Unions demonstrated outside the venue to expose the deplorable conditions and abuses at the Citra Mina Group, one of the Philippines’ largest tuna exporters.
The event, held from 21 to 23 April, is the world’s largest seafood trade fair, where the Citra Mina Group’s Philfresh Corporation was one of the 1,700 companies exhibiting and seeking contracts with buyers.
Citra Mina stands accused of multiple offences. Most recently, ongoing hearings in the Philippines’ House of Representatives have chronicled a systematic pattern of rights abuses by the group’s companies, including serious violations of labour standards and trade union rights, the use of shell companies to evade legal obligations, the slave-like conditions on boats, and deaths on the high seas.
The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers) were joined by Belgian unions CSC Alimentation et Services, FGTB Horval, and CSC Transcom to support unfairly dismissed Citra Mina Group workers in the leading Philippines tuna centre of General Santos. There 70 workers were sacked for starting a legal union.
Ahead of yesterday’s action a joint trade union delegation also met with representatives of the European Commission and raised the matter of the Citra Mina workers’ struggle.
Ron Oswald, IUF general secretary, commented: “The tenacious struggle for their rights by these workers and their families and many supporters has resonated throughout the Philippines and beyond.”
Liz Blackshaw, programme leader for the joint ITF/IUF Catcher to Counter programme, said: “This demonstration was just one action by which we are delivering a clear message to the buyers and company representatives. The Expo came directly after the European Tuna Conference, which claims to promote sustainable tuna fisheries. But there can be no sustainable fisheries without social sustainability and compliance with international human rights and labour standards.
“Pressure is needed by all industry actors and by governments to ensure compliance by abusive companies in order to raise standards for the sector as a whole. The illegal conduct and blatant abuses by Citra Mina are jeopardising this vitally important effort.”