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IUF and Chiquita Agree on Conditions for Maintaining Respect for Union Rights as Company Enters Negotiations for Sale of Colombian Operations

Posted to the IUF website 26-Feb-2004

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In June 2001, the IUF, the Latin American Coordinating Committee of Banana Workers' Unions (COLSIBA) and the banana transnational Chiquita signed a breakthrough agreement on Freedom of Association, Minimum Labour Standards and Employment in Latin American Banana Operations.The agreement confirmed Chiquita's commitment to respect the core labor Conventions of the ILO, including the Convention on freedom of association.

Chiquita has recently announced that it is negotiating the possible sale of its Colombian operations to the Colombian national producer BANACOL, with whom it would enter into a long-term purchasing agreement. As the IUF/COLSIBA/Chiquita agreement commits the company to use its influence with suppliers to respect the same union rights standards which apply to company-owned operations, the IUF initiated discussions with the company to preserve the collective bargaining agreement between Chiquita and the IUF-affiliated SINTRAINAGRO in the event of a possible sale. The current collective agreement recognizes SINTRAINAGRO as the single union organizing the whole of Chiquita's Colombian workforce.

The Colombian situation was high on the agenda of the latest semi-annual Review Committee which monitors the application of the IUF/COLSIBA/Chiquita agreement. A Memorandum of Understanding between the IUF, COLSIBA, SINTRAINAGRO and Chiquita has now been finalized which commits Chiquita to "insist that any ageement for such a sale would provide for the existing collective bargaining agreement to remain in full force and effect and for the potential buyer to continue to recognize SINTRAINAGRO as the single union representative of current Chiquita workers, with all rights and obligations." Chiquita would "insist and use its best efforts to ensure that BANACOL respect the minimum labour standards and the terms of the IUF/COLSIBA/Chiquita Agreement as they would apply to a Chiquita supplier and that the interpretation of that part of the agreement in this case would recognize Chiquita's significant influence within the current negotiations."