From January 23 through 25, an international mission formed by several international organizations, including the IUF, visited Honduras with the aim of verifying reports of serious violations of workers’, union and human rights committed against women employed by the melon companies owned by Fyffes, an Irish fruit multinational corporation. La Rel spoke with Alistair Smith, international coordinator of the NGO Banana Link, to learn about the outcome of the mission.
What is your assessment of this visit to southern Honduras?
Very positive. We met with the organized workers of the melon companies owned by Fyffes, with social and labor organizations that support these workers’ struggle, and with the labor minister, Carlos Madero.
All of these meetings were held in an atmosphere of open dialogue, in stark contrast to the closed attitude of the Fyffes subsidiaries in Honduras.
We are dealing with a multinational corporation that not only keeps its workers in poverty, but also displays a complete lack of responsibility when it comes to the need for dialogue between the parties.
We also have to point out that the labor authorities have failed to take a clear stand in the performance of their duties.
What kind of problems have you found?
While it’s true that the authorities have done a good job at the regional level, conducting rigorous inspections that have revealed a number of violations, these efforts have been undermined by the authorities at the central level.
Unfortunately, the lobby of large agroindustrial producers from southern Honduras is strong enough to influence the decisions of public officers and distort reality. The situation is further aggravated by weak institutions in a context that is in itself complex.
The rehiring was important, but the working conditions have not changed much…
That is no doubt a significant result and it was obtained thanks to the union’s struggle, to national and international solidarity and to the pressure put on Fyffes. The workers have been empowered and they want to continue organizing and training.
An international campaign was launched a few days ago. Could you tell us what it’s about?
The company’s attitude left us no alternatives, so we decided to organize the international campaign “Freedom and fairness for Fyffes workers,” coordinated by Banana Link and the IUF, which has already launched an Act Now appeal.
We hope we can sit down soon with the future new owners of the Fyffes brand, the Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo. What we’ve heard so far from the new owners has been encouraging and we hope they come with a better attitude and start making changes.
We’re going to remain on alert and we’ll be in contact at all times with STAS and Festagro. The workers here know they are not alone and that there are thousands of people around the world who are following their situation.