Gender, social dialogue and fair trade among issues at COLSIBA conference

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The 14th conference of COLSIBA (the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions) was held at the Grand Hotel in San Pedro Sula, Honduras from the 11 to 13 of October, Bert Schouwenburg, International Officer of the GMB, reports.
 
In attendance were affiliates from Colombia, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Also present were representatives from 3F (Denmark) GMB (UK) Solidarity Center (USA), ILRF (USA), BanaFair (Germany) and two organisers from a new agro industrial union in Ecuador. The meeting received and approved reports from Executive members on finance, strategy, health, safety and environment, and matters impacting on women. In addition there were country reports from all the affiliates.
 
As in previous years, the first day of the event was the women’s conference but on this occasion it was decided that male delegates should be present as well, on the entirely logical premise that it was important for men to be fully cognisant with their female counterparts concerns. The second day was largely given over to a panel discussion with invitees from Norwegian supermarket, Bama, Dole Honduras, the ILRF and GMB followed by a question and answer session for the trade union audience. The overarching theme for the discussion was ‘Social Dialogue’ in the banana industry and, unsurprisingly, given the different presenters, there were a wide range of views expressed.
 
Photo: Conference delegates in their Banana Link funded conference shirts
 
The third day was devoted to more in depth discussion around the situation in the various countries and on the strategy going forward. Particular attention was given to Ecuador and the internal difficulties that have arisen within FENACLE. More controversially, but agreed unanimously, was the decision to be publicly critical of fair-trade labeling organisations and publicly condemn Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International and Fairtrade USA, but to engage with these organisations where possible. The Conference heard that, at best, Fairtrade had done very little to foster trade union organisation in Latin America and, at worst, had undermined it.
 
The last act of the Conference was to elect a new Executive. It was proposed and seconded that the current body stay in place for another two years, with the addition of an additional member to ease the burden on the incumbents, and that was accepted by acclaim, meaning that Iris Munguia and Gilbert Bermudez retain their positions as Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator respectively.
 
Photo: Bert Schouwenburg swears in the new Executive