Freedom and fairness for Fyffes workers! - ACT NOW

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The Make Fruit Fair! Campaign is calling on Fyffes - the number one importer of bananas to Europe, and among the largest global marketer for Supersweet pineapples and winter season melons - to respect the rights of workers in its global supply chains. Read more about the campaign below. You can support this campaign by sending an email to Fyffes here:

 

Serious abuses of labour rights in Costa Rica and Honduras

Since the summer of 2015, the Make Fruit Fair! campaign has collected evidence of very serious violations of core labour standards at specific Fyffes' subsidiaries; ANEXCO in Costa Rica and Suragroh and Melon Export SA in Honduras, where a largely female workforce, reliant on temporary seasonal work, is particularly vulnerable.
 
These violations include: failure to pay minimum wages and social insurance (an estimated £2.5m in pay and social insurance has been withheld); exposure of workers to hazardous agrochemicals; failure to respect freedom of association including threats, harassment and sacking of union members; and blocking collective bargaining processes.
 
In the case of Suragroh, Make Fruit Fair partner Banana Link and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) has alleged breaches of the UK’s Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code for failure to respect unions and pay living wages, and has refused to participate in local mediation to remedy these.

The Honduran Labour Inspectorate has also found non-payment of minimum wages and other statutory benefits. Additionally, a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed allegations that Suragroh failed to pay the minimum wage, among a lengthy list of other violations.

Workers are required to provide their own work equipment such as hoes, machetes and shoes, the costs of which can amount to an entire week’s income.

"They never contributed to social insurance and now I will not be 
able to retire or finally rest after so many years spent on the plantations.
I have to continue looking for work to survive." 
- Maria Gomez (65) who worked for nearly 30 years as a supervisor at Melon Export SA
 
Workers are also exposed to hazardous chemicals, many reporting headaches, sickness and temperatures as a result, and report a lack of information about and training to avoid and be protected from the dangers of chemical exposure. In December 2015, about 100 women suffered poisoning, 14 of whom were hospitalised, after they were accidentally dropped off downwind of herbicide and chlorine spraying in an adjoining plot.
 
Meanwhile, at ANEXCO, dialogue facilitated by the Costa Rican Ministry of Labour has failed to provide a space in which local unions can negotiate with ANEXCO management and Fyffes, and the local unions report continued failure to comply with core labour standards enshrined in Costa Rican legislation.
 
The rights abuses at ANEXCO are the subject of an ongoing Make Fruit Fair urgent action launched 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.
 

"I got pregnant, and they do not allow pregnancy" -
Marys Suyapa Gómez, sacked for being pregnant after working at Suragroh for 15 years
 
 
 
Both cases clearly illustrate that Fyffes is also in breach of OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for the failure to "Respect the right of their employees to be represented by trade unions".
 

 

Banana Link and many of our partners from Europe and Latin America wrote to Fyffes Chairman, David McCann, in November last year asking him to take action to address these issues, but we received no response.

Time to take responsibility

Despite Fyffes’ claim on its website that “if something isn’t working, we change the way we do it”, the company has failed to take responsibility in Costa Rica and Honduras.
 
No company, especially a company that professes to respect the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, should benefit from the appalling abuses suffered by those at the bottom of their supply chain.
 


“Fyffes in Honduras does not respect the fundamental rights of women workers, the majority of
employees are women who have up to 26 years of work without social security rights or social benefits
we demand respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining.”
– Iris Munguia, Coordinator, COLSIBA (the Regional Coordination of
Latin American Banana & Agro-Industrial Workers’ Unions)

An alliance of civil society organisations and trade unions, including unions in Costa Rica and Honduras, are calling on Fyffes to ensure that local plantation management

  • ends the discrimination of union members at Anexco (Costa Rica) and Suragroh (Honduras)
  • recognises unions at both Anexco (Costa Rica) and Suragroh (Honduras) and engages in collective bargaining with these unions to provide opportunity for workers to be represented in negotiations on pay and working conditions on plantations.
We are also calling for shareholders and directors with responsibility for Fyffes
  • 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

Fyffes and Fairtrade

Fyffes are a significant trader of Fairtrade certified bananas in the UK. The Fairtrade mark is given to individual products and it does not endorse entire company business practices. Not all Fyffes produce is Fairtrade certified, and the produce from the Fyffes subsidiaries in Costa Rica and Honduras is not 

 

Fairtrade certified. Although Fairtrade Trader Standards do place ethical requirements on Fyffes in respect to their Fairtrade supply chains, these requirements do not apply to conditions on non-certified farms.

