Chiquita banana workers end strike in Costa Rica

AP, Thursday 8 August, 2002, 3:03 PM ET

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—More than 350 Chiquita banana workers in Costa Rica returned to their jobs Thursday after striking last week against new fruit-quality standards they claimed deprived them of pay bonuses.

The strike ended after Chiquita representatives agreed to reinstate the old contractual bonuses, Costa Rica's Labor Ministry said in a press statement.

Banana worker union leader Daniel Gutierrez said the Cincinnati, Ohio-based fruit giant signed a labor agreement last month pledging to pay its workers a bonus for each bunch of bananas they harvested.

But he said that the company then unilaterally imposed a new system of judging banana quality that has allowed it to get out of paying bonuses for hundreds of bunches which the workers, largely Guaymi Indians, have already harvested.

Enrique Vazquez, vice president of the company's operations in Costa Rica, said we have always been open to negotiating with, but they have not wanted to negotiate.

While the company had said it would consider firing striking workers, the agreement reached late Wednesday stipulates that no workers will be dismissed.