SITRAP is currently receiving funding for it's work from:
- the purchase of a motor bike for their General Secretary to enable him to continue leading SITRAP's organising work at more than 40 plantations
- 400 new members joined the union in 2014
- The union continues to promote labour rights to migrant workers, (who represent up to 70% of pineapple workers), with the goal of their inclusion in the union
- Legal support for members who have been dismissed or otherwise persecuted for trade union activities. In 2014, 61 legal cases were initiated and 40 brought to a conclusion.
- Increased leadership training workshops and more visits by union representatives to plantations to distribute leaflets informing workers of their rights
UNISON is currently funding SITRAP to strengthen their organising and collective bargaining work in the Costa Rican tropical fruit industry, which over the past six months has enabled them to achieve:
- successes in legal cases leading to the reinstatement of workers.
- an increase in membership levels, despite an on going union busting campaign driven by employers.
- plantation visits to raise awareness about trade union rights,
- packhouse visits to recruit new women members and dissemination of information on women's issues.
- the Deputy Minister of Labour, Patricia Mora, visited a plantation to hear from workers about labour rights, making a subsequent public denunciation in the National Assembly.
- the de-certification of Grupo Acon by Rainforest Alliance because of the discrimination against trade unions, along with meetings with Rainforest Alliance to work towards dialogue with certified producers and unions to address trade union rights, and delivery of training to grassroots union representatives on the new Rainforest standards.
- meetings with companies (Grupo Acon/Del Monte and Dole) to discuss labour issues and health problems.
Hostile environment for trade unions
SITRAP operate in a very hostile environment with employers, large companies and labour legislation that challenge freedom of association. SITRAP has developed a strategic approach to respond to the threat posed by Solidarismo organisations (pro-management workers’ associations) by creating committees to reach out to workers in order to explain and raise awareness of the benefits of independent trade unionism and collective bargaining.
Organising with limited resources is difficult, especially given the large distances that need to be covered on a daily basis between plantations. Organisers respond to all labour rights abuses on the plantations as well as preparing the cases presented to companies, social security and the labour courts. The workload is exhausting, as organisers struggle to attend all workplace meetings and maintain effective communications with union committees and activists.
Defending the rights of fruit workers
SITRAP survived efforts to completely destroy the trade union movement in the Costa Rican agricultural sector in the 1980's and 90's. There are approximately 70,000 people working in agriculture in Costa Rica and SITRAP has persisted in its struggle to organise and defend the rights of fruit workers:
- only 12% of whom are women
- who often fail to earn enough money to cover basic household costs
- who do not have their fundamental labour rights, such as the freedom to join a trade union, respected
- who can be victims of unstable employment, as both selective and mass dismissals are common tactics used by companies
- who are subject to intensive agrochemical use in tropical fruit export production which not only harms their health and that of their families and communities, but is having a devastating environmental impact on the eco tourist paradise of Costa Rica
SITRAP website (Spanish) - www.sitrap.net
Related news stories