13 May 2010

Bananas for poverty, pineapples for degraded environment

*Banana Link* is hosting the visit of *Didier Leitón Valverde*, an organiser with our Costa Rican partners, *SITRAP*, in June. He is an inspiring trade union activist and keen to have the opportunity to raise awareness as widely as possible about the challenges facing unions andtheir members in Costa Rica today. *If you would like to meet Leitón orare organising an event at which he could speak, please contact BananaLink at info@bananalink.org.uk or call01603 765670. Didier Leitón Valverde *Didier Leitón is from the Guapiles canton of the Caribbean coastal province of Costa Rica. He began work on the banana plantation at theage of 15, and spent more than half of his life working for companies such as Chiquita and Dole undertaking the full range of jobs in the field, in particular, the close handling and spraying of agro chemicals.Didier then worked for Del Monte until he was sacked for his trade union activities as a member of, and voluntary activist for, the banana workers' union, SITRAP, in 2000. Despite negotiations with the company,which had signed a trade union freedom agreement with SITRAP, Leitón wasnever reinstated. He is currently a full time organiser for SITRAP.

Bananas are the single biggest profit making item sold in British supermarkets and one in four of these is supplied by Costa Rica. They have been the subject of bitter price wars since 2002 with supermarketssqueezing suppliers who in turn reduce the price paid by the box to anunsustainable level. This abuse of supermarket buying power and theresulting lowering of banana prices in Latin America have had directimpacts on the wage levels, working conditions and the freedom to organise workers on the plantations where Leitón organises. Costa Ricais now also the largest supplier of pineapples to Europe - producing more than 75% found on supermarket shelves. Rapidly expanding pineapple production is having a devastating impact on the health of workers and on the natural environment - polluting the water supplies of thousands. An anti-union culture pervades tropical fruit production with workers experiencing systematic violations of their labour rights - even recently death threats.

Please see our Latest News. Leitón's travel to the UK is generously supported by Union SolidarityI nternational. The Banana Link Team

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