The Costa Rican trade union SINTRAPEM (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores/as del Sector Privado Empresarial) and union co-ordinating body COSIBACR report that, despite positive developments in our online campaign, the Fyffes owned Anexco continues to abuse labour rights and discriminate against trade union members on its plantation.
We reproduce below the points thay have recorded to demonstrate the ongoing issues:
We should begin by saying that Fyffes has not been keeping to its word, and we have included just some examples of this:
Workers are transported in wagons in poor condition which are overloaded with more than 100 people. They are pulled by small tractors on poorly maintained roads or highways that put workers at risk, while the managers go by car behind the workers or tractors.
Agrochemicals are used in areas where the workers are working, including where there are containers which they use for water.
Workers are forced to work in conditions which do not comply with Costa Rican law. For example digging is considered difficult, part-time work which should be remunerated with a different wage, however, they must carry out this work for long days which puts their health at risk.
Workers are forced to work with safety equipment that is not appropriate for the tropical climate and hot temperatures. One of these is agricultural lime, a product which exhausts the worker.
There is total instability in that they are consistently overworked without payment. Contracted workers must work at a reduced wage, such as in the case of harvest workers, amongst others. When the worker makes a complaint the company does not resolve the problem in any way.
The union leaders are prohibited from visiting the workers in their place of work and they have porters and security guards who prevent the leaders from entering. This was also the case in the visit of our partner Bert y Gabriela in January, in a situation which is ongoing. The company are violating the Act of the 2 March 2015 in which Fyffes agreed to meet with the union eight days after a schedule was drawn up, but this never materialised. Moreover, there are 39 examples since 2015 of the company going round in circles without resolving problems, including the question of reemploying leaders who were pressured to step down.
Fyffes has welcomed visits from ETI advisors and workshops in order to clean up its image as an exploiter of labour and union rights. For example, in 2016 the ETI conducted a study through its advisors, where it was found that there is no procedure that addresses the workers’ problems. This comes amongst other findings which were made through the study that have still have not been resolved. At the end of the same year, we believed that the ETI was carrying out a joint workshop for both the company and the union, however this activity was controlled by the company who denied transport to the union workers and therefore these workers did not participate. Some participated in a sporadic way as the union was only notified of the activity and their participation the day before. The company nominated 9 activity leaders all of whom were managers, and without prior warning they nominated four union members who were never taken into consideration.
In conclusion union freedom and collective negotiation is still being denied, the act of 2 March 2015 is not being carried out, the matter of the leaders pressured to step down is ongoing and although the ETI intervention has been of interest, it has not been accepted by the company. Finally on the 3 March 2017 there was an agreement made in the office of the Vice-Minister at the Ministry of Labour in April 2017 that a workshop would run involving both parties, but so far this has not taken place. In this way, what the Capitulo Costa Rica company has demonstrated is unacceptable, seeing as there has been no attempt at a solution.
We hope that our efforts can lead to the resolution of the difficult situation in which the Fyffes workers of Costa Rica are living.
Pablo Villalta Sandoval SINTRAPEM
Ramón Barrantes Cascante COSIBACR