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9253: Press release: World Food Programme busts union in Cap-Ha´tien (fwd)

From: Tttnhm@aol.com

Press release - The Haiti Support Group condemns union-busting by the 
Cap-Ha´tien office of the United Nations World Food Programme - 16 October 

The Haiti Support Group is extremely concerned about reports from Haiti's 
second city of Cap-Ha´tien indicating that the local office of the United 
Nations World Food Programme and the Haitian government have colluded in the 
suppression and breaking of a newly formed trade union.

According to information received from the First of May Batay Ouvriye union 
federation, one of the members of the federation, the Union of Warehousemen 
at the World Food Programme depot in Cap-Ha´tien, was busted the week before 
last. The warehousemen are responsible for distributing the food supplies of 
the World Food Programme's school cafeterias programme in the north of Haiti.

Apparently the immediate source of dispute is connected to two issues. 
Firstly, the warehousemen's union was recently informed that a job that 
normally paid 10,000 gourdes (US$80) would henceforth be paid 2,000 gourdes. 
The resulting discontent of union members led the local World Food Programme 
(WFP) management to call in outside workers who agreed to carry out the work 
at one fifth of the normal price. Thereafter, persistent rumours circulated 
that the WFP had decided to get rid of the union. 

Secondly, the WFP management seems to have responded in a hostile fashion to 
the union's attempts to gain compensation for workers who suffer injuries at 
work. According to the union, some of its members had worked in the WFP 
depots for over ten years, and on this basis (quite apart from the legal 
entitlements of workers according to local and international labour 
legislation) the union recently sought compensation for one worker who 
suffered an accident at work (he lost a toe). Another worker who recently had 
his leg broken at work had not received any compensation at all. 

It seems that in response to the union's legitimate concerns relating to the 
above two issues, the local WFP, in conjunction with local Cap-Ha´tien 
authorities, decided to break the union. 

On Friday, October 5th 2001, a notice was put up on the depot building 
summoning union members to the local Ministry of Social Affairs office in 
order to receive severance pay. The union members had been arbitrarily 
dismissed. Several union members took the severance pay, even though it was 
seriously beneath the admissible figure. Others refused to receive the money.

On 8th October, the union published an open letter to the WFP international 
offices detailing the developments, and announcing, "We refuse to accept 
these illegal and absolutely invalid dismissals." The open letter continued, 
"We inform the local, national and international community that we will 
continue to present ourselves at our workplaces as normal, because it is 
unbearable for us to think that, by giving in, it would pave the way for the 
total impunity of the 'humanitarian' community throughout the world."

Two days later, 10th October, a unit of the Haitian National Police - the 
UnitÚ DÚpartementale pour le Maintien de l'Ordre (UDMO), a Swat Team of 
special forces,  arrived at the WFP depot. These heavily armed police, 
dressed in riot gear, dispersed the union members who were posted at the 
gate, and ushered new workers into the depot. The union members were obliged 
to back off, and, in the words of the First of May Batay Ouvriye union 
federation "at present it appears that indeed the WFP union has been squashed 
for no reason!"

The Haiti Support Group calls upon the World Food Programme to intervene with 
the Cap-Ha´tien office and to see that the members of the Warehousemen's 
Union are reinstated. The World Food Programme should respect local and 
international labour legislation that gives workers the right to unionise and 
to negotiate pay and conditions with the management. The Haiti Support Group 
calls on the Haitian government to investigate how the local Minstry of 
Social Affairs and a unit of the Haitian National Police came to be involved 
in the denial of workers' legitimate rights.

Finally, the Haiti Support Group calls on the Haitian government to take 
immediate steps to remedy these wrongs, and to support the legitimate rights 
and aspirations of workers across the northern department and the country as 
a whole.

Background details are available in the Union's open letter to the World Food 
Programme on the Haiti Support Group web site's What's New section: 

See also the Batay Ouvriye web site: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2539


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


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