Update: 16 July 2020
Video: Mauren Gamboa of the SITRAP Women’s Secretariat analyses the negative effects of the covid pandemic in Costa Rica and the actions being taken by the trade union to protect it’s members.
Costa Rica has won plaudits for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has meant that as of 15 June they have recorded only 12 deaths, one of the lowest in the whole Latin American region. Only Paraguay, Suriname and Belize have recorded fewer deaths.
Costa Rica is the biggest supplier of pineapples and the second largest of bananas to the UK market, and as we reported in April, despite the country’s government not imposing any requirements on the industry beyond hand-washing facilities and transport arrangements, many employers have put additional measures in place. These have included perspex screens to separate workers in packhouses, ensuring that all workers do not eat in large groups, and the provision of more transport to and from work to try and implement some level of physical distancing. Banana and pineapple production has been able to continue as normal during the pandemic, with no serious impact on export volumes.
However, COVID-19 has recently been advancing in the agro-industrial areas of the country, causing great anxiety for plantation workers and their communities. As result, the Union of Agricultural Plantation Workers (SITRAP) is calling on the employers to strengthen health security measures implemented in the plantations, through a union – employer agreed protocol. They have written to the two principal employers’ associations – the National Banana Corporation (CORBANA) and National Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP) – seeking an agreed protocol on protection measures on:
Transport – including disinfectants for drivers, promoting the wearing of masks and face shields, a limit on passenger numbers and regular vehicle cleansing.
Workplaces – including hand washing facilities and provision of disinfectant, regular temperature checks for workers, maintenance of distancing, provision of masks and face shields, regular cleansing of equipment, reduced capacity in dining areas, paid time off for workers with symptoms, two day suspension of production on plantations where workers are infected, to allow thorough cleansing, and that workers are not forced into prohibitive hours by law.
The union is also seeking a collaborative relationship with employers, through a joint commission to monitor compliance at each work centre with the agreed protocol.
These measures mirror many of those agreed between unions and employers in a Covid 19 protocol in Columbia, which in many ways sets the “gold standard” of pandemic workplace protective measures in the export banana trade.
Other Covid 19 developments across the Latin American banana export industry
Further to our report in April on the impact of the pandemic across the Latin American export industry, we are able to report these further developments:
Information Videos and radio slots
Banana Link, the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions (COLSIBA) and French NGO Mano Sana, have supported the design and production of videos and radio slots across Latin America to provide information to workers about how they can keep themselves safe at work during the pandemic. Financial support from the Coop, Morrisons and Tesco has contributed to ensuring that these messages have reached over 50,000 plantation workers through social media and local radio stations.
The videos and radio slots have been produced for each country, taking account of individual circumstances, and by way of example, below are those produced for Panama (video) and Colombia (audio), and distributed in cooperation with local plantation workers unions [in Spanish].
Union-employer safety protocol in Colombia
Plantation workers’ union Sintrainagro and employers association Augura continue to monitor daily the implentation of the safety protocol they agreed in March, and report only a few minor and easily resolved compliance failures.
Sintrainagro also continue to provide advice and guidance to their members through social media, such as this video [in Spanish] outlining how they are supporting women during the pandemic: