Multinational banana producer Chiquita has backed down on plans to install surveillance cameras in plantations and packing houses in Panama.
The move by Chiquita comes in response to a two week strike by members of the SITRAIBANA union that represents workers on Chiquita plantations in Panama. The strike action, which we reported previously, had been taken as workers believed that those of the cameras sited to observe workers themselves, as opposed to other cameras for credible security reasons, would be used to restrict the right of workers to organise and to defend their labour rights. The strike affected 21 packhouses, which employ around 5,000 workers in the in the province of Bocas del Toro.
The move by Chiquita, without consulting the unions, would also have undermined collective bargaining agreements between the company and unions, including a regional agreement signed between the International Union of Foodworkers Latin America (IUF), The Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions (COLSIBA) and Chiquita.
A final agreement to refrain from installing the cameras into packhouse, with no disciplinary action against union officials and striking workers, was hammered out late last week after several hours of negotiation between SITRAIBANA executives, high-level government officials and representatives of the Chiquita Panama company. Workers returned to work last Friday.
The strike was, reportedly, causing “immense” losses for the company, running into millions of dollars, with a loss of 65,000 boxes of bananas a day usually being produced. A situation considered so serious, that the National Assembly of Panama established a special commission to investigate the situation, and which contributed to the eventual resolution of the situation.
Below is a copy of the agreement signed by the unions and the company.
Sources: Colsiba, FreshFruit Portal, La Estrella de Panama
Photo: Metro Libre, Panama