Study Highlights Mature Industrial Relations on Colombian Banana Farms
During the first years of the 21st century the Urabá region of Colombia was still notorious for violence fed by conflict between paramilitary and guerrilla groups, and dangerous for trade unionists. In the last decade significant changes have taken place. Worker representatives are in permanent dialogue with their employers and are able to freely negotiate their conditions of employment. Trade union SINTRAINAGO, now representing 18,000 workers in Urabá, of which 2,250 work at 25 Fairtrade certified plantations, has an on-going bargaining relationship with the regional association of banana employers. Banana workers generally earn a living wage and on Fairtrade certified plantations, both union and non-union members, collaborate by investing Fairtrade Premium for the benefit of all.
Fairtrade welcomes the progress on workers’ rights and the positive collaboration between the employers, workers and Fairtrade staff. We recognize the union relationship in the Urabá region as a model of industrial relations which has succeeded in gaining positive benefits for workers.
In order to learn from this positive example for our work in other regions, Fairtrade International commissioned an independent study earlier this year. The aim was to see what Fairtrade and others can learn from the experience in Urabá, and how we can best encourage and support positive and constructive industrial relations on Fairtrade farms and plantations in other regions.
While acknowledging that the farms in Urabá still face challenges, the study recognises the progress made and the spirit of the people there, who are positive and hopeful about their future.
“Challenges and areas for improvement still remain in Urabá and we by no means want to paint a perfect picture,” says Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor, Workers’ Rights and Trade Unions Relations at Fairtrade International. “We are very much aware that fairness in trade and labour relations is a work in progress and believe that progress is worth sharing”.
Fairtrade International's Standards Unit is currently conducting a banana price review. For more information, see our Standards in Progress page.