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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Colombia Banana Strike ends with SINTRAINAGRO Victory

Posted to the IUF website 25-May-2009

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SINTRAINAGRO President Guillermo Rivera

On May 20, 13 days into a strike which paralyzed Colombian banana production, SINTRAINAGRO has signed a new sectoral collective agreement bringing important gains for 18,000 workers on 296 farms and plantations.

The agreement - limited to two years as against the previous three - brings an 8% wage increase in the first year and substantial additional employer contributions to the funds for housing, health and education. And the union succeeded in its key objective of beating back proposals for outsourcing employment in the banana sector through the introduction of phony "cooperatives" which would relieve the employers of responsibility for collective bargaining, health and safety and social security. "Associated Work Cooperatives" were described by SINTRAINAGRO President Guillermo Rivera in a pre-strike interview as a lethal tool for undermining employment and union organization: "Under our Collective Bargaining Agreement, the vast majority of the workers in the sector must be hired for an indefinite period of time. But following a model that is being implemented throughout the world, companies here are resorting to blackmail, claiming that the only way to continue with banana production is to incorporate associated work cooperatives, independent contractors and outsourcing schemes."

The strike - fought in the context of expanding oil palm production and deepening poverty and insecurity - received strong support from the national center CUT and the IUF's regional and international secretariats. More information on the strike and its outcome is available on the website of the IUF regional organization for Latin America www.rel-uita.org