Aquilles Rivera - Costa Rican pineapple worker and SITRAPINDECO organiser

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Background: Aquilles is an organiser for the trade union SITRAPINDECO (Union of Pindeco Workers) and worked on a plantation owned by the Del Monte Corporation subsidiary, Pindeco, in the South Pacific zone of Costa Rica. Del Monte and their subsidiary ‘Pindeco’ together produce approximately 50% of the Costa Rican pineapples found on European supermarket shelves.......

“I worked for Pindeco for 8 years and did a range of jobs including harvesting the fruit, applying agrochemicals and working in the packing plant. The work was really hard. We were paid by hour but we had set targets to reach in these hours, for example, harvesting a fixed number of pineapples per day. The targets were always too high and we had to work unrealistically hard. The situation is even worse now that they have introduced piece rates, so all workers are paid by production rather than by hour.

In the year 2000 we decided to organise into a trade union to try and improve conditions for Pindeco workers, this is when we set up SITRAPINDECO. Each year we managed to increase the membership and by 2007 we had 125 members, but the repression from the company was getting much stronger.

Union members were facing discrimination and daily persecution; they got moved onto the lowest paid jobs or the jobs with most contact with agrochemicals and sometimes individual union members would get sacked for no reason. Then the mass sackings started; the company would sack say 100 workers at a time because they ‘had to reduce personnel costs for market reasons’ but then they would re-hire all the workers except the union members. It was just a tactic they used to clear out the trade unionists from the workforce.

In 2009 we made a denunciation to Pindeco and the Labour Ministry and on May 7th2009 we got the opportunity the present our demands on labour rights and trade union persecution to a tribunal, however, neither Pindeco nor the judges turned up to the courts. Then on May 9th the SITRAPINDECO offices were completely vandalised; they destroyed our computer, our printer, all our files and documents. On May 11th I was threatened at gunpoint and told that I would be killed if we didn’t drop the case denouncing conditions on Pindeco plantations.

Now SITRAPINDECO only has 8 members, the company has succeeded in completely destroying the union and we simply don’t have the resources to fight back against such a big and powerful company."

29th March 2010