Careful what you eat: the world’s biggest exporter of asparagus, which proudly advertises itself as socially-responsible, has just fired workers who organized a union.
CAMPOSOL is Peru’s most prominent agro-industry company, supplying markets in the U.S. and Europe with asparagus, avocados, mangoes, and other fruits and vegetables.
According to SITAG, the Agricultural Workers Union in Peru, in mid-January CAMPOSOL fired union members, many of whom had worked for the company for more than four years, and then replaced them with non-union workers.
USLEAP has contacted CAMPOSOL, which promptly responded to say it would soon provide a detailed response. European groups have also begun to approach CAMPOSOL. SITAG is a member of the Coordination of Latin American Banana Worker Unions, COLSIBA, a long-time USLEAP partner.
Peruvian labor law is seriously deficient, especially with regard to the export sectors in agriculture and apparel, both of which are governed by separate labor laws that effectively deny workers their basic rights and allow employers to provide lower benefits and wages compared to workers in other sectors.
The law governing the agro-export sector allows a rate of pay that is effectively below the minimum wage, half the normal vacation days, and fewer protections from arbitrary dismissal. Under this law, workers frequently toil 12-18 hours a day in the fields planting and harvesting asparagus, peppers, and other products for export to the U.S., earning an average of just $5 per day. Meanwhile, the large agribusiness firms that dominate this sector have reportedly grown enormously profitable, exporting over $4 billion last year alone.
Efforts to reform labor law in Peru to ensure basic respect for worker rights have consistently failed, most recently in 2012, despite long-standing promises by the Peruvian government to address labor law deficiencies made before securing U.S. congressional approval of a U.S.-Peru free trade agreement in 2007.