Costa Rican agroindustrial workers' federation plans ahead

e-mail icon

Representatives of the four trade unions that make up the new Costa Rican agroindustrial workers' federation - SINTRASTAFCOR, SINTRACOBAL, SITRAP and SINTRAPIFRUT – met in Siquirres on 23rd March. General secretary, Maikol Hernandez, underlined the huge challenges ahead in organising plantation and packhouse workers, as well as those employed in security, transport and logistics between plantations and the port.

It was agreed that the private sector unions would need the support of public sector workers' unions and other sections of Costa Rican society if they were to change the anti-union ideology and practices that have dominated since the early 1980s.  Representatives spoke about the “unwritten national political agreement” that unites large sections of the business community, with government and a sector of the Catholic Church. The “agreement” - which includes the major national and multinational tropical fruit companies like Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte, Grupo Acon and Banacol - exists to prevent the trade unions from regaining the strength and influence they had until the late 1970s.

The federation discussed how to deal with a company like Dole, which, on the one hand, has a framework agreement on trade union rights covering plantations and a collective bargaining agreement with workers in its logistics depot (SINTRASTAFCOR), but on the other refuses to allow unions like SITRAP to function freely in its banana and pineapple farms and is currently looking to make 60 members of SINTRASTAFCOR redundant. Dialogue with the company has failed to achieve results, but the Federation will seek a meeting where all the issues affecting the different unions in the new Federation are on the table.

Unions also underlined that their problem is not with the Solidarismo movement per se. On the contrary, the movement's goals can be seen as complementary to those of trade unions. The problem is that the movement has been used by industry and government stakeholders to interfere in labour relations and to be the vehicle for anti-union work.

Other discussions that are important for the federation's future work included the need for close coordination with IUF and COLSIBA at the continental level, for a rapid approval of the Labour Procedures Reform Bill (vetoed by President Chinchilla last September) and for the unity of the Costa Rican trade union movement.

Source: Federacion Nacional de Trabajadores Agroindustriales.

Contact: Maikol Hernández  or Didier Leiton