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From LABOR-L@YorkU.CA Sat Feb 5 11:42:04 2000
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 14:30:20 -0500
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: "P. K. Murphy" <bi008@FREENET.TORONTO.ON.CA>
Subject: Grand Marnier Orange Plantation Workers in Haiti Need Solidarity
X-UIDL: 4b6e567ee3b855c4cb89f900ec7d3c3d

Grand Marnier Orange Plantation Workers in Haiti Need Solidarity

Haiti Support Group (haitisupport@gn.apc.org),
4 February 2000

The London-based Haiti Support Group is asking that supporters of workers' rights send letters supporting the workers at the Marnier-Lapostelle orange plantation in Haiti. They are trying to get a first contract and something close to a living wage.

PK Murphy
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2000 13:53:20 +0000
From: Charles Arthur - Haiti Support Group <haitisupport@gn.apc.org>
Subject: appeal #2

>From : The Haiti Support Group, London, UK

Please read the text below and send the letter (at the foot of this mail), or something like it, to the Marnier-Lapostelle management, and send an email to <haitisupport@gn.apc.org> to let us know you have done so.


Charles Arthur



The UNION of MARNIER-LAPOSTELLE WORKERS (Le Syndicat des Ouvriers de Marnier-Lapostelle - Haiti) calls for international solidarity to support its efforts to negotiate improvements in pay and conditions at the orange tree plantation in northern Haiti. (see model letter below)

In August 1999, the plantation workers formed a union, registered with the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs, in order to take up their grievances with Novella's Daniel Zephir, who manages the plantation on behalf of the Paris-based company, Marnier-Lapostelle. Initially some progress appeared to be made when Zephir agreed to implement some improvements in conditions in time for next summer's harvest. However, he was less forthcoming when the union raised the issue of wage increases, claiming that Marnier-Lapostelle in Paris decided the salary costs.

The Union of Marnier-Lapostelle Workers then made contact with one of the French company's technicians when he visited the plantation in November, and gave him a letter for the company bosses in which they appealed for some movement on wages. However, since then, relations between Zephir and the union have deteriorated, with union members being victimised and intimidated by the plantation directors and supervisors.

At the end of December 1999, after five sets of talks with Zephir, the union decided to break off negotiations. Zephir had made what the workers regarded as derisory wage increases. All he offered was just a few cents more for each box of oranges - an increase that in no way keeps pace with the spiralling cost of living in Haiti.


Current rate of pay Union's demand Zephir's final offer

Day labourer
52 gourdes per day 100 gourdes 70 gourdes
Orange picker
4.10 gourdes per box 7 gourdes 5.50 gourdes
Orange peeler
14 gourdes per box 25 gourdes 17 gourdes
Orange grater
19.25 gourdes per box 35 gourdes 21 gourdes

Note 1: there are currently approximately 19 gourdes to the US dollar.

Note 2:The number of boxes that each worker or pair of workers can fill up, or empty, depending on the task, each day is determined by how many hours they are prepared to work. Often workers start before dawn and only stop when night is falling. Each day an orange picker could fill perhaps 10 or 12 twelve boxes, and the orange peelers and graters could empty perhaps three or four boxes.

Zephir had also insulted the workers by proposing that the orange pickers, who at present work in pairs and are both paid the going rate for the number of boxes picked, should in future work alone yet continue to be paid by the box at close to the existing rate. Obviously the number of boxes they will be able to fill by themselves will be about half the number they could fill working in pairs!


A bottle of Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is sold every two seconds..., boasts the Marnier-Lapostelle company web site. Spiked with oranges from the French West Indies, runs the advertising slogan on the poster. For the 1999-2000 advertising campaign, a photograph shows a woman looking up seductively, clutching a bottle of the famous cognac-based orange liqueur, and a caption that reads, Ever tried it in the afternoon?

Ever tried walking miles to do a 12 hour day clearing drainage ditches in an orange plantation to earn less than US$3? Ever tried scraping the peel from oranges, cutting your fingers, and feeling the orange juice seep into the wound, over and over again, day after day, and earning just one dollar for each completed box of oranges?

The French drinks company, Marnier-Lapostelle, recorded a net income of around US$16 million in 1998 - a huge amount that makes the plight of the Haitian workers who produce the orange peel for export to France all the more outrageous.

On a 72-hectare plantation, run by the local Haitian firm, Novella Entreprises, on behalf of Marnier-Lapostelle, day-labourers work in the orange groves, planting trees and keeping irrigation channels clear. Other workers pick, peel and grate the oranges, to produce the dried peel that is shipped to France where it is added to brandy to create the distinctive Grand Marnier taste.

According to Batay Ouvriye, a Haitian organisation that defends workers' interests, the workers on the Marnier-Lapostelle plantation are paid a pittance - the day labourers are paid just 52 gourdes (a little less than US$3) a day, while the orange pickers are paid on the basis of how many cases they fill per day, and must work flat out for sometimes a 12 hour day if they are to fill enough to earn anything approaching a living wage. The same is true for those who peel and grate the rind.

The plantation lacks even the most basic toilet or washing facilities, creating special problems for the orange peelers and graters who often cut their hands and suffer painful irritation when the citric acid juice gets into their wounds. Constant exposure to the acidic spray also causes respiratory and digestive problems. None of the workers can claim the sick leave nor the annual holidays that are specified by Haitian labour law.


At the beginning of December 1999, Batay Ouvriye publicised the union's first appeal for letters of support to be sent to Daniel Zephir of Novella Entreprises in Haiti and to the Marnier-Lapostelle management in Paris. The union asked that Marnier-Lapostelle intervene with Zephir to authorise a proper wage increase. The Haiti Support Group forwarded the appeal to various email networks, and many individuals and organisations, including two South African trade unions, wrote letters. However, neither the Marnier-Lapostelle management in Paris nor Daniel Zephir have so far issued any comment or sent any replies.

Now (January), the union has released a second appeal for international solidarity in the form of letters to the management. The union is not calling for a boycott, or even for a threat of a boycott of Marnier products, but hopes that the French company will feel the negative publicity is more costly than a meagre pay increase for the Haitian workers.


M. Maxime Coury
91 Boulevard Haussmann
75008 PARIS


The Director
Marnier-Lapostelle Inc.
717 Fifth Avenue
New York
NY 10022
Fax: 212 207 4351

Dear M. Coury,

I understand that the Union of Marnier-Lapostelle Workers in Haiti has recently felt obliged to break off negotiations with your representative, M. Daniel Zephir, after he made derisory offers in response to the union's pay demands.

I am very disappointed that these negotiations appear to have been sabotaged by your representative's unreasonable offers. I am also dismayed to hear that the union delegates have received threats and been intimidated by agents of your representative at the plantation.

I hope that you will intervene to ensure that the union and its delegates are treated properly, and that serious negotiations on pay increases to keep pace with the spiralling cost of living are resumed at the earliest opportunity.

I would very much appreciate a reply from you informing me of positive developments at the Marnier-Lapostelle orange plantation in Haiti.

Yours sincerely

Haiti Support Group (haitisupport@gn.apc.org)