SITRAP - Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is the biggest supplier of pineapples and third largest of bananas to the UK market. Yet the country’s tropical fruit workers often fail to earn enough to cover basic household costs while their fundamental labour rights, such as the freedom to join a trade union, aren’t respected. Intensive use of agrochemicals harms the health of workers and their families, as well as having a devastating environmental impact.
 
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. 
 

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:

  

 
UNISON has funded SITRAP to strengthen its organising and collective bargaining work, with notable achievements in 2017, including:
  • spreading the union's message to over 2,000 banana and pineapple workers in visits to packing plants, plantations and local communities. 
  • holding a recruitment fair at a major Del Monte banana plantation, increasing the prospects for a collective bargaining agreement, and starting to unionise workers at two independent plantations which have long been anti-union and almost impenetrable.  
  • achieving a significant growth in membership, recruiting 332 new members, increasing womens' membership by 5%.
  • holding training workshops for 339 members, 63 of them women. 
  • getting 25 workers reinstated through legal action, and another 25 reinstated through direct negotiation with plantation management, and ensuring that 15 workers who previously lacked job security were granted stable employment through direct dialogue with the company.
Labour rights on Rainforest Alliance certified plantations
 
A large proportion of the bananas sold in UK supermarkets are certified by the Rainforest Alliance. However, despite the claims of the Alliance, labour rights are not respected on many certified plantations. A global alliance of unions and NGOs have raised concerns about this issue with the certifier. As a result, Rainforest are now in dialogue with plantation workers' unions in Latin America, including SITRAP, to address concerns about lack of Freedom of Association on certified plantations.
 
Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers in Central America
 
As a result of the global campaign to get the multinational giant Fyffes to respect labour rights on their plantations in Costa Rica and Honduras, Fyffes has been suspended from the UK's Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), and are now in negotiations with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) to reach a mutually agreeable framework for engagement between local unions and management.
 
 
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

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