day, I remember, I'll never forget it: we went back to work at 8am after
breakfast. In this packing plant you get used to the three tanks, and
there were three women compañeras working at each tank. We were
called selectors: 3 selectors here, 3 in the middle and 3 at the end.
Because we're human there are some of us who are naturally faster workers
than others. I've always liked working with the fast workers, but if
they put me to work with a compañera who was learning I also
liked to help out. Sometimes I had to work even faster while the compañera
was getting the hang of what I was doing. But of course it's only logical
that's it not the same working with someone who's learning and someone
who is experienced. And sometimes that can create serious problems for
you. Logically, when 20 minutes have gone by the tanks have to be full,
the tank in the middle where I was working, was only half full. The
others were full because the compaņeras on either side were efficient
and fast working and I wasn't. There were two compañeras selecting
with me, but they were slow. I knew that the boss was going to arrive
and say, "Well, María Eugenia, what about you? If you don't
want to work you can just go back to your house". This really gets
to you, when they start shouting at you in front of the other 12 selectors,
not to mention the other workers behind us and the desmanadores
(workers who cut bananas into smaller bunches)ahead
of us. You feel humiliated, and that day I got really angry. You're
only human and, yes, sometimes you get angry. So I said to the boss,
full of rage: 'Señor, do you know what? This isn't the way to
treat workers. You lot know nothing about human rights, you should know
about human rights, and the least they could do is give you a short
talk explaining them, so that you know how to treat the workers".
That's how I got a letter sacking me, using Article 81, which is the
severest there is here in Costa Rica. Can you imagine my surprise, they
told me that day that I was no longer working there and should go home.
I grabbed my bucket and my apron and went home. I was really hurt because
you feel bad when everyone sees you being sent home. I was shocked by
the fact that they'd sent me home like this.
next day I went calmly to work. When I arrived at work, they told me
there was a letter waiting for me in the office. I went there quite
happily, a letter, well, my redundancy letter, with my legal benefits.
I don't want to leave but at least I'll be leaving with all my money.
When I arrived at the office, they hit me with the letter that was sacking
me under Article 81, which meant that I was not entitled to anything.
Obviously they were accusing me of being disrespectful to the boss,
that I has been abusive to him and used foul language. You can imagine
the kind of language to which they were referring - Son of a... Words
that I never used, all I was doing was defending my rights. I got into
a big argument with the boss, Mr. Alvarez de Santi, who had put himself
forward as a politician. I hope that his conscience, if he has one,
won't permit him, along with other politicians in Costa Rica, to carry
on doing what he's doing to his workers on Calinda. I had a huge fight
with these people, but I won. I had to find out about human rights and
to speak to the solidarista organisations, because at that time that
was the only organisation there was. We were members of the solidarista
association then, not that the association meant anything; it was only
a name, a front. We were not responsible for looking after the funds.
It was just a smoke-screen. The money was managed by Mr de Santi along
with Mr Joaquín, the administrator of that plantation. I'm telling
you this because I worked there and lived through the experience.
was a lot of talk there about the solidarista associations. What a shame
that these people know all the right things to say, but it's no more
than a smoke-screen: if we wanted to give a worker a loan we couldn't
because we didn't control the money; and this was our money; money which
had been deducted from our wages. I had saved up 120,000 colones . On
one occasion, I needed some money as I was behind in my payments at
the company store and had some other household debts that I had to sort
out. But they told me that I couldn't ask for a loan, because the money
was in Banex . So, the solidarista association served no purpose. And
I couldn't get help from the trade union because to talk of the trade
union was considered disrespectful; the very word trade union was the
worst word that anybody could pronounce. I had heard that there were
some trade union activities on Calinda after I left, but since I came
here I don't know what happened. I'm really pleased that here there
are compañeros that are organising themselves. I hope they go
on strike, just as we've gone on strike on this plantation, Finca Jardín.