Two weeks after Fyffes signed an agreement recognizing STAS (el Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares) as the legitimate union representative of workers employed at Fyffes’ melon subsidiaries in Honduras, union members are reporting harassment and intimidation.
Fyffes is an Irish multinational company owned by the Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo, and one of the largest fruit brands in the world and the top importer of winter-season melons to the U.S. market. The agreement Fyffes signed with STAS on January 11 states that the company would rehire union members who had not been rehired for the current harvest season due to their union affiliation by January 21 and that collective bargaining negotiations between Fyffes and STAS would begin on February 5.
Unfortunately, there are very concerning indications that Fyffes and its subsidiaries are not honoring the commitments they made under the agreement. None of the 43 union members who were supposed to be rehired by January 21 have been hired. Management had called them to report to company offices on January 19 to sign their work contracts, but when they arrived they were met with a management-orchestrated anti-union demonstration. These union members report being surrounded while in their van, being warned not to take out their phones, and threatened by a human resources manager participating in the demonstration that, “We will beat you and leave you pulverized.”
These recent acts of harassment and intimidation come in the wake of a three-year campaign of anti-union violence perpetrated by Fyffes’ local management against STAS members. The systematic undermining of workers’ collective bargaining rights includes blocking Labor Ministry inspections, locking workers in offices, forcing them to resign, illegal firings, and psychological and verbal harassment towards affiliated workers, among various other tactics.
The threats and intimidation against union members and leaders on Fyffes’ plantations are taking place in heavily anti-union environment in Honduras. It is not surprising that STAS organizers report fearing for their safety following these recent events, given that one STAS organizer received death threats in 2016 and STAS’ Secretary General was kidnapped, beaten, and threatened with death in 2017.
ILRF calls on Fyffes to immediately ensure that local management is fully informed about and compliant with the January 11 agreement. It is Fyffes’ responsibility to immediately put a halt to this union-busting and to ensure that local management abides by the agreement, which explicitly states that Fyffes will negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in good faith with STAS. ILRF expects this CBA to cover all workers in all of Fyffes’ subsidiaries including plantations, packing plants, greenhouses, and security guard contractors. It should cover both permanent and temporary workers, given that a majority of the 8,000 workforce is hired on temporary contracts from November to May.
“If Fyffes continues to refuse to abide by its agreement with STAS, ILRF will be launching a public campaign calling on supermarkets to cut ties with the Fyffes brand, given the blatant violence and harassment taking place at its melon subsidiaries in Honduras,” said Gabby Rosazza of the International Labor Rights Forum.