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9777: Guacimal/Cointreau campaign update (fwd)
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
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.
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The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.