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5927: Cointreau workers campaign update #2 (fwd)
From: Charles Arthur <email@example.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:
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.
One World Trade Center
M. Pierre Cointreau,
49124 St BARTHELEMY D'ANJOU
Dominique Hériard Dubreuil,
Groupe Rémy Cointreau,
152, avenue des Champs-Élysées,
Daniel et Nonce ZEPHIR - Directeurs,
Société Agricole Produits Guacimal S.A.,
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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