Morning. My name is Ligia Lamich. We are in Horquetas .
as I've been telling you, I worked on the banana plantations. I'd scarcely
joined the trade union - that was a Monday - when on the Wednesday they
called me to the office. There was Miguel Luís from the solidarista
association and Don Luís Aguilar from personnel. They had me
there for two hours trying to get me to sign a piece of paper that said,
"Please give me redundancy" and no more. I signed it because
I just wanted to go back to work and be left in peace. I didn't mention
what had happened to anyone. After they made me sign that piece of paper,
Guillermo Brenes called for me in the afternoon, and was talking to
me, enquiring about which workers were members of the trade union. I
told him that only I had joined, and that I didn't know any more than
that. The following Saturday, the foreman came up to be with a big smile
on his face and said to me, "Ligia, today will be your last day
working here". This was in February 1996. I was pregnant and the
foreman knew this. He just didn't like me.
many months pregnant were you?
was two months gone. The trade union gave me some money, but the company
showed the paper I had signed and they said, "She asked for redundancy".
They had put the date of the day that I had joined the union.
this sort of thing still happen?
since then there has been persecution. As Women's Officer, I have organised
committees of 5 or 6 women, sometimes as many as 10. There was a group
of 15 women getting training, going to workshops, now there's not even
one because they've sacked them, or they've sacked their husbands. Even
if they sack the women, they sometimes have to stay on because they
simply can't manage on what their husband earns. If they sack the husband
the women have to stay and work because if not they have to give up
their houses, since they live on the plantations. This has cost the
union dearly. If only you'd seen what our meetings used to be like.
But there are times when there isn't a single woman left because of
this persecution. The women who come along regularly to workshops, like
the señoras from Chilamate , one of the women's groups we work
with. There are people who've not carried on because they've been sacked;
the companies kept on the husbands and sons, but not the women workers.
That girl you met (Hayzel) said that she wouldn't leave the union,
but there will come a time that she will be forced to. Those people
from the companies are really smart. You heard about the case of Luquez
- they offered him loads of benefits but in the end they betrayed him.
That's what they do. Just like when I signed that piece of paper and
they said to me, "Don't worry, we're going to help you"! Nowadays,
in some places, like in Gacelas , the women are treated well, but that
is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of the union.
thing is the many cases of pesticide poisoning. That person who lives
in Guácimo , for instance, he was poisoned by pesticides. Ever
since he was born, they said he wouldn't survive, because he didn't
have a stomach and who's know what else. They had to change the child's
blood; they had to do all sorts of things to keep him alive. He didn't
grow much, you'll see him and he looks swollen, he's a yellowish colour
and has no appetite. I think he's about 18 years old now - maybe more.
It's been a constant struggle and the family attributes his survival
to their faith in God. But it's something that gets you thinking about
what agrochemicals can do to a person. If you interview the mother,
you'll see that the doctor said it was caused by agrochemicals; but
later the doctor had to retract what he said and claimed he'd been mistaken,
because they had shut him up. In other cases, such as Nico, people have
accidents. There are loads of cases.
are women outside the organisation who have been sacked for being pregnant,
without even having been trade union members. So it's not just trade
union persecution that affects women. They look for a way of sacking
a woman. Now they've softened up a little. Just three years ago if you
joined the trade union you were sacked within a week.
why is that? Don't they want to pay maternity leave?
I joined SITAGAH on the 12th. On the 13th there was no transport for
me and on the 14th they called me to the office and Guillermo Brenes
made it clear how things were. Then on the Saturday the foreman told
me it was my last day. There was no letter.
they put sacked women workers on the black list?
yes they do. There are many ways to find yourself on the black list
which covers all banana plantations. If you claim your rights, you'll
be put on the black list. Or if you become unable to work through disability,
or if you're always going to the social security clinic... You can be
really ill, but you they won't give you time off to go to the social
security clinic. We've lost many rights on the banana plantations. We
used to have the right to go to the clinic, but not now. You have to
show them the receipt if you don't want them to boot you out. You don't
earn that day. If you arrive back early from the clinic you have to
go straight to work even if you're feeling tired or weak or suffering
from a reaction to your medicine.
the black lists still exist?
but only for trade unions. The lists existed before the trade union.
You'd appear on these lists with a code they'd given you. That's how
do you see the future for the trade union and the women's struggle?
Will it be difficult?
think the conditions for a struggle are right, even better than before,
because we've won some benefits. As Hayzel was saying, she doesn't have
problems at Gacelas. On these plantations there are quite strong trade
union branches with committees. But on other plantations, when workers
join, they kick them out straight away.
you name these plantations?
in Gavilán there was a committee, that Victor Luquez helped scupper.
In Malinche our compañeros are persecuted. The foreman has even
gone to the house of one worker. She has a young girl just like my daughter,
Joanna. The foreman said to this worker, "I'll give you a good
job and I'll pay you well if you let me take your daughter". He
said that she would get a job in the packing plant, that she'd have
good working conditions and that he'd look after her well. But the worker
said, "No. What I earn will I'll earn through my own sweat. I'm
not going sell my daughter to a pig like you".
why did the foreman want the girl?
sex. He wanted to sexually assault the worker's daughter, who was then
somewhere between 14 and 16 years old.