Fyffes bananas

Irish-based banana giant Fyffes has come under fire for alleged worker abuse on fruit plantations in Central America.

Workers’ union GMB yesterday called for Fyffes to be expelled from the Ethical Trade Initiative, claiming there had been “sustained and repeated violations of human rights” on the multinational fruit company’s plantations in Honduras and Costa Rica.

It claimed 14 female workers on a melon plantation in Honduras, owned by a Fyffes subsidiary Suragroh, were hospitalised in December after being poisoned by noxious chemicals they were “forced to handle without any personal protective equipment”.

Workers at the plantation also alleged they were not being paid legal minimum wage or overtime, and had been denied public holidays, said GMB.

After workers tried to form a trade union branch last month, four members were allegedly “abducted, threatened and held incommunicado” for a day until they renounced their membership.

GMB also accused Fyffes’ Costa Rican pineapple subsidiary Anexco of embarking on a “purge” of union members on its farms.

The Ethical Trading Initiative said it took all allegations “very seriously” but would only step in if complaints could not be resolved locally.

Banana Link, another ETI member, had raised concerns over the treatment of melon and pineapple plantation workers with Fyffes, and the two parties were now in dialogue over the issues, it said.

“When issues are raised and there are local processes in place such as mediation and negotiation agreements, members are expected to work together and use those processes to get resolution,” added ETI executive director Peter McAllister.

“Once local processes have been followed, and if parties are unable to reach agreement, then members can raise this formally with the ETI and we take action according to our established procedures.”

ETI had previously expelled members, he said, but only after a “thorough investigation” into any allegations.

Banana Link international co-ordinator Alistair Smith said the GMB complaint reflected “the frustration of trade union partners on the ground in pineapple and melon plantations” in Honduras and Costa Rica.

“Banana Link remains keen to promote a constructive dialogue between Fyffes and local trade unions to resolve the problems on these farms,” he added.

Fyffes declined to comment.