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Fyffes Dodges Trade Body Expulsion with Union Deal

18.1.2019

Fyffes has averted expulsion from an influential ethical trading body after reaching a last-minute deal with workers' groups in Honduras.

The Irish fruit giant will recognise STAS, a union which represents workers employed at Suragroh, a melon plantation in the country.

Fyffes had been locked in a dispute over alleged abuses at the farm and refused to recognise the union. The Dublin-based company has denied allegations of poor work conditions. The new deal says that Fyffes will recognise STAS as a "legitimate representative of the affiliated workers". It also says that company representative and STAS will meet at the start of February to begin negotiating on a collective bargaining agreement.

STAS said that the development was "an opening towards the solution of a conflict".

A spokesman for Fyffes said that "substantial progress" had been made in the talks.

The agreement was reached just days before the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a UK state-funded body that promotes workers' rights, was due to decide whether to expel Fyffes from the organisation. The ETI launched an investigation into Suragroh after a joint complaint from non-government organisations and charities that workers at the farm were being subjected to abusive working conditions.

The ETI found that "key aspects of the complaint [were] substantive and robust" and suspended Fyffes in May 2017. It warned that the issues at Suragroh had to be addressed.

After repeatedly extending the deadline for this, the ETI said in December that Fyffes was on the brink of expulsion. It then granted a stay until a board meeting due to take place today. It said that it "fervently hoped" that Fyffes would make progress on its talks with STAS as has now occurred Fair Trade USA, one of the largest fair trade certifying bodies in north America, endorsed the plantation in April. It then revoked Suragroh's certification after an inspection that found "confirmed critical violations of several Fair Trade standards".

Fyffes said at the time that it was "committed to working with local management on the issues which had been raised to quickly resolve them and achieve recertification".

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