Two pieces of news have been shared by Banana Link, regarding union workers and the banana sector in Guatemala.
Union to Union solidarity at work
The second year of Banana Link’s TUC Aid funded project to support the organising and training of Guatemalan banana workers is enabling continued progress in the region.
In the North, a new three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached in June with a subsidiary of Del Monte, which includes decent wage increases, contributions to a housing fund for workers, and a one-off negotiating bonus to all workers. Union leadership attributes this success to an excellent negotiating team whose skills have been developed by regular training activities supported by TUC. The new agreement benefits 3300 employees!
In the South, hostility towards trade unionism remains the norm, so informal education of workers’ rights, outside the workplace, is the only way to progress awareness. SITRABI continues to make efforts to connect with plantation workers, however, workers are often on temporary contracts, therefore limiting the longer-term organising potential.
In July, a formal cooperation agreement was reached between SITRABI and an organisation of the Catholic Church. Although the work of Pastoral de la Tierra is focused on environmental issues, the scope of cooperation agreed covers the investigation of aerial spraying, agrochemical use and worker protection, as well as the environmental impact of the plantations on surrounding communities. SITRABI leaders are confident that this new relationship constitutes a significant step forward in the South.
You can find out more about TUC Aid here.
Noé Ramirez Portela, General Secretary of the Izabal Banana Workers’ Union, Guatemala to speak at Latin America 2015 Conference
Noé Ramirez Portela, General Secretary of the Izabal Banana Workers’ Union of Guatemala (SITRABI) is visiting the UK this month and will be speaking at the Latin America 2015 Conference in London on 28 November. Noé’s visit is being co-ordinated by Banana Link.
SITRABI is the oldest private sector union in Guatemala and represents over 4000 members in Del Monte and in Del Monte supplier farms on the Caribbean coast, and has good relations with other local unions in other multinational and national plantations. Noé was elected General Secretary of SITRABI in 2000, shortly after the union’s Executive Committee was forced at gun point to resign their posts and call off strike action over contract violations.
Guatemala is the second most dangerous Latin American country in which to be a trade unionist, and SITRABI has been devastated by a series of assassinations since Noé’s brother was killed in 2007. Since then, nine members of SITRABI have been murdered. None of the murders have been properly investigated by the authorities.
Despite this, SITRABI has been successful in managing to maintain collective bargaining and workers have managed to secure many of the elements of ‘Decent Work’.
For more information on the conference, click here.
You can find out more about Banana Link here.