Published: 16/11/2010

Forty workers have been dismissed in retaliation for a week-long strike at at Fresh Del Monte’s fruit processing factory in Kenya. Some 1,700 workers walked out on October 12 to protest unpaid allowances, increasing insecurity due to the rampant use of temporary work contracts and a deteriorating working environment which resulted recently in what the union contends was a work-related death.

The factory is organized by the IUF-affiliated Kenya Union of Commercial, Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW).

The company obtained a court injunction on October 13 calling for an end to the strike and a resumption of work, but workers returned to the factory to find a notice instructing them to reapply for their positions! Workers refused to return to work under these circumstances, returning to work on October 19 when the union and the company reached an agreement under the auspices of the Industrial Court providing for return to work under the existing terms and conditions. The agreement also stipulated that disciplinary procedures would be applied to a group of workers alleged to have committed illegal acts in the course of the strike.

This was interpreted by Del Monte Kenya management as a blank check to dismiss 40 workers, including nearly every shop steward, in violation of ILO Convention 98 which protects workers against acts of anti-union discrimination and Convention 135 which specifically protects workers’ representatives against unfair and retaliatory dismissal. Conventions 98 and 135 have been ratified by the government of Kenya.

While KUCFAW is contesting the dismissals in Industrial Court, the IUF has written to corporate management insisting on respect for and compliance with ILO Conventions and Kenyan labour legislation.

Del Monte Kenya is a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce, which produces and distributes Del-Monte-branded prepared fruits and vegetables, beverages, snacks and desserts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.