Costa Rican union SITRAP and the Latin American union federation COLSIBA to which it is affiliated have formally denounced a series of labour violations and illegal hiring practices at two farms belonging to national company Grupo Acón. Fruit from these farms on the Costa Rican Caribbean coast is supplied to U.K. consumers via one of the country’s largest retailers. Banana Link understands the retailer is taking the matter seriously and has already initiated talks with their supplier and local workers union, SITRAP.
After visiting the plantations in question and interviewing workers – both Costa Rican nationals and migrant workers – the unions assert the following:
- A third-party contractor is hiring large groups of migrant workers using the identity documentation of Costa Rican nationals, who are employees of the same company. The Costa Rican employees are paid a commission to receive the salary of Nicaraguan workers in their Costa Rican bank accounts, and to withdraw this money for them.
- Workers are paid piece-rates, rather than an hourly rate. The company changes the rate after the work is completed to a lower rate.
- Workers are not paid sick leave. Instead, the contractor lends them money with a high interest rate.
- Social security contributions are deducted from workers’ salaries, despite the company not being signed up to national insurance.
- Workers are not paid annual leave, overtime or redundancy and do not receive Christmas bonuses. National holidays are not recognised.
- There is widespread persecution for trade union affiliation, including bribery and coercion. Rank and file union reps are not paid facility time for their union work. Workers who have spoken to unions and denounced labour violations at the plantation have been dismissed and are facing eviction from the plantation workers accommodation.
The union also states that despite having presented detailed information regarding labour violations to the farms’ certifier, Rainforest Alliance, they continue to receive certification from them.
The letter, co-signed by the global action network on agro-industrial products EUROBAN, calls for the retailer to engage in a frank and transparent dialogue with its supplier and the union regarding the alleged labour violations.
The letter calls on Grupo Acón to immediately eliminate the practice of hiring employees through third party contractors and to re-hire all workers under direct contracts, undertaking the necessary procedures to ensure workers are legally documented. It asks Grupo Acón to intervene to prevent any worker evictions.