Thousands of Banana Workers End Strike Against Chiquita Brands
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Thousands of workers returned to their jobs Monday after ending a 7-week- old strike against U.S. banana giant Chiquita Brands that caused an estimated $60 million in losses to the Honduran economy.
Threatened with dismissal after the government sent in troops to end the strike, the banana workers accepted a 25 percent pay hike Sunday and agreed to return to work. The strikers had earlier demanded a 60 percent raise.
Activity in the fields and installations owned by Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. appeared normal Monday morning for the first time since 10,000 banana workers walked out on June 25.
″We did not achieve our demands, but we are satisfied,″ union president Rene Ayestas said.
Hundreds of troops and police remained at Chiquita’s facilities in the city of La Lima, 180 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa.
Government spokesman Martin Baide Urmeneta said the army will stay in La Lima ″until the situation is normal.″
Police said five people, including two workers and three security policemen, were injured when troops and police moved in Saturday to dislodge 4,000 strikers who were occupying company property in La Lima.
On Sunday, the strikers announced they had accepted ″without any conditions″ a proposal by President Rafael Leonardo Callejas that would raise the minimum monthly salary from $246 to $308.50.
Callejas had proposed the settlement on July 28, but it was rejected by the union. The company rejected the union’s counter-proposal, and the impasse led Callejas to send in the troops.
Ayestas said Callejas’ measures to end the strike were ″drastic and incorrect.″
Callejas, in a nationwide radio and television address Sunday, said the strikers had ″dragged the country toward social and economic destabilizatio n″ and ″threatened to destroy the democratic process in Honduras.″
″There are no winners or losers,″ Callejas said. ″The situation was overcome so that we can face the enormous problems that afflict the nation.″
Chiquita produces and exports 60 percent of Honduras’ banana crop, the country’s main source of foreign exchange, and preliminary government estimates said the strike caused $60 million in losses.