Dublin-based fresh produce business Fyffes has been thrown out of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) for allegedly refusing to respect workers’ rights to join an independent trade union.

The company, known for its Fyffes-labelled bananas and other exotic fruit, has been suspended from the London-based ETI since May 2017.

The suspension followed formal complaints made by the NGO Banana Link and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) in March 2016. These concerned the treatment of workers at an associate company of Fyffes in Honduras – the Fyffes Suragroh farm business.

During its suspension, Fyffes was “encouraged to develop and implement solutions to the aspects of the complaint that were upheld, namely the right of farm workers to be represented by a union of their choice”, according to the ETI.

Its decision to finally terminate membership followed the ending of a flagged 60-day period.

This period included a joint mission to Honduras of a “high-level” ex-senior executive from a corporate and a trade union representative. This was aimed at agreeing a “meaningful way forward that would include engagement with local workers’ representatives”.

But, in a statement, the ETI said: “Regretfully, ETI’s board decided that despite these efforts and ETI’s long-running engagement with the issue, Fyffes was still failing to resolve the substantive concerns raised.

“The board, therefore, concluded that they had no option but to terminate Fyffes’ membership.”

ETI director Peter McAllister said: “ETI recognises that in the real world of global supply chains there will be times where there is a specific problem or dispute involving one or more ETI member companies.

“Typically, these are addressed through a mediation process with solutions agreed and implemented between concerned parties.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, this has not happened in this case.”

Fyffes has a right of appeal that may be exercised within a period of 28 days. 

just-food has asked Fyffes, which is owned by Japan-based conglomerate Sumitomo, for a response to its expulsion.