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From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Wed Aug 23 14:56:44 2000
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 10:59:19 -0400
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: PK Murphy <pk.murphy@IRELAND.COM>
Subject: Fwd: Grand Marnier workers' partial victory
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---- Begin Included Message ----
From: Tttnhm@aol.com
Sent: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 09:55:43 EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Grand Marnier workers' partial victory

Grand Marnier workers' partial victory

By Charles Arthur, on behalf of the Haiti Support Group,
23 August 2000

Thanks to all of you who have helped the Haiti support group and Batay Ouvriye to back the Grand Marnier Workers Union in Haiti over the last nine months. We can be pleased that the international solidarity campaign (your letters and emails sent to the Grand Marnier management in Paris, and New York) has at last had an effect.

The Haiti Support Group has recently received an important news update from BATAY OUVRIYE - the workers' organization in Haiti - which contained the following good news about the struggle of the workers at the Grand Marnier plantation in northern Haiti:

Batay Ouvriye reports that S.O.M.L. (Sendika Ouvriye Marnier Lapostolle), the labor organization representing some 300 workers toiling at the Marnier-Lapostolle plantation, finally obtained some results after nearly one year of struggle. On July 25 2000, Grand Marnier’s local manager, Mr. Daniel ZEPHIR, members of the Executive Committee representing the workers on the orange plantation, and representatives of the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, signed a formal document in which they laid down some provisions for a minimal change regarding working conditions and wages, starting as of July 31 2000.

According to Batay Ouvriye, These results were obtained largely due to the unwavering struggle of the unionized agricultural laborers of the Marnier-Lapostolle plantation, as well as the international solidarity campaign on their behalf.

Grand Marnier has backed down after a long period of stalling and blocking the negotiation process, but not before, without any consideration for the difficult situation of the workers, Daniel Zephir left the talks in early July and went to France for his summer vacation. However, his stay in France coincided with the relaunching of a letter campaign in support of the workers by solidarity organizations, and unions in Europe. In less than a week, Zephir had to rush back to the plantation, and informed the workers, and officials of the Labor Department, that he had with him a letter from Grand Marnier instructing him to conclude this round of negotiations. According to the document, signed by F. de Gasperis of the general management of Societe des Produits Marnier-Lapostolle (SPML), Mr. Zephir had visited the head office in Paris from July 18 to 21st to explain the various phases of the negotiations regarding salary increases. The letter stated: “Conscious of the economic and social role it plays in Haiti, the Societe des Produits Marnier Lapostolle mandates Mr. Zephir to re-open the negotiations”.

The final round of these negotiations regarding salaries was held at the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor office on July 25th, and both parties concluded on these terms:

Day laborers: Will earn 95 gourdes per day, ($US 4.75). This constitutes a 55% raise over the miserable 52 gourdes ($US 2.60) they were earning previously.

Orange Pickers: Will earn 7.25 gourdes per case ($US 0.36), a 57% raise over their previous 4.10 G.

Orange Cutters: Grand Marnier accepted this groups’ initial demand, i.e. 25 gourdes per case or $US 1.25. This implies that a 2-worker team filling 5 cases a day will earn $US 6.25 or $US 3.12 each. .

Orange Graters: Due to the length of this negotiation talks, it was agreed that more discussions about specific wages will be carried out after the opening of the coming working season.

The Batay Ouvriye press release continues:

Given the limited gains won for the coming season and the statements made by the company itself, the Union is already geared up to fight for its year 2000-2001 agenda.

The Union will continue to monitor the final phase of the construction of toilets, showers and other infrastructure that management had agreed at the early rounds of negotiations. For example, the number of toilets and showers built so far does not correspond with the legal requirements (1 toilets for every 25 persons or 1 shower for every 6 employees). Only 8 have been built for 300 persons. The various changes which Zephir had previously agreed upon (new equipment such as ladders, shovels, masks, gloves, knives, health clinic and other social benefits. . .) remained to be seen as the new season opens.

Working conditions continue to leave much to be desired: the processing unit component of the plantation is quite inadequate - there are only two walls under the roof, and so, when it rains, the workers cutting the oranges get soaking wet; potable water is required - the workers are still drinking from the well!; work uniforms or aprons must be given to all workers; the plantation must be equiped with an adequate place for eating, or a cafeteria and room for changing or resting.

The press release concludes:

Much more is needed to be done. Workers at the Marnier-Lapostolle orange plantation, while acknowledging the growing solidarity movement in support of their struggle to win basic demands from the management, will continue to count on your militant solidarity for the continuation of the campaign. The long struggle against the exploitation of all workers of the world continues…

The HAITI SUPPORT GROUP <haitisupport@gn.apc.org> and BATAY OUVRIYE <batayouvriye@hotmail.com> will keep you posted on further developments.