SITRAP - Costa Rica

e-mail icon
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Plantaciones Agricolas (SITRAP) represents tropical fruit workers in Costa Rica, which is the biggest supplier of pineapples and third largest of bananas to the UK market. 
 
SITRAP currently has a presence in 41 banana plantations, seven pineapple plantations, one cassava planatation and one processing plant, belonging to Dole, Chiquita, Acon Group, Calinda Group, Matera Group, Pelon Group, and Corbana Independent. SITRAP has continued, with funding from UNISON, to make significant progress organising in an extremely hostile anti-union culture. Fruit companies use non‐union committees to prevent independent trade unions from forming or gaining members. This Solidarismo movement is presented as collective bargaining, but the workers have no real say within it.
 
SITRAP has also achieved the legally required level of membership at Del Monte’s Filadelfia plantation for union recognition and collective bargaining with the company, raising the prospect of negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement in the sector in four decades

International solidarity

SITRAP is currently receiving funding for it's work from:

 
And has previously also received funding from:
 
 
 
You can also support our work with SITRAP by:

  

Achievements

This funding has contributed to recent SITRAP achievements including:
  • 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.   
As well as daily trade union work on plantations , SITRAP has also been able to carry out political activities, putting  trade union freedom, gender issues and workers’ wages on the national agenda, including:
  • 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.
UNISON funding has also helped SITRAP produce leaflets to help in their work, including the following, which have been translated into English:

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

Migrant workers


Organising pineapple workers is also challenging since up to 70% of pineapple workers in Costa Rica are Nicaraguan migrants whose status is not clear cut and who are particularly vulnerable to the power of employers who can sack them at any sign of "trouble", such as joining a union. Currently, one of SITRAP's the key objectives is to protect migrant workers' rights and integrate them into trade union work.
 

Further information

SITRAP website (Spanish) - www.sitrap.net

Contact

Siquirres, Limon, Costa Rica
Tel:+506 27688845
Fax:+506 2768 8249

Photos: SITRAP

Related news stories