Peru's leading horticulture company, Camposol, laid off a large group of trade union members at their huge grape farm in Piura as part of a major retrenchment in mid-January 2013. Many of the members of SITAG-Peru had worked for the company for more than four years. The union alleged that these workers were replaced with non-union workers.
However, at a meeting between the parties in April, Camposol committed itself to take back the workers they claimed they had had to lay off because of seasonal changes in working patterns. In a letter to the union on June 19th, Camposol reiterated this commitment, stating that they had just reinstated a whole group of SITAG members to work in their red pepper operation.
What they neglected to say is that they asked the workers to sign a document renouncing their union membership. This clear violation of any employee's constitutional right to join a trade union has been raised with the company, but has been met with no response, belying the company's claims of social and environmental responsibility.
Another case at the same Camposol Fundo Agroalegre has come to the attention of those monitoring progress on improving labour, health, safety and environment standards in Peru's burgeoning agro-export sector. On June 28th, the local press reported a case of intoxication of six Camposol employees by inhalation of an organophosphorus chemical that had just been applied.
The six were taken to hospital in Sullana after the company's nurse raised the alert. According to the local press, the supervisors who suffered the poisoning were not informed that spraying had just taken place. The case underlines the need for a functioning joint health & safety committee to be in place, as new legislation requires. Proper training with workers and their chosen representatives on the application of toxic agrochemicals should avoid precisely this type of situation where lives are put at risk.
Sources : letter to UK Ambassador, 17/07 ; Camposol letter, 19/06 ; El Tiempo de Piura, 28/06.