Honduras: Unions & NGOs denounce labour abuses, incl. attacks on freedom of association, at plantations of Fyffes (part of Sumitomo)

In 2016 and 2017, Unions and NGOs reported on labour abuses, including attacks to freedom of association, in melon plantations in Honduras. In April 2017, they reported an attack against Moisés Sánchez -Secretary General of the sub-section of the Union of Agroindustrial Workers- and his brother. According to Moisés, the attacks could be linked to his activism.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Fyffes and Sumitomo to respond; the responses are available here.  

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Company response
17 May 2017

Sumitomo response

Author: Sumitomo Corporation

... SC understands that Fyffes has been taking appropriate actions towards these labor issues according to the laws and will continue deepening mutual understanding with the public officials and people involved through appropriate communications. SC will also endeavor to get the picture of the actual situation and cooperate with Fyffes as a parent company as appropriate.

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Company response
9 May 2017

Fyffes response

Author: Fyffes

…Following an investigation of a complaint to UK Government-backed Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) regarding conditions in Fyffes Honduran melon operations, ETI has recently concluded that the allegations contained in the complaint were factually unfounded. In particular, ETI accepted a report from the Honduran Ministry of Labour confirming that company payrolls were in full compliance with local laws. With regard to allegations related to the health and safety of workers they concluded that the incident cited was an accident and the company had responded in an appropriate way…As part of the ETI process, Fyffes has given a commitment to work with the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to reach a mutually agreeable framework for engagement to explore options aimed at creating effective and legal representation…Reports have been circulating in recent weeks regarding an incident which is said to have occurred in Choluteca on Thursday, 13 April when two local men were attacked and robbed. The victims claim to have been threatened by their attackers as a result of union activity. Some of these reports have implied that Fyffes and Suragroh were in some way linked to the incident. This suggestion is without foundation and is both reprehensible and highly irresponsible…

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Article
20 April 2017

Witness for Peace Condemns the Attack of Union Organizers in Choluteca, Honduras

Author: Witness for Peace (US)

…On April 15th, Moisés Sánchez and his brother, Misael, were brutally attacked by four as yet unidentified assailants while conducting their work as labor organizers in the city of Choluteca, in southern Honduras…Moisés is the Secretary General of the the sub-section of the Union of Agroindustrial Workers (STAS, for its initials in Spanish) that organizes workers who work for Melon Export, S.A., a prominent company owned by the Irish conglomerate Fyffes. Misael, who suffered deep facial wounds from a machete blow, is also active in the organization…Although the assailants have not yet been identified – a legal process is underway – Moisés reports that the attack was clearly motivated by his role as an organizer: “They knew perfectly well who I am. They told me that if I continued doing what I’m doing, I would face the consequences. They threatened me openly.”…Melon workers in Choluteca reported to the Witness for Peace team that attempts at organizing are regularly been met with threats and disruption, including some workers having been fired for their part in organizing. The melon workers in Choluteca allege that they are regularly denied wages, made to purchase their own working gear at the cost of approximately a week’s wages, exposed to harmful chemicals, and denied medical and other benefits…FESTAGRO and STAS have called for a boycott of Fyffes-grown melons, 80% of which are exported to the United States...

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Article
13 January 2017

Labor rights groups plan Fyffes protest over anti-union actions in Central America

Author: Fresh Fruit Portal

…Three labor rights groups are arranging a protest against fruit multinational Fyffes in the Irish capital Dublin on Monday, calling on the company to reinstate workers that were allegedly fired and blacklisted for joining unions in Costa Rica and Honduras…The groups have also called on Fyffes to compensate those who have been allegedly unfairly dismissed because they became pregnant…A Fyffes spokesperson described the groups’ move as “opportunistic.”…“The Ethical Trading Initiative is currently overseeing a process looking into these matters, so this action is a purely opportunistic move by the unions concerned,” he said…

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Article
29 November 2016

Fyffes melons at centre of labour abuse claims from Honduran workers

Author: Jonathan Watts, The Guardia (UK)

A community of Honduran melon plantation labourers say they are threatened with dismissal and destitution because they have tried to form a union at their Irish-owned company.The workers – the vast majority of whom are women – are now appealing to US and European consumers to boycott products sold by the fruit multinational Fyffes until it improves working conditions and allows collective bargaining...This is the property of one of three Fyffes subsidiaries – Melon Export, Soled and Suragro – in Choluteca. Together, they employ about 2,700 local people to clear the soil, plant seeds, spray herbicides and pesticides, turn over the melons to prevent sun scorching, and then harvest them...The work is seasonal, lasting only four to six months....Fyffes says that the Choluteca operation is certified by Primus Labs, a food safety consultancy...To improve conditions, two years ago employees set up a branch of the agriculture workers’ union Stas. They say they faced opposition from the company and threats from the government… Fyffes says it is happy to engage with a union... but acknowledges difficulties in Honduras...

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