Gilbert Bermudez, Coordinator of the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Worker Unions, addressed delegates at the annual GMB congress in Dublin earlier this month. His speech highlighted the labour rights abuses faced by workers in much of the world and by those working on plantations in particular.
"In many plantations, working hours, are still excessively long persecution and sacking of union members, low wages, sexual harassment and discrimination of women workers, and threats to people's lives persist."
Gilbert Bermudez cited examples including that of Guatemala,
"...where the institutions of government that are meant to enforce labour and others laws are practically non-existent."
and Peru where,
"...hundreds of thousands of men and women...work in conditions of modern slavery"
Gilbert Bermudez spoke about Fairtrade certification and COLSIBA's hopes that Fairtrade would lead to a strengthening of the trade union movement on plantations. In his opinion this has unfortunately not been the case as,
"...the current players in Fairtrade have not made the freedom to organise and collective bargaining their priority"
Despite this Mr Bermudez asserts that the trade union movement continues to grow and he mentioned the Costa Rican union SITRAP as an example of a trade union that has won important legal victories for its members in court. In his opinion this makes SITRAP and its sister unions ANEP and Juanito Mora,
"...the undisputed agenda-setters with the current government and the employers."
Finally Gilbert underlined his optimisim for the future of the trade union movement in Latin America together with his hope that international solidarity with organisations such as the GMB will continue.
Gilbert's speech is featured on the GMB's webcast of the event from 21.41 on the Tuesday.