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#4875: Grand Marnier Update (fwd)

From: Yanick Etienne <batayouvriye@hotmail.com>

                       		         GRAND MARNIER UPDATE

S.O.M.L. (Sendika Ouvriye Marnier Lapostolle), the labor organization 
representing some 300 workers toiling at the Marnier-Lapostolle plantation 
in the North of Haiti, finally obtained some results after nearly one year 
of struggle. On July 25 2000, Grand Marnier?s local manager, Mr. Daniel 
ZEPHIR, members of the Executive Committee representing the workers on the 
orange plantation and representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs and 
Labor signed a formal document in which they laid down some provisions for a 
minimal change regarding working conditions and wages starting as of July 31 

These results were obtained largely due to the unwavering struggle of the 
unionized agricultural laborers of the Marnier-Lapostolle plantation as well 
as the international solidarity campaign on their behalf. As a matter of 
fact Grand Marnier backed down after a long period of stalling and blocking 
the negotiation process. Without any consideration for the difficult 
situation of the workers, Daniel Zephir left the talks and went to France 
for his summer vacation. However his stay in France coincided with the 
relaunching of a letter campaign in support of the workers by solidarity 
organizations, unions in Europe. In less than a week, Zephir had to rush 
back to the plantation and informed the workers and officials of the Labor 
Department, with a letter from Grand Marnier stating that he had received 
formal instructions to conclude this round of negotiations. According to the 
document signed by F. de Gasperis, from the  General Management of Societe 
des Produits Marnier-Lapostolle  that Mr. Zephir was received in their Paris 
office from July 18 to 21st to explain the various phases of the negotiation 
regarding salary increase. The letter says the following: ?Conscious of the 
economic and social role it plays in Haiti, the SPML (Societe des Produits 
Marnier Lapostolle)gives mandate to Mr. Zephir  to re-open the 
negotiations?.  The company offered 86 Gdes. per day for the daily laborers; 
7 Gdes per case for the orange pickers with the additional guarantee that 
they will be assisted by a second person, paid by management.  This other 
worker will collect the oranges from the ground as the picker drops them 
from the trees; and 25 gourdes per case for the orange cutters, with the 
assurance that the 2 worker-team would be maintained as before. Thus, the 
negociations reopened and the workers won some of their overdue demands.

The Union?\s position was steadfast. Given the fact that:
1)	their original demands were quite modest and though did not expect such 
ferocious resistance from Grand Marnier?s management. Therefore they were 
not going to give up anything without a fight.
2)	their salary demands dated back nearly one year ago.  And the yearly 
inflation rate was up from 12 to 15% eating away further their purchasing 
power. Their demand  was merely a small wage adjustment, not a salary hike.

In their meetings they have decided that they will not budge on their 
initial salary demands. This position was endorsed by every worker of the 
plantation, and was put before Daniel Zephir since August of last year. When 
through the Department of Labor, he had asked to speak to all the workers, 
apart from the executive committee. Again and again, the workers? response 
was unanimous that they would not accept less than 100 gourdes for day 
laborers, 25 and 7.5 gourdes per case for the pickers and cutters 

The final round of negotiations regarding salaries was held at the Ministry 
of Social Affairs and Labor office on July 25th and both parties concluded 
on these terms:

q	Day laborers: Will earn 95 gourdes per day, ($US 4.75). This constitutes a 
55% raise over the miserable 52 gourdes ($US 2.60) they were earning 
previously. The difficult process of arriving at this arrangement went 
through the following steps: from 70 gourdes to 75 gourdes, to 86 gourdes 
and finally 95 gourdes?! At long last (after three hours of discussions!!) 
Zephir begged the workers to concede the remaining  5 gourdes of their 
initial demands(meaning a quarter). However, it is important to note that 
only a small number of workers are daily wage earners on the plantation. 
Most of them are working on a piece rate basis such as the orange pickers, 
cutters and graters.

