Honduran banana sector grapples with the rocky relationship between the workers and their managers. These issues drove the multinationals to reduce their direct ownership of the farmlands, leading to the establishment of local big companies running the banana farms. Finca Tropical is one of Honduras leading banana producer with its 241 hectares of banana fields. It export 80 to 90% of its production and 100% of its exports is purchased by Chiquita. It has sought to improve management-worker relationship in the pursuit of stable productivity and bolster worker identification with business goals.
FINCA TROPICAL sets the empowerment of its workers as a top priority
3. Labor relations / working conditions
- To build a better work environment and strengthen workers representation.
- To increase production quality, farm productivity and reduce production cost with workers and managers more concerned and sharing the same vision of the company goals.
The pursuit of continued access to international markets pushed Finca Tropical’s management team to conduct an internal diagnostic and gap analysis by reviewing the production processes and the human resources policies. It has called upon the expertise of BSR (an international CSR network) and FUNDAHRSE (Fundación Hondureña de Responsabilidad Social Empresarial – a local NGO) to assess the weaknesses and strengths of the company practices.
Finca Tropical realized that the formal communication channels were absent and that the workers did not propose feedback on their work and believed their role was to simply obey orders. The existing “Comité Trato Justo”, committee that represents workers opinions, was widely seen as inefficient and having little influence…
The first action taken was to strengthen the Comité Trato Justo: it increased from 3 to 12 workers, representing different production stages and geographical areas. Committee meetings have been scheduled once a month and it now provides suggestions to improve the conditions of workers and the production process.
Training sessions and workshops were also undertaken to define the purpose and the importance of the company’s mission, vision and values in order to create a company culture. As part of the workshops, the Comité members and management team worked together to develop new shared visions of these concepts.
The management team and the supervisors of the workers co-analyzed the existing communication mechanisms and created new formal communication channels such as, suggestion boxes and information boards.
This complete re-organization of the governance of the company was such a success that was also implemented in its 3 other farms (450 hectares and 430 workers) and it has been proposed its implementation to the National Association of Independent Banana Producers of Honduras to answer the issue faced by the whole sector in Honduras.
CONTRIBUTION TO COMPANY PERFORMANCE
- GLOBALGAP and Rainforest Alliance certifications (where worker empowerment plays a crucial role to get them)
F.T. had its most productive year in 2009, Both management and workers agree that this was largely due to their joint work and the improved communication they had successfully established.
- Improvements of fruit quality and farm productivity: allow the farm to increase the % of first-class fruits that are sold at higher prices to the international markets (increasing revenues and competitiveness).
- Reducing production cost per banana box.
- Brand new governance where managers meet regularly with supervisors and workers to share the farm’s production goals.
- Management also implemented a profit-sharing mechanism with workers, where employees receive a year-end bonus as a result of higher productivity.
- Workers reported increases in their monthly income, in addition to the bonus, as a result of higher productivity.
- The farms co-owner Mr. José Obregon has now defined skills training as a company goal.