A Ray of Hope for Workers in the Banana Industry?

Author: Nathalie Rémond, for the Food issues Committee

Tagline: The banana industry is still a violent place for many but recent decisions by Longo’s and an Ecuadorian court are positive developments.

Photo by: Giorgio Trovato from Unsplash

A few years ago, in May 2018, Karma co-sponsored the printing of a paper from Bananaland, which aimed at educating the public on the impacts of the banana industry. It offered a summary of the long, violent and cruel history of this industry in Latin America, with the hope of reminding the readers that the choices that we make here as consumers have big impacts on the lives of the farmers and communities where the goods are sourced. That is why grocery shops like Karma support and empower banana workers by carrying Fairtrade certified bananas; a bold choice in a city where we have seen other food retailers cynically post claims such as “paying more for bananas is bananas”.

2021 has brought a couple of changes that may be seen as a ray of hope in the otherwise still so dark overall situation for workers in the banana industry. In May, Karma’s banana importer Equifruit entered a partnership with Longo’s, which has made them the first major North American retailer to commit to selling 100% Fairtrade-only bananas throughout their 36 stores. This is a landmark decision towards more sustainable practices in the banana industry and a recognition that increased customer awareness can make change happen.

Another positive change came from Ecuador, the country that supplies about a third of all the bananas commercialized in the world, including Karma’s. In May, a court judgement acknowledged for the first time in Ecuador the right to form a union representing members from different companies in the same industry sector. It also ordered the Ministry of Work to register the banana workers’ union Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos (ASTAC). This organization of about 1500 workers across Ecuador focusing on labour rights, health and safety issues, and environmental impacts in the banana sector had never before been able to get registered nationally by the Ministry of Work in spite of a claim to the International Labour Organization (ILO), which granted it recognition in 2017, and again in 2019.

This court judgement is also an important step forward. In long-lasting conflicts involving violence, change will only come if all the stakeholders do their part.

Source: https://www.pichincha comunicaciones.com.ec/trabajadores-pueden-crear-sindicatos-por-rama-laboral-sin-necesidad-de-ser-parte-de-una-misma-empresa/