GMB Condemn Fyffes For Gross Abuse Of Human Rights 20 Jun 2016
Friday, June 17, 2016
GMB condemned Fyffes’ continuing abuse of workers’ rights at the EU-CA trade summit in Tegucigalpa yesterday (Thursday 17th June 2016) after visiting melon plantations in Choluteca, southern Honduras. (See notes to editors for previous GMB press releases about Fyffes).
Delegates at the event heard that Fyffes Honduran subsidiary, Suragro:
· Failed to pay the legal minimum wage
· Routinely sacked pregnant workers
· Left workers destitute during the 5 months down time between harvests
· Suspended workers without pay for the most minor infraction
· Did not provide boots, gloves or other protective clothing to guard against exposure to chemicals
· Threatened not to renew the contracts of the entire workforce of 3,000 people (mostly women) if they joined the union
· Blacklisted entire communities
Accompanied by officials from local union FESTAGRO and representatives from European and American NGOs, GMB representatives visited the local offices of the Ministry of Labour where they found that Fyffes – and their principal Honduran subsidiary Suragro – would rather pay fines than change their appalling employment practices.
Speaking from Tegucigalpa, Mr Schouwenburg said, “In all my years of working in Latin America, this is one of the worst cases I have come across. At an assembly of over 100 workers, some of whom had walked miles to meet us, we heard a shocking litany of abuse and exploitation on the part of Fyffes’ subsidiaries in Honduras.
FESTAGRO lawyers are currently preparing hundreds of cases against Suragro for non-payment of the legal minimum wage that in some instances go back decades.
The company’s response has been to threaten not to re-employ 3,000 workers when the new season starts in October. In an area of high unemployment where entire communities are blacklisted, this is tantamount to threatening them and their families with starvation. The Ministry of Labour confirmed that Fyffes would rather pay fines than obey the law relating to the payment of the minimum wage, an accusation they always denied.
When I told the workers that their employer was a founder member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, they thought it was a joke. I make them right on that – the ETI is indeed a joke but nobody is laughing in Choluteca.”
Contact: GMB press office on 07970 863411 or 07739 182691
Notes to editors
GMB press office Wednesday, March 2, 2016
GMB Calls For Fyffes To Pay Honduran And Costa Rican Workers A Living Wage At EU Advisory Meeting
Fyffes has increased its profit margin by exploiting a culture of impunity in Honduras and taking advantage of weak regulation in Costa Rica, says GMB.
GMB is calling for Fyffes, the Irish multinational fruit company, to improve working conditions for Honduran and Costa Rican plantation and farm workers and to pay them a living wage.
At an advisory meeting to the EU-Central America Association Agreement on March 1st, Bert Schouwenburg, one of 3 European trade union representatives, condemned Fyffes behaviour on its Honduran melon plantations and Costa Rican pineapple farms. See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB press releases.
Fyffes, with operations in Europe, the US, Central and South America, announced a 12.1% increase in total revenue in 2015 to €1,222.5m on Friday 26th February.Their profit before tax See notes to editors for Fyffes financial highlights.
Bert Schouwenburg, GMB international officer, said, “The sustainable development chapter of the EU-Central America agreement specifically stipulates that all parties should adhere to and respect domestic and international laws on freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Disgracefully, Fyffes has increased its profit margin by exploiting a culture of impunity in Honduras and taking advantage of weak regulation in Costa Rica.
There is simply no excuse for this sort of corporate delinquency and no reason for Fyffes not to treat its workers properly in line with the norms of the discredited Ethical Trading Initiative of which, inexplicably, they are allowed to remain a member.”
Financial Highlights for year ending 31 December 2015, Preliminary results
Total revenue (incl share of joint ventures)
Group revenue (excl share of joint ventures)
Diluted earnings per share*
Interim dividend per share
Head Office: Ireland, Dublin 7
Houndmills Industrial Estate, Basingstoke
Cross Point Business Park, Coventry
Premier Way North, Normanton
Deans Industrial Estate, Livingston
Flathouse Quay, Portsmouth
Costa Rica, Escazú
Belize, Stann Creek District
Copy of a GMB press release dated Thursday 11 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.”