Rainforest Alliance ignores union's complaints

Honduras: They denounce the violation of labour rights in a banana company

In recent months, the Union of Workers of the Banana Industry (SITRAINBA), affiliated to the newly formed Federation of Trade Unions of Agribusiness Workers (FESTAGRO) has reported repeated episodes of labour law violation and harassment against the workers in the banana company Las Tres Hermanas.

According to the complaints, the company, a supplier of Chiquita whose farms are certified by the Rainforest Alliance, applied sanctions, unjustly transferring and suspending several workers affiliated to SITRAINBA up to 8 days. Labour authorities haven't been able, or perhaps haven't wanted to, solve these serious irregularities.

In addition, Las Tres Hermanas, three banana plantations that are a part of the Honduran Distributor Fruit Corporation (COHFRUTSA), is involved in the labour complaint filed at the Office for Trade and Labour Affairs of the United States (OTLA), for breaching Chapter XVI of the Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and the United States.

The state of Honduras is on the verge of being sanctioned because of the repeated violations of labour rights, that several companies, including Las Tres Hermanas, have been committed in the country.

"The company has refused to recognize the SITRAINBA, as it is a union and they fear that it could grow stronger in the field of independent producers, expanding the labour movement," said German Zepeda, FESTAGRO's Secretary General.

The union leader also said that, last year, the union filed a list of demands to the labour authorities. The company, however, hasn't complied with any of the authorities decisions and continues to refuse to bargain collectively.

"On the contrary, three months ago they prompted the formation of a union created by the company, with which they now seek to negotiate, dividing workers and isolating the SITRAINBA" said Zepeda.

In this situation, the former Coordinator of Banana and Agroindustrial Unions of Honduras (COSIBAH), nowadays FESTAGRO, and US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), filed a complaint against the certified group Rainforest Alliance Certified, COHFRUTSA | The Three Sisters.

The certification business

Even though, between March and July 2013, the SFC and Icade carried out a thorough investigation about the complaints received that the company was breaching the Sustainable Agriculture Network's (SAN) rules, in which there was evidence or four major non-compliances to said rules, COHFRUTSA maintained its Rainforest Alliance Certified status."

"The investigation found serious violations of labour rights and even the misuse of pesticides during spraying. However, this group of independent producers, which makes up Las Tres Hermanas, was certified again.

"Once again we can see the double standard and big business there is behind this certifications and the group certifications. What they are doing is certifying impunity, "said FESTAGRO's Secretary General.

Zepeda said that SITRAINBA, along with FESTAGRO, the IUF and the Latin American Coordination of Banana Unions and Agribusiness (COLSIBA) would be starting a strong international campaign against the repeated violations of labour right by Las Tres Hermanas and Rainforest Alliance's accountability.

Source: Rel-UITA

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