Fyffes Progress in Honduras
What operations does Fyffes have in Honduras?
Fyffes completed its purchase of Sol in 2013. This gave Fyffes ownership of Suragroh and Melon Export farms in the municipality of Choluteca, Choluteca, which employ between 500 employees during the off-season and up to 10,500 seasonal workers during the season that runs from end-November to mid-May each year. Fyffes also has a watermelon business called Soleado, located near the municipality of Ojo de Agua, El Paraiso, which employs just under 60 permanent employees and 1,577 seasonal workers.
Fyffes Honduran melons and watermelons are imported into North America during the winter months.
What certifications have Fyffes melon farms Melon Export and Suragroh received?
Melon Export and Suragroh have received PrimusGFS for food safety and C-TPAT for security risk assessment. The farms Santa Rosa and Soleado are GlobalG.A.P certified. They have also undergone Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audits (SMETA) on health and safety, employment, social and environmental standards, with regular internal and independent external audits. The most recent internal audit was conducted 6-18 December 2021, and the most recent annual independent APSCA-accredited audit took place 11-15 January 2022. Additionally, Suragroh complies with a variety of customer-mandated standards.
In November 2022 the Honduran Foundation for Socially Responsible Business (FUNDAHRSE) awarded Fyffes melon business Sol Group the coveted FUNDAHRSE Socially Responsible Company Seal for the years 2022-2023 after obtaining an average of 96% in seven thematic indicators for corporate social responsibility.
How has Fyffes improved conditions at its melon farms?
Fyffes appointed new management of its Honduran and Guatemalan melon farms in September 2021 and a new president of the Sol melon business. The new leadership has transformed Fyffes business, improving working conditions, health and safety, investment in the local community and providing employment opportunities during the off-season summer months.
WAGES AND BENEFITS
Does Fyffes pay workers sufficiently?
Most of our workers in Honduras are paid above the minimum wage. Workers at the lowest salary level are paid at least the minimum wage. Workers earn more depending on the required skill level and responsibility of the role; productivity and performance are also factored in.
Does Fyffes pay social security for temporary workers?
The Honduran labour legislation was amended in July 2015 to require companies to deduct social security from their temporary workers; however, the government of Honduras has yet to establish a mechanism to implement those reforms. Once the government of Honduras defines this mechanism, Fyffes will ensure it makes the necessary deductions. In the meantime, Fyffes does not want to short-change its workers, so we are not deducting social security from pay. During bargaining with the unions in 2019, Fyffes agreed to pay temporary workers a seasonal bonus at the end of each season.
During the off-season, how does Fyffes continue to ensure the wellbeing of its temporary workers?
Fyffes provides medical clinics at the farms for all workers (permanent and temporary) year-round. We also provide free medical check-ups, vaccinations, and medicine to all elementary school students, as well as children not attending the school in the communities around the farms, regardless of whether they are employees’ children or not.
The melon growing and production season begins in November and ends in May. The off-season runs from June to October, and during this time Fyffes provides its land to workers and other people in the local community to plant other crops, including corn. Fyffes also lends its husking equipment, irrigation sources, fuel, and on-site technical expertise to ensure the yield is good. Local growers donate a percentage of the corn to the ill, elderly, and single-parent families.
Fyffes operators also lend tractors and modern ploughing equipment to farmers at no cost, enabling them to till hundreds of acres of farmland and increase their yield. This helps speed up the farmers’ response time to summer rains to produce corn, chayote, sorghum, cassava and beans.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
Fyffes respects the right of all workers to freedom of association, and we will not attempt to influence decisions that workers – temporary and permanent – make about their rights to freedom of association.
What is freedom of association?
Fyffes understands that freedom of association means our workers are free to join a union of their choosing. The workers are also entitled to organize as part of workers’ committees, and they are also free not to join a union.
What is Fyffes doing to improve workers’ understanding of freedom of association?
All workers are trained on the ETI Base Code, which has nine core elements, one of which is freedom of association. However, in a 2019 audit, workers were not routinely able to explain what freedom of association was. As a result, in October 2019 Fyffes worked with FUNDAHRSE, an NGO with expertise in this field, to train all our workers on freedom of association.
In 2022, all Fyffes management globally will undergo training on freedom of association.
Are there unions at Fyffes Honduran operations?
There are two unions on our farms in Honduras: SITRASURAGROH and SITRAMELEXA at the Suragroh and Melon Export farms respectively. These unions were granted legal authority by the Honduran Ministry of Labour in 2018 to represent workers on our farms. These unions held elections for their Boards of Directors in April 2022 during their general assemblies and their members elected boards of directors that are compliant with Article 511 of the Honduran labour code as well as compliant with ILO Conventions. They are currently negotiating their second collective bargaining agreements. The majority of our employees have chosen to be represented by these two unions.
SITRASURAGROH and SITRAMELEXA each have over 3,000 members comprised of temporary and permanent workers. These unions are affiliated with FESITRANH, a federal union organisation.
Is Fyffes willing to recognise and meet with the union el Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares (STAS)?
In Honduras, it is the Ministry of Labour that determines which unions have legal recognition, and they have determined that STAS is not the legitimate union at our two melon operations. The unions at these operations are SITRAMELEXA and SITRASURAGROH.
