Honduras decision puts Rainforest Alliance impartiality "in doubt"

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Honduras decision puts Rainforest Alliance impartiality "in doubt"

Nonprofit Rainforest Alliance's decision to withdraw certification from Honduran banana group COHFRUTSA has been met by frustration from local growers, who despite accusations of labor rights abuses claim they were only acting within the confines of national law. bananas small 11

José Obregón, who represents three farms under the COHFRUTSA group, told www.freshfruitportal.com that compared to dealings with GlobalG.A.P., the latest problem with the Rainforest Alliance had been a "nightmare".

The representative said the nonprofit's concerns were over labor discrimination, as the farms were only engaging in collective bargaining with one out of the company's two union groups.

"The law clearly establishes that when there are two unions recognized by the administrative authority, there are very clear processes to define which union gets priority for collective negotiation," he said.

"There is one union, SITRAFMARIA, that has 115 workers and another union, SITRAINBA, which used to have 35 members but as some left for different reasons it now has just 25.

"There is a legal process to challenge this union that did not take the right steps in a legitimate way."

As COHFRUTSA was simply following Honduras' legal guidelines for managing labor issues, Obregón said the Rainforest Alliance's decision was "very controversial".

"It puts their impartiality in doubt. They have taken the side of the smaller union and accused us of discrimination and say we haven’t respected labor rights," he said.

"This is not an issue of violation, or human rights or discrimination. It is a legal case that needs to be determined by the government, to see which of the two unions has representativeness."

He said an appeal was currently underway in order to legitimize the farms' dealings with SITRAINBA, which Obregón added had been inactive for decades and had only recently started to take actions. As the government is currently in transition, authorities have asked the farmers to wait until January for a decision.

If a ruling were to be made in early January as Obregón hoped, this would easily fall within the leeway given to COHFRUTSA to comply with its contract to supply bananas to Chiquita Brands subsidiary Tela Railroad Company.

"In a clause in the contract it demands that we are certified by the Rainforest Alliance and GlobalG.A.P., but the Tela Railroad Company gives us six months to re-gain or re-certify our farms with a certifier," he said.

"Once those six months are up, the Tela Railroad Company and Chiquita can make the decision to finish the contract or continue without the seal, but they have not communicated that they will cancel the contract or that they won’t export the fruit.

"We still have time to resolve this appeal."

Photo: www.shutterstock.com



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