q	Orange Pickers: Will earn 7.25 gourdes per case ($US 0.36), a 57% raise 
over their previous 4.10 G. This negotiation lasted almost as long as the 
previous one. And shocking as it is, Zephir begged the workers to accept a 
reduction of 0.25 gourdes from their initial demands (meaning one penny off 
each case).

q	Orange Cutters: As was mentioned above, Grand Marnier accepted this 
groups? initial demand as is presented, (i.e. 25 gourdes per case or $US 
1.25). This implies that a 2-worker-team making a number of 5 cases a day 
will earn $US 6.25 or $US 3.12 each. .

q	Orange Graters: Due to the length of this negotiation talks, it was agreed 
that more discussions about specific wages will be done after the opening of 
the coming working season.

An important aspect must be disclosed concerning Grand Marnier?s official 
letter. It says the following: ?these salaries should be reviewed in the 
future, according to economic changes??  and  the ?company (SPML) intends to 
continue the process of improving working conditions and will work toward 
changing the material conditions and existence of the plantation personnel?.

Given the limited gains won for the coming season and the statements made by 
the company itself, the Union is already geared up to fight for its Year 
2000-2001 agenda. The list of demands includes the following :

q	Company internal regulations ? According to the Haitian Labor law, 
employers are required to post their internal regulations. However, no 
internal regulations existed in any of the companies managed by Zephir, The 
union (SOML) will demand that workers should be consulted or be given a 
draft copy to allow them to discuss it and give their position on it before 
its posting at the plantation in conformity with articles 397, 398 and 399 
of the Labor Code..

q	Infrastructure work Progress: This year the season is at least three 
months late due to a severe drought in the northern and northeast part of 
Haiti and inexistent irrigation infrastructure on the plantation. And it is 
particularly a difficult moment for poor workers who have to send their 
children to school in September. To date, the working season has not opened 
yet causing a real hardship for them. The artesian well promised has never 
been made operational. In dry season, the trees are watered by hand or by 
small pails. This method is totally inadequate. If the fields were irrigated 
in an appropriate manner, the trees would have been ready for this season. 
Being the victims of this situation, the workers are resolute to fight for a 
solution to this problem for improving their working conditions and material 
existence as Grand Marnier management proclaims it in their letter.

Moreover, the Union will continue to monitor the final phase of the 
construction of toilets, showers and other infrastructure that management 
had agreed at the early rounds of negotiations. For example, the number of 
toilets and showers built so far does not correspond with the legal 
requirements( 1 toilets for every 25 persons or 1 shower for every 6 
employees). Only 8 are built for 300 persons. The various changes which 
Zephir had previously agreed upon (new equipment such as ladders, shovels, 
masks, gloves, knives, health clinic and other social benefits?) remained to 
be seen at the new season opens.

q	Working Conditions: the processing unit component of the plantation is 
quite inadequate. There are only two walls under the roof and so, when it 
rains, the workers cutting the oranges get soaking wet because the plant is 
not adequately built or the construction is not completely finished. 
Additional walls should be added, preferably with ciment blocks that will 
let wind go through and equipped with fans for ventilation.

Potable water to drink (the workers are still drinking from the well!); work 
uniforms or aprons must be given to all workers;

The plantation must be equipped with adequate place for eating or a 
cafeteria and room for changing or resting;

q	Social benefits like housing, schools and pension ;

q	Collective Contract: which should be negotiated with the Union stipulating 
clearly the rights and obligations of each party and  how to deal with non 
compliance with the terms agreed upon at the negotiation table and full 
recognition of the union as a bargaining agent.

Much more is needed to be done. Workers at the Marnier-Lapostolle orange 
plantation, while acknowledging the growing solidarity movement in support 
of their struggle to win basic demands from the management, will continue to 
count on your militant solidarity for the continuation of the campaign. The 
long struggle against the exploitation of all workers of the world 

BATAY OUVRIYE will keep you posted on any development and the following up 
of the campaign against the Grand Marnier Company.

							  			 August 8, 2000

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