DelMonte Farm Kenya


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An example for unsustainable campaigning, weak labour unions and the advantage for international companies

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Del Monte Farm Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier An example for unsustainable campaigning, weak labour unions and the advantage for international companies


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier Contents Facts ............................................................................................................................................................. 4 Approach..................................................................................................................................................... 5 Del Monte Fruit Farm Thika – Unsustainable campaigning ............................................................. 6 International Companies taking advantages of weak governance .................................................. 8 Gentlemen’s agreement between companies and labour unions representatives ..................... 9 Recommendations .................................................................................................................................. 11 Jonathan Happ, M.A. Cultural Geography, Journalism & Media Development e-mail: fon: +491724057864 Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier International Research and Logistics. Actions Coordination and Management. e-mail: fon: +491631625171 3


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Place of DelMonte Farm in Thika, Kenia Address: Contact details: website Coordinates: Google maps Link: Oloitiptip Road, Off Garissa Road, Thika, Kenya phone +254202141561, email (unconfirmed) 1° 1’43.33”S, 37° 7’2.99”E Facts • Delmonte Kenya Ltd1. employs 9.000 serious cases of human rights abuses, cases of workers, only 2000 of them with permanent corruption, etc. contract • Villagers suspected of trespassing had been • The farm covers over 13.500 acre (aprox. hunted down and violantly abused by security 5.500ha) 50km north of Nairobi stuff including horses and dogs with alleged • Products are being sold in european market cases of casualties. • We talked to workers and paid the place a • Has been campaigned on by several NGO’s first visit from 1998-2000 for bad practice, human • After Ngo’s stopped campaigning, DM fired rights abuses, violation of labour rights, involved workers environmental destruction, etc. • Permanent contracts got cancelled and • After campaign DM agreed to change. replaced by ‘seasonal’ contracts Management was exchanged, agreements • Workers today work in seasonal contracts signed. for decades • Recently DM made headlines again for • Conditions are worse than they used to be 1 Contact details of Delmonte Kenya Ltd. vary. There is no website, apart of the companies head-website www. chains, among them COOP Italy. the workers claim 4


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier • Workers are intimidated and have no means to raise their complaints • Labour unions exist, but effectively doesn’t represent the workers • Labour unions seem to be corrupted by the company • The case of DM is a representative case for labors rights and the bad practice of national and multinational companies in Kenya in general. • We recommend further investigation on national level, looking in to the situation on a wider level and investigating on the issue of corrupted Unions and companies. Approach type: Interviews, visiting the site date: October 9th - 17th , 2013 5


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Del Monte Fruit Farm Thika – Unsustainable campaigning An insider contact, who formerly worked for the labour unions provided us with contacts to workers of the Del Monte farm in Thika. We met 5 of them in a restaurant in Thika. A 6th worker joined during the course of the conversation. Also present were Angela Mwongeli and Josedas Muthama of the local NGO Human rights and information forum2. Of these 6 workers, five were working at Del Monte before the campaign started. They experienced the campaign and it’s aftermath. One of the workers was still working at Delmonte, in the processing factory. All said in unison the conditions deteriorated after the campaign, instead of improving workers conditions. “Things are worse than before the campaign”3. Rose, who is still working at Delmonte told us that in her shift workers have to stand for 8 hours while having half an hour lunch break only. “They are not supposed to talk to each other.Workers are supervised and controlled by foremen at all times. If they have to step out they can do it only once in 2 hours, but have to ask for permission from the supervising foreman. Workers are intimated and threatened with being sacked by those foreman. The shop stewards are not of help, as they themselves are either being intimidated or corrupted by the company.Thus workers are too afraid to raise their voices and live with their fortune until they can not bear it any longer and leave the company. Delmonte is having most of it’s workers in seasonal contracts, with 2 workers among hundred in a permanent contract. Some of those working under seasonal contract do it for more than 12 years. Termination processes are unfair with workers being dismissed from one day to the other. Workers are being sacked for being sick. No sick-pay is given, maternal leave doesn’t exist. Some pregnant women worked until they delivered and came back to work hours after they delivered. Workers cannot bring their own food inside of the company, but have to pay for the expensive food provided by the company or leave the plantation to eat their own food, that some 2 3 Human Rights and Information Forum, ‘Human Rights and Information Forum - Home’ [accessed 14 December 2013]. Delmonte workers, ‘Interview with Delmonte Workers’, 2013. 6 Interview with former workers of the Thika Farm


