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5927: Cointreau workers campaign update #2 (fwd)

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

Cointreau workers campaign update -Batay Ouvriye - 23 November 2000
(translated from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group)

In October 2000, Batay Ouvriye contacted the Haiti Support Group, War on 
Want (UK), the Network-Solidarity of France and various other groups about a 
campaign to support the workers' fight at Guacimal S.A. - the company that 
provides the raw material necessary for the manufacture of the liqueur, 
Cointreau. Up until now, however, the situation in this institution remains 
identical - if not worse, insofar as the management, instead of adhering to 
the law, preferred to use all kinds of tricks to avoid even a minimum 
improvement in working conditions and thus continues to enjoy with impunity 
the incredible exploitation of the workers. Batay Ouvriye provides here an 
update of the struggle:

St Raphaël
On Tuesday, November 21, 2000, the supervisor, Jean-Marie St Fleur, returned 
from the central offices of company Guacimal S.A. in Cap-Haïtien, and met 
with the nine security guards at the plantation. Immediately, a rumour was 
spread: the order had been given to beat up, next week, any union member 
with the inclination to go on strike. This news is all the more alarming in 
that it follows a series of persecutions that have accompanied the 
setting-up of this trade union:

Immediately following the drawing up and presentation of the list of claims 
of the trade union (October 3, 2000), the management of Guacimal S.A. had 
dispatched a Justice of the Peace and rural Police to put an end to the 
protest movement. Only the clear presentation of the legality and the 
accuracy of their complaints was able to put a brake on the threats of 
arrest and blows.

Secondly, this management contacted the Ministry for Social Affairs and 
Labour so that it would dispatch a high level delegation to the plantation 
to challenge the validity of the trade union. Arriving there 25-28th 
October, this delegation noted a certain problem regarding the fact that 
among the members of the union were planters and sharecroppers (such is in 
fact the composition of the workers at the establishment); the delegation 
gave the union the difficult requirement of reforming the management 
committee of the union as a precondition to any action...In spite of the 
difficulties of this challenge, the trade union swiftly complied, and on 
November 4 the altered composition of the committee was communicated to the 

During this time, the rumour circulated that plantation guards had been 
bought off. Brought together in Cap-Haïtien, they were warned against any 
form of collaboration with the union. Two of them were even offered a large 
sum in order to break the union - news that spread like wildfire.

All during November, intimidation continued, particularly by the supervisor 
Jean-Marie St Fleur who prohibited work for the affiliated members of the 
trade union. On November 16, for example, St Fleur challenged a workman, who 
was standing at the bottom of the tree from which he was gathering the 
fruit, to a fight. He followed up with a forthright antiunion declaration - 
"...You know that no one has ever seen illiterates give orders to cultivated 
people. The trade union is composed of ignoramuses. The only thing behind it 
is foreign politics."

In this same vein, for approximately two weeks, Mr. St Fleur has prevented 
the truck-drivers from collecting oranges gathered by the union members, 
thus penalizing them for their participation in the union. The trucks are 
directed to a designated perimeter ("haut Guacimal ") where the guards, the 
few workmen whom they could bribe, and, sometimes, strangers to the 
plantation, work! It should be noted that the nine guards did not gather 
there in the past - it smacks of an antiunion initiative.

The union is not letting itself be intimidated. The more so, as it continues 
to suffer violent abuse of the rights which its members should legally 
enjoy. The family of Mrs. Liciane Desarmes, for example, who died after many 
years of work in the plantation, were not offered even the smallest 
compensation-pension, such as is stipulated by the law. Edanyo St Fleur who 
has just taken her retirement received only a pittance as a pension.

Next Monday, November 27, the union has thus decided to forward its 
interests by a clear suspension of work to demand a meeting with the 
management. Let us recall that until now, the management has still not 
agreed to meet the union - as of 22 November it had refused to even receive 
notification of the union's decision.

