GMB International Solidarity Fund

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Since the launch of the GMB International Solidarity Fund in 2011 more than £33,500 has been raised through branch donations to support trade union partners organising in the Latin American agricultural sector as well as the solidarity work of Banana Link.

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Many tropical fruit workers in Latin America live in poverty and their most basic rights fail to be respected in the workplace. The GMB International Solidarity Fund enables branches and regions to directly support the organising, legal and education work of Latin American agricultural trade unions. These unions need our solidarity to defend the rights of plantation workers and empower representatives to collectively bargain for Decent Work.
 
This year, GMB and Banana Link have been involved in launching a global campaign calling on multinational fruit giant Fyffes to address reports of labour rights violations on their subsidiaries’ plantations in Costa Rica and Honduras.  Reported violations include: the failure to pay minimum wages and social insurance; exposure of workers to hazardous agrochemicals; failure to respect freedom of association, including threats, harassment and sacking of union members; and the blocking of collective bargaining processes.
 
The right to form trade unions and the right to collectively bargain, protect workplace rights and improve working conditions, are key aspects of the global human right to Freedom of Association. Individual workers should be free to exercise their right to join a trade union, without action by employers to restrict that right or to coerce workers to renounce their rights, as has been evidenced at Fyffes subsidiaries. 
 
With Fyffes recent suspension from the Ethical Trading Initiative, and requirement to engage with the International Union of Foodworkers to establish a mutually agreeable framework for engagement with local trade unions in Honduras, we hope that this will encourage Fyffes will introduce effective measures to ensure respect for the labour rights of all workers in its supply chains.
 

Recent achievements include:

  • Funding the purchase of a motorbike for the secretary of SITRAP in Costa Rica, to help him with his organising work at more than 40 plantations. In thanking GMB for their support, SITRAP General Secretary Didier Leitón said: 'in helping us to buy a motorcycle, we will continue the work of promoting the unionisation of workers in the banana and pineapple sectors.'
  • Providing support which has enabled the Costa Rican plantation workers union, SITRAP, to continue their drive to organise banana and pineapple workers with the hope  of securing Collective Bargaining Agreements on plantations in 2015. Over the last year more than 400 new members have joined SITRAP.  In their Strategic Plan 2014-6, SITRAP activists described their aims for a future in which ‘There shall be no dismissals, nor threats, and all workers shall have the freedom to join a trade union.’ and ‘There shall be no violations of human rights. I wish to have a Collective Agreement.’
  • Supporting SITRAP to join FENTRAG, the National Federation of Agribusiness and Related Workers
  • Helping to fund the SITRAP Assembly which brought together workers from across the region to participate in what the General Secretary, Didier Leitón, called ‘a historic meeting because for many years SITRAP has not had an assembly of that nature with workers so motivated and thirsty to fight for their human rights’ at a time of labour law reform in the country which it is hoped will ensure full respect for trade union freedom.  The Assembly celebrated a number of achievements including the successful completion of 40 labour tribunal cases which secured a number of reinstatements and back payment of wages.
  • Supporting Fenacle’s Women’s Officer to continue to lead a progressive programme of education and empowerment of women workers in the Ecuadorian banana and sugar industries. This included negotiating specific gender clauses in two CBAs, empowering women in leadership roles and achieving a significant increase in women holding leadership roles in the union.
  • the GMB ISF has supported the work of the Women's Officer of our partner union FENACLE for many years. We were delighted in 2015 to secure three years of project funding both from the UIA Charitable Foundation and the GMB to enable this programme to continue enabling the increased organisation of women workers in banana and sugar production, the empowerment of more women in leadership roles, and negotiation of gender clauses in collective bargaining agreements.
  • With GMB ISF funding, our Honduran partner union FESTAGRO has been able to convene a regional workshop on ratification of ILO Convention 184 on Safety and Heath in Agriculture, produce awareness raising materials, and gain support within regional union confederations for further advocacy towards ratification
  • Increasing membership and enabling the delivery of advocacy and education work in Peru. SITAG is now one of the largest unions in the country representing over 5,000 workers, thanks to international solidarity which has enabled them to recruit hundreds of new members and secure payment of union fees from plantation members whose deductions had been blocked by their employers.
  • Replacement of vital computer equipment in Costa Rica: Following a series of successful cases in the Costa Rican labour courts, computers and files belonging to the SITRAP union documenting these and other cases being pursued, were stolen in highly suspicious circumstances. Financial support was provided to purchase replacement equipment and continue to the fight for justice.

Download the GMB Annual Reports

Annual Report 2016/17

Annual Report 2015/16

Annual Report 2014/15

Annual Report 2013

 

Help us achieve more

The funds raised so far are providing crucial capacity building for unions and their members facing the daily reality of labour problems across the Latin American agricultural sector. Ask your branch to support the fund today to help our union brothers and sisters in their struggle.

Download sign-up form. We will add you to our mailing list and keep you informed about developments, and send requests for online solidarity actions from our partners. You will also be invited to join the committee managing the fund.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer says...

The aim of this joint project with Banana Link is to create a sustainable funding base for our international solidarity activities and to enable branches to play a more active part in them. The funds raised will go towards developing what has become a cornerstone of GMB's foreign policy, i.e. support for trade unions representing members working on Latin America's tropical fruit plantations.

We as trade unionists are fighting a veritable war against a pernicious capitalist system that puts profits before people, makes a virtue out of greed and is exploiting people the world over. Nowhere is this more graphcially illustrated than in the banana and pineapple plantations of the Americas where our fellow trade unionists struggle against overwhelming odds to improve the lot of their members producing fruit for British supermarkets.

Related news stories

International delegation gathers further evidence of labour rights violations at Fyffes subsidiaries in Costa Rica and Honduras 

 
 

 

For more information

Contact Jacqui Mackay on 01603 765670 or info@bananalink.org.uk