Armed attack on trade union organiser at Fyffes subsidiary in Honduras

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The news report below has been translated and reproduced from - http://informes.rel-uita.org/index.php/sindicatos/item/no-nos-van-a-intimidar

The global Freedom and Fairness for Fyffes workers! campaign is currently calling on the company to respect the rights of workers in its global supply chains.

 


“They will not intimidate us”

General Secretary of STAS’s sub-branch at Fyffes denounces the criminal attack 

 
By Giorgio Trucchi | IUF Latin America
 
On 15 April, Moisés Sánchez and his brother were attacked by unknown assailants armed with handguns and machetes while they were returning to their homes after a trade union meeting. The message conveyed by these men was clear: stop getting involved in the union. 
 
“You still haven’t give me what I need most, your mobile phone where there’s all the information. If you carry on with this [union activity] you will pay the consequences”, one of the hooded assailants said to Moisés Sánchez grabbing his bicycle from him along with all his possessions. 
 
The General Secretary of STAS (Union of Agroindustrial and Allied Workers) at the Melon Export S.A. company and his brother Misael, also a union member, were on their way back from their trade union activities in the city of Choluteca by bicycle.
 
When they were passing the road junction in the vicinity of the Los Balcanes plantation they were intercepted by four hooded individuals, armed with handguns and machetes.
 
Two other people were 60 metres away monitoring the area. 
 
“The four criminals surrounded me. When my brother tried to approach, one of them struck him in the face with a machete. Wounded, he was able to get away in the dark to ask for help”, Sánchez recalled.
 
The union leader explained to the REL-UITA  that the hooded assailants started to ask many questions, they wanted to know where “all the information” was.
 
It was a clear attempt at intimidation
“We need all the solidarity you can provide”
 
“They knew me very well. They said that I was the person in charge of the movement and that if I continued to be involved I would have to bear the consequences. The openly threatened me”, stated the General Secretary of the STAS branch.
 
For some 40 minutes they held him hostage, indifferent about the people passing by in the area. 
 
As such, according to Moisés Sánchez, the attack demonstrates that this was not a simple criminal act, rather it was strictly related to his trade union work on Fyffes’s melon plantations. 
 
The reaction of the La Permuta community, where the brothers live, was immediate. More than 100 people started looking for the criminals, but to no avail.  
 
Misael Sánchez left hospital on 17 April and is still recovering from the deep wound.
 
Both STAS members have filed a complaint to the corresponding authorities and Honduran National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH).
 
“We will need every possible support, at national and international level. The lives of many men and women workers who have decided to unionise to defend their rights on melon plantation depend on this support”, said the General Secretary of the sub-branch.
 
“There is a lot concern, but we remain steadfast. They will not intimidate us”, concluded Sánchez. 
 
Denunciation against Fyffes at international level
Ongoing rights violations on melon plantations
 
On Fyffes’s melon plantations, an Irish multinational recently bought by the Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo, women make up 80 percent of the workforce and work on a seasonal basis. Half of these women are single mothers.
 
After STAS’s sub-branches formed at Melezsa and Suragroh[1], the fruit multinational reacted by firing dozens of unionised workers and disregarding the request to set up collective bargaining negotiations. 
 
On more than one occasion, STAS has denounced the exhausting working days, the company’s failure to pay the minimum wage, or the extra hours and holidays accrued, as well as the failure to acknowledge seniority in a position and to pay social security. 
 
Additionally, the union has also highlighted the poor hygiene and safety conditions, dismissals for being pregnant and the creation of “black lists”.
 
The attack committed against the Sánchez brothers is seen by STAS as a possible escalation of violence and repression towards unionised men and women workers.
Giorgio (right) campaigning with workers at Suragroh 
 
[1] Melon Export SA (Melexsa) - Sur Agrícola de Honduras (Suragroh)
 
Photos: Giorgio Trucchi