SITAG-Peru is a young but rapidly growing union that represents 5,000 workers involved in the production and export of organic and Fairtrade bananas, mainly from small farms. The union also has members in the mango, sugarcane, grape and avocado industries.
Peru is one the poorest countries in South America and tops the list of countries with the longest working hours, with 50.9% of the workforce working an average working week of over 48 hours. Other key labour rights violations experienced within the banana industry include gender discrimination, poverty wages, excessive production demands, severe discrimination and repression of trade unions, and non-implementation of the new Law on Workplace Health & Safety.
Peru could soon be one of the biggest exporters of agricultural products, from grapes to blueberries, in the world, with more than a million workers in the sector. However this current agro-export boom is based on special legislation that denies many basic labour and union rights to agricultural workers. They are paid less and receive lower levels of bonuses, compensation for sudden or arbitrary dismissals, compulsory holidays and contributions to the health service than those established in the general labour regime.
A 2016 report by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) found serious labor rights abuses in key Peruvian export industries, including "significant concerns" about the "current system to protect the right to freedom of association of workers employed on unlimited consecutive short-term contracts in Peru’s non-traditional export sectors"
We continue to support our Peruvian partner, Sindicato De Trabajadores Agrarios Del Peru (SITAG) to organise workers in this growing sector, along with support to Sindicato De Trabajadores Empresa Talsa (SITETSA) in the face of criminal charges against them from Tal SA.
An Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Working Group involving three major retailers and trade unions is starting a process of identifying more progressive employers who are prepared to work with trade unions in order to demonstrate to others in the sector that decent industrial relations and good working conditions are not only what buyers want, but will also not bankrupt the sector.
The signing in August 2017 of a framework agreement on trade union rights and sectoral dialogue by seven banana producers’ associations and the main trade union in the sector, SITAG, is a major step forward for the producers and the workers and provides the basis for a fair sharing of the wealth created by the organic banana export industry in what was a very poor province of the country. It is also hoped that, through the trust-building process that the agreement seeks to promote, producers and workers will sit down and negotiate collective contractual arrangements to the benefit of both parties
Watch a testimony from Fatima Herrera Olea, SITAG-Peru's labour rights and solidarity officer, filmed in June 2013.
You can also make a donation by sending a cheque to Banana Link, 42-58 St George's Street, Norwich NR3 1AB. Or you can donate by BACS transfer or by setting up a standing order to: Banana Link Limited, account no 70288849, sort code 08-90-14.
Latest union achievements in the banana sector
- After many months of consultations with workers, SITAG will present a proposed industry-wide collective bargaining agreement to 25 farmers' associations this summer.
- SITAG has been able to secure check-off for union fees in four associations. Some employers are still resisting and not handing over what has been deducted from workers' pay packets.
- SITAG has also been able to establish three new joint Health & Safety Committees in the banana associations where it has strong membership; this is facilitated by new government legislation which gives these committees a strong regulatory framework.
SITAG-Peru has previously received funding from the UNISON International Development Fund, UNISON West Midlands, GMB International Solidarity Fund and the T.U.U.T Charitable Trust. Future funding will increase the union's capacity to secure Decent Work for agricultural workers in Peru.
Viera Sanchez Santos Jeuoia (pictured right), of CEPIBO (Fairtrade) says, “Workers are persecuted to such an extent that they are afraid to voice their complaints. My female friends as a consequence are quiet and very shy, they don’t say anything. They are constantly afraid of being fired for their actions. I, however, do speak out, and I speak out for my colleagues and myself.”
Photos by Barbora Mrazkova, NaZemi, Czech Republic