Irish produce company Fyffes told just-food today (9 May) it will hold talks with the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) aimed at ending the firm’s suspension from the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Fyffes’ membership of the ETI – the UK multi-stakeholder partnership aimed at improving conditions in agricultural and manufacturing supply chains – has been suspended following a probe into allegations the firm abused workers on plantations in Central America.

Fyffes said the ETI has given the company 90 days “to work with the IUF to establish a mutually agreeable framework for engagement, to explore options for the effective and legal representation and recognition for workers who choose to join a union at its Honduran subsidiary”.

“In relation to the ETI’s ruling that the company should go further in demonstrating ‘an open approach to legitimate trade union activities’, Fyffes, while having a difference of opinion with the ETI on the matter, is prepared to accept this recommendation,” the spokesperson said.

“Fyffes has no issue engaging with properly constituted unions who act within the legal framework of the country in which they are based, as evidenced by the fact that in a number of our operations there is union representation,” the spokesperson said. “The company is a responsible, respected and valued member of the community of Choluteca, Honduras, providing significant employment and supporting many local community activities including schools and health clinics.”

The spokesperson said Fyffes welcomed the ETI’s decision to “reject complaints made in relation to health and safety and payment of wages at its Honduran melon operations”.

Last year, just-food reported on claims from UK union the GMB, which alleged 14 female workers on a melon plantation in Honduras had to go to hospital after being “poisoned by the noxious chemicals they were forced to handle without any personal protective equipment”.