Plantation workers’ unions need your solidarity
Support our Union-to-Union programme
We are extremely grateful for the continued solidarity and the generous donations we have received from union branches and regions in recent years. These funds have provided vital support for the activities of our trade union partners in Latin America and Africa, as well as lobbying activities targeting retailers, fruit companies and governments. Our focus includes supporting the strategic work of regional networks, such as the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions (COLSIBA) and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) Network of African Banana Workers Unions, as well as supporting unions to organise across agricultural sectors at national level.
However, many plantation workers continue to live in poverty and their most basic rights fail to be respected in the workplace. We are therefore appealing for donations to allow us to continue to offer solidarity to our sister unions to challenge the repression of the freedom to organise, to educate workers about their rights, and empower their union representatives to collectively bargain for Decent Work for the men and women that grow the fruit sold in our supermarkets.
You can make a one-off donation here:
Or send a cheque to Banana Link, 42-58 St George's Street, Norwich, NR3 1AB
Recommended minimum annual donations: £15 for individuals, £50 for union branches, £100 for union regions/divisions, and £150 for national unions.
Union-to-Union solidarity in action achievements in 2017/18
Freedom & Fairness for Fyffes Workers in Central America
Our global campaign to get leading banana and pineapple importer, Fyffes, to respect labour rights on its plantations in Costa Rica and Honduras, has put the company under pressure from consumers and supermarkets to engage with unions. We successfully argued that Fyffes had breached the Base Code of the UK's Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe.
Fyffes is now in negotiations with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) to agree a framework for engagement between local unions and management, the outcome of which will determine whether their suspension from the ETI will be lifted.
A new banana workers union in Ecuador
Support from the GMB helped the recent establishment of a new banana workers' union in Ecuador. SINUTRABE (the National Union of Ecuadorian Banana Workers) was formed to organise men and women across the industry in a country where union membership remains very low. The new union represents around two thousand workers, only some of whom currently enjoy collective bargaining agreements with their employers.
Labour rights on Rainforest Alliance certified plantations
A large proportion of the bananas sold in UK supermarkets are certified by the Rainforest Alliance. However, labour rights are not respected on many of these certified plantations. As a result of lobbying by Banana Link and trade union partners, Rainforest is now in dialogue with plantation workers' unions in Latin America to address concerns about Freedom of Association.
Strengthening unions in Costa Rica
Support from UNISON enabled SITRAP, which represents tropical fruit workers in Costa Rica, to strengthen its organising and collective bargaining work. Among their recent gains have been a significant growth in membership, particularly among women workers, and starting to unionise workers at two plantations which have long been anti-union, with membership approaching levels required to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. Collective bargaining is under way in a first banana plantation belonging to Fresh Del Monte, although the company has been playing for time and the negotiations are proceeding very slowly.
Court action wins reinstatement in Peru
Following a campaign we launched in 2016, executive committee members of the SITETSA union have won a legal battle against their unfair dismissal by Peruvian agribusiness company TALSA. The Labour Court in Trujillo ruled that TALSA had violated their right of union freedom, and also ruled that the company pay the litigation costs and the legal fees of the sacked workers.
Increasing women’s employment in Ghana
Banana Link and the IUF are working with Compagnie Fruitière to find practical ways to improve and increase women's employment on their Ghanaian plantation where women constitute only 8% of the workforce. Among other activities, the project is looking to broaden the range of work tasks open to women and increase women's opportunities for promotion.
Watch this video in which Adwoa Sakyi of IUF Africa outlines her hopes for the new project:
Improving health and safety on plantations
Through training workshops with national and local union leaders in Latin America, Banana Link has worked to help put health & safety at the heart of their agendas, and to convince Latin American governments to ratify the ILO Convention on Health & Safety in Agriculture.
Additionally, Banana Link is co-coordinating an OHS training programme in Ecuador that will initially reach over 55,000 banana workers. This training will use the first ever health and safety manual specifically created for the banana industry.
Empowering women workers in Cameroon
Following our recent education and empowerment programme in Cameroon, better skilled union representatives have been able to negotiate improvements such as a harmonisation of housing allowances between all plantations and a number of improved health and safety practices. Women representatives have also negotiated new opportunities for women to take on higher skilled/paid tasks such as engineering and welding, improvements in first aid provision, and a reduction in working hours.
Facilitating union representation at the World Banana Forum
Last Autumn, we facilitated the participation of 30 representatives of African and Latin American unions, representing over 600,000 workers, at the conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF), which brings together all industry stakeholders including producers and governments, along with trade unions, to work together to achieve consensus on best practice. As a result, final conference proposals included commitments to a new approach to industrial relations that treats workers and their unions with dignity and respect, and a fairer distribution of value along the supply chain that enables workers to secure a living wage.
We coordinated a Gender Equity meeting, ahead of the conference, which bought together 100 women and men, and generated clear proposals to mainstream work to achieve gender equity in the industry, including efforts to end the gender pay gap, and reduce sexual harassment and gender based violence.
2016-17 Donors include:
Birmingham Childrens Hospital
Community - TU
GMB London region
GMB Northern region
UNISON East Midlands
UNISON Northamptonshire County Branch
UNITE Clerkenwell & St Pancras Branch
The Wrekin Division of the NUT