GMB Condemns Fyffes For Closing Melon Farm And Sacking 2,700 Workers In Honduras Because Of Union Activity
Ethical Trading Initiative with Fyffes as a board member has been “completely humiliated” says GMB
Fyffes, a board member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), has shut down one of its melon plantations in Honduras putting 2,700 people out of work. The company has openly admitted that the decision to close the farms was because the workers had joined a trade union in an attempt to recoup monies owed to them by their employer Melon Export SA, a subsidiary of Fyffes.
In June, Fyffes made a commitment to the ETI to participate in negotiations to resolve the dispute at the workplace in Choluteca with input from local union STAS and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF). With the meeting scheduled for next week, Fyffes has just informed the ETI that they will not be attending.
Fyffes was in breach of Honduran law by not paying their workers the legal minimum wage, the equivalent of less than 10 US dollars per day. They also unlawfully withheld holiday pay, overtime and other premiums as well as failing to pay quotas owed for education and social security, thus depriving their employees access to medical assistance and pension entitlements.
GMB International Officer, Bert Schouwenburg, said, “By brutally sacking 2,700 mostly women workers leaving them without the means to support their families, Fyffes has demonstrated that, not only do they have a callous disregard for their employees, they believe themselves to be above the law. Dismissing workers because of their trade union activities is not only unlawful in Honduras, it is also a clear breach of international labour law and of the sustainable development chapter of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Central America.
The ETI has been completely humiliated by one of its own board members and has effectively been stripped of whatever credibility it has left. GMB believes that the trade union movement should have nothing more to do with this morally bankrupt and worthless organisation. However, Fyffes’ appalling behaviour cannot be allowed to go unchallenged either and, in conjunction with our colleagues in Honduras, we will decide what action to take.”
Notes to Editors
1 GMB press release dated Thursday 11th February 2016
FYFFES SHOULD BE EJECTED BY ETHICAL TRADE INITIATIVE FOR ABUSE OF WORKERS IN TROPICAL FRUIT PLANTATIONS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
14 women workers in Honduras were hospitalised in December after being poisoned by the noxious chemicals they were forced to handle without any personal protective equipment says GMB
GMB is calling for Fyffes, the Irish multinational fruit company, to be expelled from the Ethical Trade Initiative because of sustained and repeated violations of human rights on its plantations in the Central American republics of Honduras and Costa Rica.
The Ethical Trading Initiative is a multi-stakeholder forum comprising of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes workers’ rights around the globe. It is funded by the British Government.
Companies within the Ethical Trading Initiative forum are expected to follow the internationally recognised codes of labour conduct as well as international law and guidance. GMB is clear that Fyffes are not doing this and consequently should be ejected from the forum.
Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said, “Fyffes is an appalling employer that cares nothing for its workers who toil in boiling heat to produce the fruit that makes the company’s profits. They have no respect for domestic or international law governing workers’ rights and must be brought to book.
According to the Fyffes website, their produce is “…produced under the safest working conditions following the fairest labour practices and with the minimum of environmental impact.” It states that the ETI base code (guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining) is incorporated into the company code of conduct and that their fruit is certified by Fairtrade International.
In stark contrast to Fyffes claims is the experience of 14 women workers on their SURAGROH subsidiary’s melon plantation in Honduras who were hospitalised in December after being poisoned by the noxious chemicals they were forced to handle without any personal protective equipment.
Workers report that the company does not fulfil its legal obligations with regard to minimum wage, overtime payments, public holidays or Sunday double time. Social security quotas are deducted from pay but not passed on to the government departments, thus depriving employees from accessing the health system or being paid benefits to which they are entitled.
The company also illegally charges workers for transport to the fields and when they formed a branch of the STAS agricultural workers union at the end of January, 2016, four members of the new Executive were abducted, threatened and held incommunicado for a day until they renounced their membership.
In Costa Rica, Fyffes’ ANEXCO pineapple firm has embarked on a purge of SINTRAPEM union members on its farms and 12 of them are taking the company to court. Ramón Barrantes, General Secretary of the Costa Rican banana union federation, COSIBA-CR, stated that “… this transnational (Fyffes) has no culture of social dialogue, nor respect for our laws; we are up against a monster that violates the human rights of the workers…” When questioned about their behaviour, Fyffes Dublin and UK management simply say that they prefer for matters to be sorted at a local level.
If the Ethical Trading Initiative fails to take action against Fyffes given this appalling record, it will confirm suspicions that it is little more than a talking shop which does not merit UK taxpayers’ support. Fyffes should immediately be expelled.”