Thank you to all of the donors to our recent appeal to help fund a new motorbike for Didier Leitón, the General Secretary of SITRAP, our partner union in Costa Rica. Didier is very grateful for the donations, and has sent us the photo of him with the motorbike, which will help him with his organising work at more than 40 plantations.
Didier has sent the thank you letter below to branches of the GMB union, and others, who donated to the fund:
Siquirres, Limón, Costa Rica.
13 September 2016
Dear friends of the branch and regional offices of GMB who have made donations to purchase a motorcycle for SITRAP.
I would like to convey very warm greetings on behalf of our organisation and to thank you for the support offered to SITRAP in obtaining the motorcycle, which will be used for union work in banana and pineapple plantations in the Costa Rican Caribbean.
SITRAP plans and develops the promotion and coordination of union activities and basic training in labour, environmental and social rights, and health and legal advice for workers in 43 banana plantations, 7 pineapple plantations and a fruit processing plant in the cantons of Limón, Matina, Siquirres, Pococí and Guácimo in the Limón province. These sites employ approximately 25,000 men and women workers so the target population for SITRAP is quite large. According to figures from the National Banana Corporation (CORBANA), there are 29,822 hectares of banana production in these cantons, 68% of the country’s banana plantations. In the Atlantic Region, there are 11,675 hectares of pineapples, which represent 28% of the area cultivated for pineapples in the country.
All of this work carried out by SITRAP requires, not only a full-time employee responsible for union promotion, but also a reliable motorcycle to cover the large distances between plantations. The employee is also responsible for guiding and dealing with any situation that should arise on the plantations, attending meetings with companies in the workplaces, with affiliated and non-affiliated workers and with other union organisations. Visits are also made to the fields, packing plants, communities, the Ministry for Labour and Social Security, employment tribunals and other political bodies. As many of these long journeys are on the muddy, unmade roads of pineapple and banana plantations, a motorcycle is the most suitable means of transport to carry out the work.
SITRAP has achieved major growth in the last 3 years. However, with growth in membership, the workload for the union and its supporters has grown due to the resulting strong reaction of companies wishing to halt the development of the organisation. Hence, there is a great need to strengthen the promotion, support and guidance work with plantation workers; and attending administrative meetings with companies and meetings with the Ministry for Labour and Social Security etc. Legal work has also increased with support and advice to workers, presenting claims and unfair labour practices to employment tribunals.
Dear colleagues, with the solidarity you have shown SITRAP in helping us to buy a motorcycle, we will continue the work of promoting the unionisation of workers in the banana and pineapple sectors in the cantons already mentioned. Our challenge is to break two or three plantations with collective bargaining agreements and then we are sure that many more will follow suit. Our aim is to achieve a better standard of living for the working class, which produces so much wealth for transnationals, supermarkets and others, but in many cases lives in extreme poverty.
A heart-felt thanks for this very important contribution to SITRAP.
Didier Alexander Leitón Valverde
General Secretary SITRAP