Like at St Raphaël, at Madeline, the management is delaying in taking the 
action specified by the law. In spite of the surge in the international 
solidarity movement and the arrival, at the beginning of November, of an 
emissary from Rémy Cointreau (a certain "Morino" - no dialogue was possible 
with him because his brief tour of the factory took place under employers' 
escort...), not even the smallest improvement for the workers has occurred. 
On the contrary, just like at St Raphaël, the leaders of the company seem 
determined to make them pay the price for their union affiliation.

During the week of November 20, it was decided to prohibit the workmen from 
taking any leave. Traditionally, this work was transferred from father to 
son, mother to daughter, when due to sickness a worker would be replaced by 
one of their children. Not only did this practice not threaten the 
established position of the worker, but moreover the pay of the day was 
easily shared between substitute and the one replaced. At present, the 
supervisor Philippe Mompoint has declared that such practices will not be 
tolerated any more; the substitutes will have "to be diversified" - if the 
absent worker is thus replaced for a day, the following day the job will go 
to another person, sometimes even someone unknown within the factory! This 
is a very clear strategy of adjustment to create an alternative labour 
force, especially when within this factory work there are only sixteen women 
and sixteen men. Their only defence is the possibility of participation in 
meetings of coordination with the union of St Raphaël...

This situation is particularly painful for two workers, Mompoint Bernard and 
Eva Small-Brother, who have been sick for some time and who now seem to have 
lost their positions in the factory.

The parallel between the formation of "yellow " working groups with St 
Raphaël and Madeline is not fortuitous. The whole picture of antiunion 
persecution is composed of these parallels....

During two meetings of negotiation held at the end of October, the 
management apparently granted the majority of the requests for an 
improvement in the working conditions, and to provide at once the knives, 
gloves and mufflers that had long been asked for at the factory. This 
hardware was to come from the surpluses of orders bound for the 
Marnier-Lapostolle factory. With the request of the workers of Madeline to 
know why they had to wait so long when this hardware seemed to be within 
reach, management answered cynically "Because there is not yet a trade 
union." The union advanced a claim of an adjustment of 80 centimes on each 
treated orange case. The management turned down this proposal in derision by 
offering a maximum of 5 centimes!

Since then, strictly nothing has happened at the factory Madeline, the 
promises of repair of the toilets, showers, buildings... remained a dead 

In Madeline, as with St Raphaël, the union has come to the end of its 
patience and has notified the direction as well as the Ministry for the 
Social Affairs of its determination to find a response to its rightful 
claims. To this end, a work stoppage is projected for the next week, Monday, 
November 27 2000....

With this phase of the struggle, a precise and constant coordination with 
the trade union of St Raphaël is essential but is difficult because of the 
distance between the two locations.

In this situation where the physical integrity of the trade unionists is 
threatened, we emplore all those which feel outraged by these crying 
injustices to write (if necessary, once more) to the leaders of the 
multinational who hold the right to life and death of the workers who slave 
away to manufacture the Cointreau liqueur, as well as to the Zéphir brothers 
who manage the Guacimal S.A company in Haiti.

Write to:

Rémy Cointreau
One World Trade Center
107th Floor
New York,
NY 10048

Phone: 212-524-7000
Fax: 212-524-7016
Email: joelle.jezequel@remy-cointreau.com

M. Pierre Cointreau,
Société Cointreau,
Carrefour Molière,

Dominique Hériard Dubreuil,
Groupe Rémy Cointreau,
152, avenue des Champs-Élysées,
75008 Paris,

Daniel et Nonce ZEPHIR - Directeurs,
Société Agricole Produits Guacimal S.A.,
BP 53,

Please send your solidarity message also to Batay Ouvriye 

Remember the modest demands (which do not include a call for a boycott) of 
the two unions at St. Raphaël and Madeline

US $0.80 (20 gourdes) per case of peeled or grated oranges;

The necessary work equipment (gloves appropriate for orange cutters, masks, 
boots and ladders);

Respect for the law in terms of holidays, retirement payments, payment of 
overtime, toilets, showers, rest rooms, medical service, etc.;

Respect for union rights.

This email is forwarded to you as a service of the Haiti Support Group.

SEE THE HAITI SUPPORT GROUP WEB SITE:  http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport

The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for 
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.
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