Blog: Dean BestEthical Trading Initiative's suspension of Fyffes rumbles on

Dean Best | 11 December 2017

Fyffes' suspension from The Ethical Trading Initiative, sparked over disquiet about conditions for the produce giant's workers in Honduras, continues after the UK-based organisation said the fruit and vegetable supplier had not done enough to assuage the concerns.

The multi-stakeholder ETI, which promotes ethical practices in supply chains, suspended Fyffes' membership this spring amid allegations over its treatment of workers on a melon plantation in Honduras.

The ETI's ruling followed a complaint alleging farmers working for Fyffes in Honduras failed to receive minimum wage and social insurance, were exposed to hazardous agrochemicals and were sacked for being union members.

Fyffes has been threatened with being thrown out of the ETI - of which it has been a member since 2002 - but that was put on hold while the company and its owner, Japan-based conglomerate Sumitomo, held talks with unions over the farmers' rights.

The ETI said in September it would review Fyffes' position at its next board meeting in November. Last Thursday (7 December), the ETI announced it had decided to keep the Ireland-based group's suspension in place - with the organisation saying it would look again at the issue at its next meeting in January.

In a statement, the ETI said: "Fyffes reported a number of new CSR activities. However, ETI was concerned that there was still not a clear process in place that involved workers’ representatives and employers that could address the underlying dispute.

"The ETI board consequently decided to maintain Fyffes’ suspension while recognising that positive engagement has taken place and acknowledging that in entrenched disputes it can take time to build meaningful dialogue.

Peter McAllister, the ETI’s executive director, added: “Creating an environment for normal industrial relations is in the interests of all concerned. ETI therefore encourages all parties to continue their discussions and ensure meaningful negotiation between the workers’ union and management.”

For its part, Fyffes said it welcomed the decision.

"Fyffes notes the decision of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) to again extend the deadline for a decision on our continued membership until its next board meeting scheduled for January," the company told just-food. "We welcome this as recognition of our continuing efforts to improve the welfare and working conditions of our workers in Honduras and seek a resolution of the current suspension."
 

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