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Honduras: Rainforest certification provides cover for rights-busting company – protest now and help banana workers
Rainforest Alliance certification is supposed to provide a guarantee that goods are produced according to strict social standards that guarantee workers' rights but the IUF has evidence that the certification is being used to undermine not advance workers' rights.
In 2012, workers on the Tres Hermanas banana plantation, Honduras formed a union, SITRAINBA, in response to failure by their employer to pay the minimum wage, unpaid overtime and the illegal firings. The leaders continued to organise and build SITRAINBA and by August 15, 2012, they were able to have the union legally registered by the Ministry of Labour. Rather than recognize the union, Tres Hermanas management set up their own bogus "union" and started a campaign of harassment, including sackings of SITRAINBA members. Last month the company suspended for 8 days workers who are members of SITRAINBA. The appalling rights violations record of Tres Hermanas (which is owned by the Honduran Fruit Distributor Corporation, COHFRUTSA ) has led to the company being the subject of a complaint under US trade procedures.
Amazingly, Tres Hermanas has certification from the US-based Rainforest Alliance (RA) for its good social, economic and environmental practices!
FESTAGRO, the coordination of banana workers union in Honduras, has been assisting SITRAINBA and has provided extensive evidence to RA of the labour rights violations. Rainforest then did an audit in June, 2013 which found four major "non-conformances" with their own standards, including a violation of standard 5.12, which guarantees workers' rights to organize and collectively bargain.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, RA has just re-certified Tres Hermanas.
In a letter to RA, German Zepeda, Festagro General Secretary warns that the certification is strengthening the framework of impunity that exists in the agricultural sector in the region around labour rights violations.
IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald commented "It is clear that the company is hiding behind its Rainforest certification and using this to fool both its buyers and the public that is a "good guy. We call on Rainforest to decertify this planation immediately.
"Their website tells consumers "The Rainforest Alliance's little green frog is your assurance that goods and services were produced according to strict environmental, social and economic standards that curb deforestation, protect wildlife and improve conditions for workers, families and communities". In the case of Tres Hermanas this is clearly untrue. Rainforest should decertify them now", he added.
Oswald also confirmed that the IUF will have further talks with Chiquita which buys from Tres Hermanas.