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9777: Guacimal/Cointreau campaign update (fwd)

From: Tttnhm@aol.com

Guacimal/Cointreau campaign update - 28 November 2001
by the Haiti Support Group

On Monday 26th November, a representative of the Haitian workers' movement, 
Batay Ouvriye, together with members of the French solidarity organisations, 
Collectif Haiti de France and Réseau-Solidarité, met with Olivier Charriaud, 
Rémy Cointreau's international director, at the company's headquarters in 

The delegation asked Charriaud why Rémy Cointreau had not pressed its Haitian 
partner, Guacimal SA, to carry out agreements made with the workers' union at 
the processing plant at Madeline, or to even recognise the legally-registered 
union at the St. Raphael plantation. They pointed out that Rémy Cointreau had 
been replying to concerned campaigners with letters stressing that the 
company "readily accepts the presence of trade unions," "respects workers' 
rights," and "does not tolerate moral or physical harassment" of its workers. 
Yet, the reality at the Guacimal workplaces in Haiti was quite the opposite. 
In fact, after a year of heavy-handed intimidation and aggression, early in 
November, the Guacimal management sent a representative to the St. Raphael 
plantation to recruit non-unionised workers to begin the orange harvest. This 
move was a clear attempt to break the plantation workers' union.

Charriaud replied that he was both surprised and dismayed that his company's 
standards and norms were not being applied by Guacimal SA. As far as he knew, 
Rémy Cointreau and the management of Guacimal SA were agreed on the need to 
create a climate of mutual respect with the workers. He claimed to have no 
idea that there continued to be a bitter and unresolved dispute between the 
workers' unions and the management in the person of Daniel and Nonce Zephyr.

The delegation supporting the Haitian workers then challenged Rémy Cointreau 
to face up to its responsibilities in Haiti by sending a fact-finding mission 
to the workplaces and make a genuine attempt to find out about and address 
the workers' grievances. They also suggested that the company should finance 
independent monitors to report on what was really happening on the ground.

Charriaud responded positively to these suggestions but said that he was not 
authorised to take such decisions and needed to consult with other Remy 
Cointreau managers. 

The Haitian workers' unions, Batay Ouvriye, and the international solidarity 
groups across the world, are now waiting for a reply from Rémy Cointreau to 
see if the company is genuinely interested in resolving the dispute or is 
just engaged in further delaying tactics. In light of the volume of sales of 
the Cointreau liqueur at Christmas-time, the campaigners have decided to wait 
no more than two weeks for Rémy Cointreau to reply, and, if no satisfactory 
answer is given by then, to re-launch the campaign to hold the company 
accountable for the exploitation of Haitian workers.

Meanwhile, in Haiti on 8th November, the Platform to Advocate for Alternative 
Development (PAPDA) held a solidarity meeting in support of the Guacimal 
workers. Around 60 students, journalists and members of the popular movement 
attended and heard the PAPDA spokesperson, Camille Chalmers propose the 
forming of a committee in solidarity with the Guacimal workers and the 
publicising of the negative consequences of globalisation.

The spokesperson for Batay Ouvriye in northern Haiti stressed the 
determination of the Guacimal workers to struggle against their exploitation 
in spite of the continuing and fierce repression that they are experiencing. 
He also pointed out that the dispute was being perpetuated by leading 
representatives of the Haitian oligarchy, the Zephyr brothers, who has 
economic interests that extended across that part of the country, notably in 
the coffee business. Another feature of the anti-worker offensive was the 
collusion of representatives of the Haitian State, in particular at the level 
of the regional office of the Ministry of Social Affairs. 

After hearing a first-hand testimony from a Guacimal union leader, the 
meeting agreed to intensify the campaign, both at home and abroad, to 
denounce the exploitation carried out by Guacimal and Rémy Cointreau. The 
Batay Ouvriye spokesperson pointed out that a large global solidarity network 
already existed, and was particularly active in the UK through the Haiti 
Support Group, in France thanks to French trade unions, and in New York where 
Haitian activists had already organized a number of sit-ins and other 
demonstrations in support of the Cointreau workers.


This email is forwarded 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.