Fyffes and UK supermarkets

We believe that supermarkets have a responsibility for ensuring ethical standards are respected throughout all of their supply chains. Most supermarkets in the UK buy some, or all, of their bananas through Fyffes. We, therefore, believe that these supermarkets have a responsibility for raising our concerns about 
labour rights with Fyffes. We have contacted all the UK supermarkets and the majority have responded and are in dialogue with Fyffes. But two 
supermarkets – Asda and Lidl – have not responded to our communications. For this reason, the email to Fyffes, that you can sign below, will be copied to these two supermarkets, in the hope that they can use their influence to encourage Fyffes to respect labour standards, wherever they operate.
 

“Fyffes must take responsibility for ensuring that their local managements in Costa Rica
and 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.“ - Ron Oswald, General Secretary, International Union of Foodworkers

Fyffes new owners

Fyffes is currently subject to a take over bid from the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation. At the recent Fyffes EGM in Dublin, at which shareholders voted to accept their bid, senior vice-president and general manager of Sumitomo’s food business group, Ted Eguchi, committed the new owners to addressing the issues raised by our campaign, 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.”

 

Sumifru, the banana producing subsidiary of the Sumitomo corporation, is reported to have up to 30,000 employees in its production and trading operations in the Philippines, supplying 30% of the Japanese banana market and their largest plantation near Davao City covers a full 10,000 hectares.

However, despite its branded banana success in Japan, Sumifru has a pretty unenviable reputation in the Philippines on key issues of labour relations, working conditions and occupational health and safety. It even has its own ‘anti-body’ of trade unions, small growers and civil society organisations specially devoted to trying to rectify the company’s alleged violations of national labour laws. The Banana Industry Growers and Workers Alliance against Sumifru - BIGWAS – has, over the last couple of years, been very vocal in highlighting what they consider to be an attitude of laissez-faire and anti-worker practices.
 


"No payment of the minimum wage, overtime and vacations. We notified all these
infractions so that they could be corrected and sent the minutes to Tegucigalpa." -
Eder Chavarría – Demoted after seven years, from chief inspector at the Choluteca Regional
Labor Office, to a simple inspector for fulfilling his duty, pointing out all the violations of labor and 
trade union rights committed in the meloneras owned by the Irish transnational Fyffes.
 
You can read more analysis of the implications of the Fyffes take-over by Sumitomo in the latest edition of Banana Link's Banana Trade News Bulletin.
 
This video made last year by Radio New Zealand paints a poor picture of the working conditions and respect for labour rights on their plantations in the Philippines

 

A recent report by Oxfam in the Philippines - Unmasking the Prejudicial Contracts in the Philippine Banana Industry - details how, banana farmers, most of whom were former workers in banana plantations emancipated through the government’s agrarian reform program, have been embroiled in onerous contracts with banana exporters, including Sumifru, such that they get to see very little of their hard work translated into actual economic improvement.  Some have been mired in debt for years. In worse cases, some have been driven back to being farm workers – on their own land.

Armed attack on trade union organiser

On 15 April, Moisés Sánchez (General Secretary of STAS’s sub-branch at Fyffes subsidiary in Honduras) 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. [Photo: Moisés’s brother, Misael, who alleged he was attacked with a machete.]
 
Condemnation has come from various quarters, including:
 
Jacqui Mackay, Banana Link’s National Coordinator, commented ‘It is clear that Fyffes’ persistent failure to ensure that fundamental workers rights are respected at Melon Export has created a vehemently anti union culture in which this attack has taken place. We have documented the failure to enable workers to exercise their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining at other Fyffes subsidiaries and suppliers. Until this changes we fear for the safety of the women and men who bravely defend the rights of their fellow workers.’ [Abducted & attacked for defending worker rights at Fyffes]
 
Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, said “We are horrified by this attack that comes after unions and workers´ rights activists around the world have exposed the abuses of Fyffes in their melon plantations in Honduras. The ITUC has been and will continue to support Moises and the STAS union in their legitimate demands to be treated with dignity”. [Fyffes Union Leader in Honduras Escapes Murder Attempt]
 
Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum said, “This horrific attack is just the latest assault on the rights of STAS to organize melon workers for decent wages and working conditions.” [Honduran Union Leader Attacked for Organizing on Fyffes’ Plantations]
 
The  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the State of Honduras to take all necessary measures to guarantee that union leaders can carry out their work of denunciation, monitoring, and protection, free from acts of violence that may endanger their life, integrity, and safety. [IACHR Condemns Attack on Union Members in Honduras]
 
While Fyffes have distanced themselves from the attack, GMB International Officer, Bert Schouwenburg, said, "While there is no evidence to suggest that Fyffes is directly linked to the attack, GMB says that their aggressive anti-union stance engenders a hostile atmosphere in one of the world's most violent places." [Brutal Machete Attack On Union Man]
 
Moisés Sánchez has declared that  “There is a lot of concern, but we remain steadfast. They will not intimidate us.