During the 19/20 season, 20/21 season and the 21/22 season we have hired STAS-affiliated workers at our melon farms.
Fyffes met with STAS in San Pedro Sula in December 2019 and had over 34 meetings trying to find a mechanism through which STAS affiliates could be legally represented by STAS. To date there is no agreement in place between STAS and Fyffes.
The most recent meeting between STAS and Fyffes was 5 October 2022.
PROTECTING WORKERS FROM CHEMICAL EXPOSURE
There are two types of workers within Fyffes melon farms: the majority of our workers who have little or no exposure to chemicals and the smaller number of workers who have a role in applying pesticides.
How does Fyffes select appropriate workers to apply pesticides?
Fyffes selects workers who are over 18 years old and who have passed their general medical examination, including the necessary blood tests done for cholinesterase. Blood tests are taken regularly to monitor cholinesterase levels.
What protective equipment is provided for workers and how are these maintained?
Fyffes provides and ensures the use of appropriate protective equipment (gloves, overalls, boots, masks with appropriate filters, goggles) during storage, handling and application, as per product labels. Applicators must shower on site before leaving work, and their overalls are washed and dried by trained personnel on site.
How are workers educated on the correct application method?
To prioritise personal safety, workers are trained in wind speed, direction, temperature and closeness to field borders, roads and field margins.
How are workers in the pack-house protected from chemical exposure?
In the pack-house, workers close to the melon reception water tanks (which contain chlorine) are provided with respirator masks and are rotated often to reduce the possibility of eye and nose irritation. Washing staff also have their cholinesterase levels monitored.
Why do workers wear scarves over their faces while working in the fields?
This is for sun protection and, in some cases, to protect against the natural powder that the cantaloupe skin gives off, which can be itchy but is not toxic.
What practices does Fyffes follow to prevent and limit the exposure of other workers to chemicals?
Pesticides are normally applied at night or late afternoon when no one is around or in nearby fields. When workers are eating outside and not in the canteen provided, we ensure this is not at the same time or close by pesticide application.
Detailed incident reports are kept on the rare and unfortunate occasion when a worker is exposed to chemicals by mistake.
Bus drop-off points are designated and known, normally near shelters, and bus drivers are told the night before where to drop off workers in the mornings.
Pesticide application and management adhere to good agricultural practice standards (Primus GFS) and are audited both internally and externally.
What are the main community needs in the areas surrounding the farms?
Fyffes recently undertook an independent community needs assessment in 14 communities surrounding our melon farms in Choluteca. The interviewers, who are environmental and social experts, conducted 900 in-depth, anonymous interviews to find out more about the needs of the community as well as the impact that the melon farms have on them, both positive and negative.
The biggest issue of concern for community members is access to work and economic opportunity. The areas for improvement included medical infrastructure, road condition and safety, housing, access to nutritious food, waste collection, and affordability of education. 50% of respondents also said that extreme weather events were negatively impacting their prospects.
48% of the respondents had worked at Fyffes farms during the past season, with 57% having worked at the farms in the past years. However, the interviews exposed a general lack of understanding about Fyffes hiring practices.
The results of the community needs assessment have informed our community strategy, which focuses on the following broad areas: access to nutrition, primary education, gender empowerment, and climate change resilience.
More details can be found here.
How is Fyffes tackling the issue of gender inequality in Honduras?
According to the United Nations, Honduras is ranked as one of the worst performers in gender inequality. Fyffes employs many women workers, so this is a priority.
Working with Business for Social Responsibility, Fyffes has adapted a digital gender equality training tool called HERessentials for Latin American audiences. The tool includes both a worker and manager version. Fyffes has begun training on this tool in Costa Rica, Belize and Honduras and will ensure 100% of workers, men and women, receive this training.
How is Fyffes improving nutritional outcomes in Honduras?
May marks the end of the melon growing season in Honduras and Guatemala, and it can be a challenging time for temporary workers. Each year we support seasonal workers who seek to supplement their earnings during the off-season by providing them with farmland, equipment, and technical assistance to grow and sell their own crops. During the summer of 2020, 15 communities in Choluteca produced over 680 tonnes of corn and beans on 230 hectares of land, which they use for their own consumption or to sell locally.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fyffes has ramped up our contribution to local foodbank charities to ensure access to fresh and healthy produce during this difficult time. We also set up temporary foodbanks in Honduras to support individuals and families who were most affected.
What contribution does Fyffes make to education of children in Honduras in the local community close to Fyffes melon farms in Choluteca?
In 2016, Fyffes launched a financial assistance and school supplies program to provide school shoes, backpacks, and uniforms to school children at two primary schools in La Permuta and Pueblo Nuevo.
Fyffes also works with Plan International, an international NGO that has been in Honduras for four decades and has helped 35,000 families in need. They also support communities by paying teachers’ wages and contributing to the local Children’s Day and Mother’s Day celebrations.
What contribution does Fyffes make to improve the living conditions in the nearby community?
In the villages of El Naranjal and Pueblo Nuevo, Fyffes has replaced latrines with proper toilets to reduce exposure to gastrointestinal illnesses common in the region, which in turn improves classroom attendance. Fyffes also has built perimeter fences to improve security around schools and has upgraded electrical power systems.