Ecuador: Wave of union-busting by banana companies

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In the last few weeks in the Provinces of Los Rios and Guayas, five new trade unions have been broken up in plantations belonging to national and international banana companies. A total of 159 workers have been fired.

It would appear that all were unfairly dismissed for the simple fact that they wanted to form or join a union. The National Federation of  Free Agroindustrial Workers, Peasant Farmers and Indigenous People  of Ecuador (FENACLE) has been supporting the establishment of these unions and sees in the wave of union-busting and armed evictions a concerted policy by a sector within the industry.

The facts

 

Name of the plantation

Company/owner

What happened

Nueva Colonia

Servio Serrano

55 leaders and members of the new union were fired, and an armed eviction from their homes inside the plantation took place

Previsora I & II

Rodrigo Viteri

36 leaders and members of the new union were fired, and an armed eviction from their homes inside the plantation took place

Bejucal

Grupo Noboa

15 leaders of the new union were fired

Grafindustria

JFC/Bonanza

6 Servio Serrano leaders and 5 members of the new union fired

Rosita

Siguënza

42 leaders and members of the new union were fired; when fired workers tried to get work at other local plantations they were told they were on a 'black list' and could not be hired

 

FENACLE President, Ángel Rivero, denounced these events. For his organisation they represent a clear violation of the human and labour rights of the country's banana workers : « Today, right across the country, there are companies which say they want the President to listen to them and give the green light to write flexibility into the Labour Code. They hire and fire workers and don't take any notice of workers' rights that are enshrined in the Constitution, Labour Code and the international conventions of the ILO. »

For FENACLE, the current wave of sackings is part of a coordinated campaign by a certain sector of employers who refuse to accept the processes of formalising labour relations that have been put in place in the last 5 years of Rafael Correa's government. Additionally, with the appearance of a 'black list' of workers involved in forming trade unions, the situation is made even worse for the worker and his/her family.

The Nueva Colonia case

On Friday 7th September, workers and their families at Hacienda Nueva Colonia, situated in the parish of Virgen del Fátima near Milagro, were evicted from inside the plantation whilst they were carrying out their daily household chores.

FENACLE reported that « workers and their families were taken by surprise when a group of heavily armed men arrived and started threatening people and evicting them from their homes [...]. The doors of their houses were broken and their belongings thrown out, pregnant women, children - including handicapped children - and old people were all treated with complete disrespect. »

The armed men told people that if they didn't sign away their union membership, they'd be shot. Workers also denounced the loss of various objects of value like mobile phones and jewelry.

Workers contacted the FENACLE leadership to describe what was happening. When Angel Rivero and Darwin Matute arrived they asked to talk with a representative of the company. The company lawyer came to meet them but was unable to explain why the sacked workers were being evicted using such violent methods.

Source : FENACLE, Guayaquil, 10-13th September.

Milagro, 13th September