Honduras has been suffering repression since 2009 when a military coup brought its current National Party government to power. The country is known as the murder, repression and corruption capital of the Americas – a situation that has recently brought people on to the streets in the biggest popular demonstrations since the military coup.
Within this context, numerous cases of labour rights violations experienced by Honduran agricultural workers have been presented to the Labour Ministry, but remain unresolved. The Union of Agroindustrial Workers (STAS) has appealed to the Minsiter of Labour, Carlos Madero, to settle these cases as soon as possible. STAS, along with the Honduran Federation of Agroindustrial Workers' Unions (FESTAGRO), to which it is affiliated, is calling for international solidarity to support this request.
Founded in April 2013, STAS is the first union to represent workers throughout the agricultural sector and is working for the respect of fundamental workers’ rights, including the payment of the minimum wage in the South of Honduras where 90% of companies fail to pay this.
A sector wide union is much stronger than having a number of smaller unions in each workplace. However as Iris Munguía, FESTAGRO secretary for Women Affairs, explains: "The private sector and the government have closed ranks to destroy this kind of organization. Therefore they set so much obstacles and problems to most of its work. That is the reason why we are denouncing what is happening here."
You can support this appeal by SIGNING AND SENDING AN ONLINE LETTER (in Spanish) from the FESTAGRO website to the Honduran Minister of Labour, calling for him to act.
FESTAGRO is part of the Latin American Coordination of Banana and Agroindustrial Unions (COLSIBA), and a Banana Link campaign partner in Make Fruit Fair!
Photo © festagro.org
English translation of the letter:
Engineer Carlos Madero
Minister of Labour
Republic of Honduras
Dear Mr. Minister Madero,
Please receive our warm greetings.
I have been informed by our colleagues in the Union Of Agroindustrial Workers (STAS) in Honduras that since 2014 they have presented several cases of labor rights violations before the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which have not been resolved. STAS stated that in some cases your Ministry has intervened in favor of the demanded companies.
The complaints submitted by our partners are:
STAS has fought hard for the payment of the minimum wage in the south where 90% of agricultural companies do not pay the minimum wages. The union has also has been demanding for 3 years now the reinstatement of 7 workers in the sugar company Grecia (grupo Pantaleón) without success. This part of the country is one of the areas hardest hit by labor rights’ violations, but the Labor Ministry does not take appropriate action to improve working conditions.
Request for mediators since 2014 on the farm Finca Santa Rita, a subsidiary of Chiquita, and the company Soldaduras y Derivados de Montaje de Estructuras Metálicas (SODEMEM), a subsidiary of Azucarera del Norte SA, AZUNOSA, owned by "SAB Miller". To date the Ministry has not responded to this request nor appointed the mediators.
Blocking the registration of the collective bargaining agreement signed between the farm Finca Tropical and STAS.
Despite the fact that general inspections on the farms Santa Rita and Finca Tropical have found incomplete salary payments and affirmed the right to re-employment of dismissed workers, the Ministry has been failed to enforce the payment of these salary adjustments or the reinstatement of workers and union leaders.
In all these cases, according to our STAS colleagues, the Ministry, especially the general secretary and the general inspectorate, appears to be favouring the companies in question.
Finally, I am concerned that the case of a management created union being able to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement without having to register the appropriate number of members or Executive Committee with the Ministry.
We ask you to work together with STAS to find solutions to these violations, in the spirit of harmony and social dialogue.