A historic agreement on "Freedom of Association, Minimum Labour Standards and Employment In Latin American Banana Operations" was signed today at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The agreement was signed by IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald, German Zepeda, coordinator of the Latin American Coordinating Committee of Banana Workers' Unions (COLSIBA), and President and Chief Operating Officer Steven G Warshaw of Chiquita Brands International. The signing was witnessed by ILO Director General Juan Somavia.

Through this signed agreement, Chiquita, a leading international marketer, producer and distributor of quality fresh fruits and vegetables and processed foods, confirms its commitment to respect core Conventions of the ILO on freedom of association and minimal labour standards.

IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald described the agreement as "historic in the truest sense, meaning that it offers the possibility for workers and employers to seek a new basis for the resolution of problems in an industry which has throughout its history been highly confrontational." He added, "We will seek through the agreement to build a relationship between Chiquita and its workers based on mutual recognition and respect for human rights as set out in the Conventions of the ILO. We hope that this agreement will serve as a model for relations generally between international union organizations and transnational companies."

The agreement also establishes the basis for joint union/management efforts to address long-standing worker health and environmental concerns in the banana industry by affirming that "Chiquita acknowledges its responsibility to provide safe and healthy workplaces, and Chiquita and the IUF/COLSIBA agree to collaborate in efforts to further improve the health and safety of the Company's banana operations."

"We hope that this agreement, which is based on mutual respect and openness, will set new standards for the entire banana industry," said Steven Warshaw, President and COO, Chiquita Brands International. "This agreement is an example of Chiquita’s ongoing commitment to this process, which reaffirms our position as an industry leader in the field of corporate social responsibility."

A joint IUF/COLSIBA/Chiquita Review Committee is to meet twice yearly to oversee the application of the agreement and review any potential areas of concern.

The full text of the agreement is available, in English and Spanish, on request from the IUF secretariat and on the IUF web site (www.iuf.org), or on the Chiquita website at www.chiquita.com.