Costa Rica: strike ends with promise to negotiate a new CBA

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A fortnight-long strike by workers at three Del Monte banana plantations in the Southern Costa Rican region of Sixaola has ended with a commitment by the company to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Public and Private Sector Workers' Union (SITEPP) union. Four days into the strike by over 800 of the 1200 employees who work on the Corbana-owned plantations (managed by the Fresh Del Monte subsidiary for the national industry body), the Government agreed to play an active role in conciliating the parties.

Some 80% of the workers come from ethnic Guaymi communities on the other side of the border in Panama, whilst another 15% are Nicaraguan migrant and just 5% Costa Rican. At the request of the Asociación de Trabajadores Indígenas Guaymíes de Sixaola, SITEPP gave support to workers who were fed up with violations of the terms of an agreement with the non-union workers' committee and with the management's refusal to convert the existing "direct settlement" (a non-legally binding "arreglo directo") into a legally-binding CBA. SITEPP and other unions also mobilised emergency aid for workers and their families during the strike, when conditions were worsened by management's refusal to let workers buy basic goods from the Solidarista association-run shop.

The agreement between Del Monte and SITEPP, signed on 30th November in the presence of negotiators from the Labour Ministry, includes commitments to non-reprisal against the workers who went on strike, loans of USD 160 to be repaid over 12 months to compensate for the period without earnings, in addition the commitment to negotiate a CBA.

Sources: Acta del MTSS, 30th November; SITEPP/CSJMP, San José, 1st December.