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier leave behind at the gates. The lunch break, being the only break in an 8 hours shift, is only half an hour and the gates are far away.” Summarizing the changes after the campaign the workers repeatedly said: “It was not a good company, but better than today!” When asking Josedas if the former campaign4 had any achievements in favour of the workers he gave a brief overview of the story. By that time he used to be the vice-president of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU). Yes, there were gains he said. Workers at that time were free to raise their issues. There was a solidarity committee and a memorandum of understanding had been signed. They built up a school, the regulations for usage of water have been improved and the usage of pesticides has been limited. Still after the end of the campaign the workers started suffering again. The company retrenched improvements. It outsourced different departments with the effect that wages were decreased again. All gains were lost, workers involved, dismissed, he says. A security guard, as an example, who earned 7.000 Shilling before, now earns less than half of it. Workers contracts were changed from permanent to seasonal. After the campaign, involved NGO’s left the workers alone and the workers got sacked. Nowadays workers are scared to actively organize in unions or workers committees, as they are getting sacked, if they do. They still pay the unions fee though, which is deducted from their salary every month. NGO’s involved didn’t have and don’t have today the capacities to sustain campaigns. Recent cases of human rights abuses show the security guards of Del Monte responsible. Men had been beaten to death by security guards, accused with stealing pineapples. One man had been found being beaten to death and thrown into a dump. Allegations are not being followed. “Delmonte defends the guards, Delmonte wins”, he says. There aren’t those social projects anymore Delmonte agreed to invest in. The company is not supporting the community anymore. “It was a 4 ‘Kenyan Workers Hit by Chemicals’ [accessed 14 December 2013]; ‘Del Monte Kenya’, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2013 [accessed 14 December 2013]. “Illegal to trespass! Do not drink!” Watchtower Workers in the field 7


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one-time show!” Social corporate responsibility is not being followed by Delmonte. The unions lack negotiation capacities and aren’t competent enough to compete with highly educated counterparts on the companies side. Shop stewards and unionists are compromised and repeatedly forced into bad negotiations by Delmonte. He described cases where Delmonte hosted the meetings for negotiations in high class hotels, which none of the unionists could afford to pay. Being confronted with the costs, the company would say: either you stay and agree to our terms and we pay the expenses or you have to pay them yourselves. As most people now work as “seasonals”, no maternal leaves are granted. Women are employed on casual basis, which is not allowed by Kenyan laws. Only two seasonal contracts in a row are allowed by law. Then workers would have to be granted with a permanent contract, but the company finds ways around it. Today Delmonte employs 9000 workers. Only 2000 of these have a permanent contract (our contact confirmed.) Cases of land-grabbing are reported, where the land-grabbing itself is covered up by secret deals made between the leadership of communites and the company, while not informing the population. The people, former farmers living in such places are now given places without any cultivation possibilities, living like squatters. Ndula is such a community that is within the companies acres and surrounded by plantations5. Joseda describes ‘Kenyan justice is for the rich, not for the poor!” and says that activists have to be afraid of the arbitrariness of authorities “Suddenly you disappear. That doesn’t stop us, but makes us work with caution.” International Companies taking advantages of weak governance We confronted the KHRC6 in a meeting with the statement it’s campaign had not been sustainable and asked what efforts could be made to make campaigns more long-term effective. The KHRC was one of the main actors involved in the campaign from 1998 – 2000. The response was that the main achievement gained here was by sending a strong message to the company. The problem unfortunately isn’t one of Delmonte only and the conditions described are a common problem KHRC reports. “Foreign investors in general do not respect human rights standards and there is no mechanism for holding them to account.” 5 6 Bd Correspondent, ‘Kenya: Del Monte Backs Down in Sh109 Million Kakuzi Land Case’, Business Daily, 7 February 2012 [accessed 14 December 2013]. Kenya Human Rights Commission, ‘KHRC’, Kenya Human Rights Commission [accessed 14 December 2013]. 8


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier Pineapples ready for transport They described a case against british owned Kakuzi7 where 65 complaints of unfairly dismisses in contravention of the law had been brought to court. On its website Kakuzi advertises with the labels of Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and others. In the mentioned case workers had been dismissed by a ballot system. The company one day randomly had issued all workers a piece of paper with either YES or NO written on it. Those with a YES where in, those with a NO out, fired. Some of the workers who were out had been working with the company for 12 years. KHRC is supporting these people in their efforts in providing help with the litigation and associated costs, as most people can’t afford any lawyers at all. Multi-national companies are further known for a failure of proper health standards, for termination processes that are unfair and violate the constitution, for bad practice in all thinkable ways says KHRC’s Esther Waweru. They would always be keen to finding niches to put revenues before human rights and ways to benefit from weak regulations and the poor administrative systems. By supporting the workers in these cases the KHRC hopes to gain favourable judgements for the workers. Litigation is a method of sustainable campaigning as with setting a precedent, there will be more reliance on court decisions and accountability. The KHRC also works with international organizations such as the FIDH8. 7 8 ‘Kakuzi - Site - Kakuzi’ [accessed 14 December 2013]; ‘Locations - Camellia Plc’ [accessed 14 December 2013]. FIDH, ‘FIDH : Mouvement Mondial Des Droits de l’Homme’ [accessed 14 December 2013]. 9


