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IUF, Del Monte Sign International Agreement to Resolve Guatemala Conflict

IUF release, 8 March 2000

The international campaign to support SITRABI has entered a new phase with the signing, on March 7, of a framework agreement for resolving the conflict through local negotiations. The agreement was signed by IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald and José Antonio Yock, Del Monte's Vice-President for Latin America. The agreement affirms, among other points, the right of all the illegally sacked workers on the Morales plantations to return to their jobs and guarantees SITRABI's to organize and represent the workers for collective bargaining. More details of the agreement are described in the press release below, which was issued by the IUF on March 8.

The IUF wishes to thank the many organizations and individuals whose support and solidarity kept up the international pressure on the company and made this agreement possible. Our work now shifts from campaigning to monitoring the progress of the local negotiations. Further developments will be reported on this web site.

The IUF and Del Monte Fresh Produce have signed an international agreement which provides a framework for resolving through local negotiations a bitter, long-running conflict in Guatemala between the IUF-affiliated banana workers’ union SITRABI and Del Monte subsidiary . The agreement was signed on March 7 by IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald and José Antonio Yock, Vice-President for Latin America of Del Monte Fresh Produce.

The conflict had its origins in the dismissal last year of 900 workers employed on three Bandegua-owned plantations in Guatemala’s Morales district and the subsequent assault by two hundred heavily-armed men on the union leadership which was organizing a mass protest against the illegal dismissals. Since the October 13 assault, the SITRABI leadership, which was forced to flee to Guatemala City, has been under police protection. The IUF contacted the Guatemalan government to demand that the organizers and perpetrators of the assault be brought to justice, and continues to pressure the new government to take appropriate action.

In response to pressure from the IUF, Del Monte publicly repudiated the anti-union violence. Negotiations, however, remained deadlocked over the crucial issues of reinstating the dismissed workers on the three plantations, which Bandegua planned to lease to national producers, and recognizing SITRABI’s right to organize and represent the workforce.

The IUF/Del Monte agreement now establishes a framework for local negotiations that guarantees:

  • the right of all workers previously employed on the plantations, including those who have left the district, to return to their jobs;
  • the unimpeded right of all workers to join SITRABI;
  • the right of SITRABI to represent the workers on the three plantations for collective bargaining;
  • the right to a single collective agreement covering the three plantations;

The agreement, in which the IUF and Del Monte "commit themselves to find a swift and fair resolution" to the conflict, also clearly states that "No individuals that were instigators of or involved in the internationally and nationally condemned events of October 13 in Morales will be permitted to operate in any contracted or management position on the three plantations or on any other Del Monte-related plantation."

The agreement, said the IUF’s Oswald, was the outcome of "long and complex negotiations following a major national and international dispute with the company. It would not have been possible without the courageous struggle of SITRABI leaders and members to defend their union, their human rights and their dignity, and the support and commitment of the many organizations that worked together to support the IUF and SITRABI’s campaign.

Much hard work remains to be done to reach a final, comprehensive local agreement. "The IUF will closely monitor progress and we expect Del Monte to facilitate these negotiations to ensure they reach a successful conclusion", said Oswald, adding that "We welcome Del Monte’s willingness to sign an agreement with the IUF that commits the company to respect minimum labour standards, and look forward to what we hope will become an ongoing, broader, and increasingly constructive dialogue with Del Monte about ensuring respect for trade union rights throughout the company’s global operations."

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