK, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.
Fairtrade certification has enabled thousands of small scale banana farmers in the Caribbean Windward Islands to continue trading and secure a decent income. Almost 100% of bananas imported from the islands to the UK carry the Fairtrade mark which means that more than 3,500 farmers, together with their families and their communities, already benefit from belonging to the Fairtrade system. WINFA (Windwards Islands Farmers Association), and the farmers they represent, believe that Fairtrade and the support of the British consumers for Caribbean bananas is their only hope for survival.
Banana Link's Support Caribbean Bananas campaign contributed to securing long-term commitments to sourcing bananas from the Windward Islands from UK supermarkets.
Banana Link played a key role in the launch of the first Fairtrade labelled bananas in Europe. 7% of bananas sold in the EU are now Fairtrade and 1 in 3 in the UK!
Fairtrade guarantees a minimum price that covers the real costs of production, high environmental standards that reduce pesticide use as well as a social premium invested by farmer groups in their local communities. The Fairtrade premium has funded schools, health facilities, roads, pipe borne water, equipment for disadvantaged groups and provided disaster relief.
“Banana Link has been a much valued, critical ally for Fairtrade, from the very first days of trying to source the first Fairtrade bananas from Ecuador and Ghana, to championing smallholder production and sourcing as well as workers’ rights, including our current work to challenge low pricing, improve freedom of association and collective bargaining, and drive industry wide progress towards living wages. All power to Banana Link and its supporters for all that we’ve achieved together. - Barbara Crowther, the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Fairtrade Foundation
7/20 - Negotiation of agreements protecting thousands of workers
The first ever framework agreement between a multinational corporation and trade unions in the agricultural sector was negotiated following a coordinated campaign by Banana Link. The International Workers' Rights Agreement between Chiquita, Coordination of Latin American Banana Workers' Unions (COLSIBA) and the the International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers (IUF) on minimum labour standards and trade union rights was significant in that it also applied to Chiquita's suppliers, and has since empowered unions in countries such as Colombia and Honduras to organise previously non-unionised workers.
6/20 - Only Fairtrade bananas in Sainsbury, the Co-operative and Waitrose
Three leading retailers in the UK – Sainsbury, the Co-operative Group and Waitrose – only sell Fairtrade bananas while virtually all other supermarkets have ethical banana buying policies.
“Alistair Smith [Banana Link International Co-ordinator and founding father] is an amazing person and he certainly won my admiration for his tireless campaigning for all the disadvantaged people in the banana industry” – Matt North, Banana and Citrus Fruit Buyer, Sainsbury’s
5/20 - Giving a voice to Latin American banana workers
The voice of the Latin American Coordination of Workers' Unions in Banana and Agro-industry (COLSIBA) is always heard in decision making by the most powerful participants in these industries including governments, supermarkets and fruit companies. COLSIBA has members in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Photo: Iris Munguía, COLSIBA’s first female Co-ordinator, and winner of a SOLIDAR Silver Rose Award in 2012, speaks to the European Parliament in 2015.
Watch:an interview with Iris in 2011 in which she describes how lack of respect for workers' labour rights is widespread in Latin America, especially where there are no unions. Abuses include long working hours, low wages, discrimination and sexual harassment.
4/20 - Building links between unions North and South
Our Union-to-Union programme builds links between the trade unions in Latin America that organise plantation workers directly with the British and French unions organising workers at the other end of tropical fruit value chains.
Support for this programme has come from, among others, TUC Aid, Unison International Fund, GMB International Solidairity Fund, and donations from hundreds of individual trade union branches around the UK.
Banana Link, and our partners in the global South, drove the creation of the World Banana Forum in 2009, a multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together producers, their organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, exporter groups, fresh producing companies, retailers, traders, consumer associations, governments, research institutions, universities and civil society organizations. Its mission being to inspire collaboration - from plantation to supermarket shelf – to enable a transition towards sustainability and achieve consensus on best practices in workplace issues, gender equity, environmental impact, sustainable production and economic issues.
2/20 - Strong union organisation of banana workers
Trade union organisation of banana workers is strong compared to other agricultural sectors, despite operating in some of the most dangerous countries for trade union activists. This includes violence against trade unionists in Colombia and Guatemala and systematic attacks against the freedom to join an independent union in Costa Rica and Peru.
Watch: Noé Ramirez Portela, General Secretary of the Izabal Banana Workers’ Union of Guatemala (SITRABI) speaking in 2015 about the challenges and dangers of organising in the "most dangerous country in Latin America for trade unionists" -
1/20 Widespread awareness of social and environmental impacts of Banana production
Banana Link’s campaigning and education programmes have contributed to widespread awareness of the social and environmental impacts of banana production, including poverty wages, poor and hazardous working conditions, and irreparable damage to the environment.