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7931: Cointreau workers - Urgent action: 17 May 2001 (fwd)
Cointreau workers - Urgent action issued by the Haiti Support Group: 17 May
SUBJECT: Haiti - Cointreau orange workers and local farmers occupy a
plantation in response to the latest episode in a sustained anti-union
The Haiti Support Group expresses its concern at reports of further
anti-union measures at the Guacimal/Rémy Cointreau orange plantation at St.
Raphaël in northern Haiti.
According to the Haitian workers’ movement, Batay Ouvriye, the plantation
overseer, Jean-Marie St. Fleur, is discriminating against members of the
union, the Syndicat des Ouvriers de Guacimal-St. Raphaël, in the allocation
of land plots for the use of plantation workers and other local farmers.
Now, local peasant farmers and union members have occupied the plantation in
an effort to force the managers to negotiate a settlement with the orange
workers' union. International solidarity is needed to put pressure on Rémy
Cointreau which can instruct its Haitian partners to resolve the dispute and
negotiate with the union.
St. Raphaël is a small locality in the northern region of Haiti where the
Haitian company, Guacimal SA, has orange plantations on which about 300
workers are employed in the harvesting of bitter oranges. These oranges are
used in the manufacture of the famous Cointreau liqueur. Guacimal SA is
part-owned by the French drinks giant, Rémy Cointreau.
At the beginning of October 2000, St. Raphaël plantation workers registered
as a union with the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs, and sent a list of
its grievances and requests for improvements in wages and working conditions
to the Guacimal management. However, no negotiations took place, and, in
mid-December, the union went on strike.
For ten weeks, the union members maintained the strike in the face of
pressure and intimidation from the management, the Lavalas Family mayor of
St. Raphaël, and the local representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
During this time, the Guacimal SA management used the plantation overseer and
his guards to intimidate and violently harass the union members. In one
incident, a plantation guard attacked the union's leader with a machete.
At the end of February, the Lavalas Family mayor unilaterally intervened to
break the strike, and the plantation overseer attempted to bar union members
from returning to work. When the orange harvest ended at the end of March,
the dispute had not been resolved, and the Guacimal SA management was still
maintaining its refusal to negotiate with the legally established union.
Now, a new form of anti-union discrimination has caused the dispute to spread
and involve local peasant farmers.
Each year, between April and August, there is an 'off season' when oranges
are not harvested, and laid-off plantation workers, and other local people,
are allowed to grow millet and corn on small plots of plantation land between
the orange trees. Under the share-cropping system, half of any produce grown
on the land is handed over to the landowners or managers. At the close of the
harvest season this year, the plantation overseer, Jean-Marie St. Fleur,
ordered the plantation watchmen to discriminate against union members when
the land parcels were distributed.
When the discrimination against union members became apparent, the union
allied itself with a recently formed planters' association composed of local
farmers who also work the plantation land in the 'off season'. Together the
two groups protested against the situation. However, the plantation guards
not only ignored the protests, but on 20 April, Martial Compère, a plantation
watchman, severely beat a child for having picked a couple of oranges.
In response, the planters' association, which includes several union members,
occupied the Guacimal plantation on 27 April, demanding that the watchmen and
overseer back off. They have declared they will no longer share half of their
harvest with the plantation supervisors as had been the custom in the past,
nor will they take orders from the present overseer or watchmen. They have
declared that, though they have no intention of cutting down the orange
trees, the management of Guacimal SA would be wise to come to negotiate an
agreement with them.
The Haiti Support Group urges those who share our concern for workers'
rights, and for internationally recognized human rights, to write to Rémy
Cointreau expressing the urgent need for the Guacimal SA management to
negotiate a settlement with the Syndicat des Ouvriers de Guacimal St. Raphaël
and the planters' association.
Point out that the union is a legally registered entity and, that to conform
to local labor legislation, the Guacimal SA company must enter into serious
negotiations to address the union's grievances.
Please write or email to:
Dominique Hériard Dubreuil
152, avenue des Champs-Élysées,
or to :
Rémy Cointreau Amerique
1350 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor
Phone : (1) (212) 399 4200
Fax : (1) (212) 399 6909
Dear Dominique Hériard Dubreuil,
I am shocked to learn of the refusal of Guacimal S.A. to meet and negotiate
with the legally established Syndicat des Ouvriers de Guacimal-St. Raphaël.
Furthermore I am distressed to read reports that union members have been
intimidated and harassed by Guacimal S.A. staff. Such actions are
unacceptable violations of basic labor and human rights, and I urge you to
I have recently been informed that even now, during the 'off season', workers
are suffering retaliation for forming a union. These practices must end. I
know that Rémy Cointreau is an important share-holder in Guacimal S.A, and
that the oranges grown at St. Raphaël are used in the manufacture of the
Cointreau liqueur. I urge you to communicate with the management team in
Haiti, and use your influence to get them to negotiate in good faith with the
union that the workers have chosen to represent them.
_____________________________________________________________This email is
forwarded as a service of the Haiti Support Group.
SEE THE HAITI SUPPORT GROUP WEB SITE: <A
The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.