Working Conditions in the Pineapple Industry

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Since the 1960’s, pineapple production has quadrupled and export has tripled worldwide. While profits for some have tremendously expanded under such development, this report demonstrates how pineapple workers, their families and communities, and the environment in the largest pineapple producing nations have not enjoyed the benefits of this growth.

Dole and Del Monte, through their subsidiaries, compete as the largest global suppliers of both fresh and processed pineapple as both operate plantations, distribution centers, and processing facilities all over the world. The pineapple industry is charecterized by the following:

  • Pineapple plantation and processing workers, like most agricultural workers, labor for long hours and earn poverty wages. On average they work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, often in the hot sun. Both in Costa Rica and the Philippines, unrealistically high production quotas and low piece rate wages have led to long workdays. Work without overtime pay compels workers to work longer in order to make a meager living. The instability and seasonal nature of the work forces workers to maximize their income when the work is available, thus putting their safety at risk. Pineapple workers have not seen their incomes rise as living costs rise.
  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining have been blatantly violated in both Costa Rica and the Philippines according to ILO reports. Union leaders have been systematically fired and laid off to obliterate any union presence in pineapple production. This is particularly true in Costa Rica, where companies install “Permanent Committees,” or company selected worker representatives to replace union leaders.  Less than 2% of workers in Costa Rica are currently unionized and as a result major anti-union actions have been carried out by companies while governments remain complicit.  Dole Philippines has also allowed the Philippine military to harrass and intimidate Dole workers, undermining the local union. Union representation has also been significantly reduced in the Philippines, due to a widespread increase in contract labor. Read ILRF's "Freedom at Work" toolkit for more examples.
  • Dole Philippines has been able to evade its responsibilities to its workers by replacing the majority of its regular workforce with contract labor from “labor cooperatives.” Approximately 77% of workers producing pineapple supplied to Dole are contract laborers and cannot be in the union representing regular workers. Contract workers systematically earn less than directly employed, regular workers as a result of production quota systems or piece-rate based remuneration and the lack of ability to engage in collective bargaining.
  • Workers are frequently exposed to toxic chemicals through pesticides and fertilizers. Companies do not always provide proper protective gear and family members or workers are frequently exposed to the chemicals when laundry is done at home. Numerous reports have shown that chemical application in the pineapple fields is more harmful and bothersome to workers than in other agricultural sectors. Side effects range from allergies, nausea and skin rashes to more serious, long term conditions. On average, pineapple plantation workers only have a work life of four years.
  • Pineapple industry expansion has threatened communities and the natural environment in areas of cultivation and processing. Agrochemicals have contaminated the water supplies in pineapple growing regions of Costa Rica and the Philippines. Community groups in Costa Rica claim that small farmers have lost many of their cattle to pests attracted to the pineapple crop. Deforestation and monoculture have altered the biodiversity of the region.

The labor and environmental issues associated with the industry stem from a number of factors. Rapid expansion of the industry has been met with an inability and unwillingness of producing countries to impose regulations, partly as a result of corporate pressure. Trade agreements such as Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have not sufficiently encouraged the enforcement of labor and environmental standards. The abuses can also be attributed to more systematic factors surrounding the international agricultural supply chains. Multinational companies that buy and distribute pineapples are pressured into reducing costs to be able to compete for a place on the supermarket shelf.

Click here to read ILRF’s testimony at the USTR hearing.

View ILRF's pineapple industry report here.