With Steve Rodríguez

Serious threats against a trade union leader

Frutas Selectas del Trópico S.A., a subsidiary of the Guatemalan agribusiness consortium Grupo Hame, owns two banana plantations (San Gerardo and La Flor) in the province of Puntarenas. The National Trade Union of Pineapple and Banana Workers of Costa Rica (Sintrapybcr) has been denouncing serious labor and safety violations committed by this company.

Giorgio Trucchi

01 | 03 | 2023

Photo: Rel UITA

Luis Arnulfo Gómez Moraga works as foreperson in the company’s packing plant. After witnessing numerous violations of workers’ rights, Gómez Moraga decided to report them to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS).

Following several inspections, the labor authorities were able to verify that what he reported was true and took action against the company.

Faced with management’s hostile reaction, Gómez Moraga appealed to the National Federation of Agriculture, Food, Hotel and Related Workers (Fentragh), which referred him to Sintrapybcr.

“We got to work and created the conditions so that several workers could join and form a branch of our union. Two days after they joined, they were fired,” Steve Rodríguez, general secretary of Sintrapybcr, told La Rel.

The union leader explained that the company gave completely false reasons to justify firing 16 workers, including Gómez Moraga.

“The company fired them because it doesn’t want a precedent to be set and because it wants to prevent more workers from unionizing through the branch. It was then that the threats began,” Rodríguez explained.

According to the union leader, Gómez Moraga received death threats at home.

“In two occasions he was intercepted by strangers in a motorcycle who told him to stop defending workers.”

“On another occasion,” Rodríguez continued, “one of the lawyers of the company went to his house to try to convince him to accept the dismissal, reminding him that he had to think of his own wellbeing and safety and that of his family.”

Fearing for the worker’s safety, the union thus decided to file a formal complaint to protect him.

Court actions were also brought calling for the reinstatement of the dismissed workers, and at least 17 complaints were filed for several violations committed by the company.