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From haiti@quixote.org Mon May 21 07:42:20 2001
Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 23:08:27 -0500 (CDT)
From: Haiti Reborn <haiti@quixote.org>
Subject: URGENT ACTION for Haitian Cointreau Orange Laborers
Article: 120341
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Urgent action for Haitian Cointreau orange laborers

The Haiti Support Group, 21 May 2001


Haiti - Cointreau orange workers and local farmers occupy a plantation in response to the latest episode in a sustained anti-union campaign.

The Haiti Support Group expresses its concern at reports of further anti-union measures at the Guacimal/Remy Cointreau orange plantation at St. Raphael in northern Haiti.

According to the Haitian workers' movement, Batay Ouvriye, the plantation overseer, Jean-Marie St. Fleur, is discriminating against members of the union, the Syndicat des Ouvriers de Guacimal-St. Raphael, in the allocation of land plots for the use of plantation workers and other local farmers.

Now, local peasant farmers and union members have occupied the plantation in an effort to force the managers to negotiate a settlement with the orange workers' union. International solidarity is needed to put pressure on Remy Cointreau which can instruct its Haitian partners to resolve the dispute and negotiate with the union.


St. Raphael is a small locality in the northern region of Haiti where the Haitian company, Guacimal SA, has orange plantations on which about 300 workers are employed in the harvesting of bitter oranges. These oranges are used in the manufacture of the famous Cointreau liqueur. Guacimal SA is part-owned by the French drinks giant, Remy Cointreau. (For more background information, see the Haiti Support Group web site: http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport/fea_campaign_index.html)

At the beginning of October 2000, St. Raphael plantation workers registered as a union with the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs, and sent a list of its grievances and requests for improvements in wages and working conditions to the Guacimal management. However, no negotiations took place, and, in mid-December, the union went on strike.

For ten weeks, the union members maintained the strike in the face of pressure and intimidation from the management, the Lavalas Family mayor of St. Raphael, and the local representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs. During this time, the Guacimal SA management used the plantation overseer and his guards to intimidate and violently harass the union members. In one incident, a plantation guard attacked the union's leader with a machete.

At the end of February, the Lavalas Family mayor unilaterally intervened to break the strike, and the plantation overseer attempted to bar union members from returning to work. When the orange harvest ended at the end of March, the dispute had not been resolved, and the Guacimal SA management was still maintaining its refusal to negotiate with the legally established union.

Now, a new form of anti-union discrimination has caused the dispute to spread and involve local peasant farmers.

Each year, between April and August, there is an 'off season' when oranges are not harvested, and laid-off plantation workers, and other local people, are allowed to grow millet and corn on small plots of plantation land between the orange trees. Under the share-cropping system, half of any produce grown on the land is handed over to the landowners or managers. At the close of the harvest season this year, the plantation overseer, Jean-Marie St. Fleur, ordered the plantation watchmen to discriminate against union members when the land parcels were distributed.

When the discrimination against union members became apparent, the union allied itself with a recently formed planters' association composed of local farmers who also work the plantation land in the 'off season'. Together the two groups protested against the situation. However, the plantation guards not only ignored the protests, but on 20 April, Martial Compere, a plantation watchman, severely beat a child for having picked a couple of oranges.

In response, the planters' association, which includes several union members, occupied the Guacimal plantation on 27 April, demanding that the watchmen and overseer back off. They have declared they will no longer share half of their harvest with the plantation supervisors as had been the custom in the past, nor will they take orders from the present overseer or watchmen. They have declared that, though they have no intention of cutting down the orange trees, the management of Guacimal SA would be wise to come to negotiate an agreement with them.


The Haiti Support Group urges those who share our concern for workers' rights, and for internationally recognized human rights, to write to Remy Cointreau expressing the urgent need for the Guacimal SA management to negotiate a settlement with the Syndicat des Ouvriers de Guacimal St. Raphael and the planters' association.

Point out that the union is a legally registered entity and, that to conform to local labor legislation, the Guacimal SA company must enter into serious negotiations to address the union's grievances.

Please write or email to:

Dominique Heriard Dubreuil
Remy Cointreau
152, avenue des Champs-Elysees,
75008 Paris
Email: <joelle.jezequel@remy-cointreau.com>

or to:

Remy Cointreau Amerique
1350 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor
NY 10019
Phone : (1) (212) 399 4200
Fax : (1) (212) 399 6909