fyffes banana link

Former Fyffes workers have been protesting against its employment terms

Fyffes has been suspended from the Ethical Trading Initiative following an investigation into claims of worker abuse in its supply chain.

The ETI board has told the fruit exporter to work with the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to reach a “mutually agreeable framework for engagement” within 90 days, or else face expulsion from the organisation.

Fyffes had been embroiled in a dispute with the IUF and NGO Banana Link since early last year over claims it did not properly respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, in addition to failing to provide a safe and hygienic workplace on the Honduran and Costa Rican plantations of its subsidiaries.

“Labour rights issues can be complex,” said ETI director Peter McAllister. “However, there is one constant for ETI that has been at the heart of the dispute between IUF, Banana Link and Fyffes with respect to the Suragroh operations in Honduras. Workers should be able to enjoy their right to be represented by those they choose and so engage with management,” he insisted.

“Fyffes’ suspension from ETI, while not a decision that has been taken lightly, offers a focused and time-bound opening to grasp the opportunity that such engagement represents,” McAllister added. “The aim is not only to resolve short-term issues but build a better business through developing mature systems of industrial relations.”

In response, the Irish food giant reiterated its denial of labour rights violations in southern Honduras, and pointed out the ETI had rejected complaints made in relation to health and safety and payment of wages at its Honduran melon operations.

Trade union activities

“In relation to the ETI’s ruling that the company should go further in demonstrating ‘an open approach to legitimate trade union activities’, Fyffes, while having a difference of opinion with the ETI on the matter, is prepared to accept this recommendation,” said a spokesman.

“Fyffes has no issue engaging with properly constituted unions who act within the legal framework of the country in which they are based, as evidenced by the fact that in a number of our operations there is union representation.”

A complaint lodged by Banana Link and the IUF initially triggered a formal complaints process and mediation talks - which proved unsuccessful - in April 2016.

Fyffes was then asked to prepare a remediation plan, which the executive director of ETI said failed to fully address the issues raised. Following the director’s rejection of the plan, the fruit giant requested to present the dispute to a disciplinary committee rather than present an action plan, both of which are permitted in the ETI’s disciplinary procedures.

“We welcome this action by the ETI, as will the workers at their subsidiaries in Costa Rica and Honduras who have seen their labour rights consistently violated over recent years,” said Banana Link national co-ordinator Jacqui Mackay.

“We sincerely hope that Fyffes are willing and able to put in place the necessary procedures to ensure freedom of association and a safe workplace throughout their global supply chains, and that they are successful in being readmitted to the ETI.”