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Gentlemen’s agreement between companies and labours union representatives Alarmed by the conditions described as being common and rather industry standard then single events we decided to talk to Joyce Gema who works for reactafrica9 and tradecare as a consultant to NGO’s and trade unions likewise, among others for the KHRC. She described a similar, but more detailed picture of what we heard before. What she is hearing from workers is that labour unions are not supporting them. There is no proper system in place to be heard she says, not even by the unions. She describes the Kenya plantation and agricultural workers union (KPAWU) as to be in a particularly bad shape, with it’s general secretary leading the organization in a tyrannic and intransparent way. “The KPAWU collects more than 300.000.000 KSh every month from workers, but where does the money go?”, she asks. “The former head of Union in Naivasha, for example, got 4.000 KSh a month as a budget and 19.000 KSh salary a month, but had to go to all farms to listen to all grievances of workers and approach the Management of companies in the whole region. An impossible burden!”, she says. The major problem she sees in the policy framework. A change in the framework and pieces would fall into place. The KPAWU accounts for different sectors in agriculture such as flowers, coffee, tea, vegetables, fisheries, game ranching, nuts, rice, fruits, cocoa, tobacco, etc.. Thus it is representing around 200.000 agricultural sector workers with such different work areas as fisheries and tobacco. Some of its work is focused on the elimination of child labour in Kenya’s agricultural sector. Where plantation owners seek Fairtrade certification for their products, the KPAWU plays a role in implementing international labour standards required under the Fairtrade rules. The KPAWU is affiliated to the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), with the same general secretary. 2% of workers salary gets deducted, if companies agree to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), while the lowest salaries are being paid. This amount, the so-called agency-fee, has to be paid by every worker, if the employing company has agreed to the CBA. The money is transferred to the labours union. Once again she asks, where does all the money go? In Kenya, she claims, the CBA has become a safe house for the companies, because it is ineffective. “You need active freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. If you don’t empower people to organize, then there is no effective bargaining, then no effective CBA.” Within the unions she doesn’t see any “aspiration, no spirit, the union representatives are not competent. CBA’s should be alive. But here it is a gentlemen’s agreement, that has nothing to do with the workers!” This is why she believes Fairtrade should do a specific case for Kenya, not only follow their generic standards. The situation she thinks is particular to Kenya and good for the government, if workers unions are weak. KHRC, for which she works as a consultant, is demanding an audit into the labour union situation.They are following up on reported cases of corruption between union representatives and companies, where companies compromise representatives with contracts and money. The companies also are reported to pay for training the unionists, with the company deciding the contents to be taught and falsifying 9 React Africa, ‘Hom’ [accessed 14 December 2013]. 10


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier certificates. “Companies don’t want training on organization and collective bargaining, but they want it to be put in to the certificates handed out to graduates of such trainings.” They would approach the consultants conducting the trainings and pressing them to not teach certain contents. She’s confident that KHRC is able to talk to the right persons, in order to achieve enough credible information. “It’s not needed to dig very deep to get to the problems.” Workers committees are broken, often controlled by the management of companies. How can they be trusted? Shop steward committees she is more confident. Every sector in agriculture except sugar is affected. The union workers themselves approached the KHRC to help. Joyce described the situation as the “hot potato that nobody wants to touch”, not even other NGO’s. Big NGO’s refrain from engagement with unreasonable arguments. “Fairtrade has got a big responsibility in this, as it supports CBA, but doesn’t look properly enough, if this CBA is effective”. Footage Canon 6D. Contour, HD-videocam. Stills and video. HTC - audio-recorder. Recommendations As Joyce Gema describes, one doesn’t need to dig very deep to achieve good information on bad practice within the industry. The problems Delmonte is creating, supporting and benefiting from seem to be common and industry wide. As options to further engage we see: 1. Deeper research on the Delmonte case, with the aim to get better footage and more cases reported. 2. Carry out a research that puts the spot also on other companies in the trade. 3. Highlight the dilemma of CBA and corrupt labour unions. What responsibilites and options does Fairtrade have to look further behind the curtains? With the contacts we had, have and which we newly made, we see good potential to obtain further and deeper insides in to the different aspects of the story. Our insider contact seems to dispose of a wide network, that includes workers within the companies who are willing and ready to act in support of the workers’ cause. 11


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Bibliography Correspondent, Bd, ‘Kenya: Del Monte Backs Down in Sh109 Million Kakuzi Land Case’, Business Daily, 7 February 2012 [accessed 14 December 2013] ‘Del Monte Kenya’, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2013 [accessed 14 December 2013] Delmonte workers, ‘Interview with Delmonte Workers’, 2013 FIDH, ‘FIDH : Mouvement Mondial Des Droits de l’Homme’ [accessed 14 December 2013] Human Rights and Information Forum, ‘Human Rights and Information Forum - Home’ [accessed 14 December 2013] ‘Kakuzi - Site - Kakuzi’ [accessed 14 December 2013] Kenya Human Rights Commission, ‘KHRC’, Kenya Human Rights Commission [accessed 14 December 2013] ‘Kenyan Workers Hit by Chemicals’ [accessed 14 December 2013] ‘Locations - Camellia Plc’ [accessed 14 December 2013] React Africa, ‘Hom’ [accessed 14 December 2013] 12


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Del Monte Farm Kenia | Field-Report Oct. 2013 Jonathan Happ & Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier Jonathan Happ, M.A. Cultural Geography, Journalism & Media Development e-mail: fon: +491724057864 Jean-Jacques Schwenzfeier International Research and Logistics. Actions Coordination and Management. e-mail: fon: +491631625171



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