“After two and a half years as a fumigator, I began to feel my body reject the chemicals. I had a lot of pains throughout my body. They did not pay attention to the workers, or their well-being. As workers, we were exploited.”
How would you describe the working conditions for women?
I am the daughter of a small producer. As the daughter of a producer, the association expected me to work for them. This came at a time when the association joined Cepibo and was looking for workers to help Cepibo export their produce.
We spent 2 months getting trained. I started off as a fumigator. I was trained for two months without pay. I was marginalized and mistreated as a fumigator. We had heavy workloads and our lunch would not get to us till 3 in the afternoon. We didn’t have any transport. We had to get there with whatever means possible and come back around 9 or 10 at night the same way. During the rainy season, they wouldn’t provide us with rain boots. We went to work in sandals. With sandals, you slide on the mud. The mud had thorns or would cover up holes. They didn’t care. They only care about the boxes and boxes of produce and the money it represented to them. They did not pay attention to the workers, or their well-being. As workers, we were exploited.
After two years and a half as a fumigator, I began to feel my body reject the chemicals. I had a lot of pains throughout my body.
In the initial stages, the association would say that our conditions would get better as soon as they started to make greater profits. This was a lie. Once they started making more money, we were treated the same way. That pushed us to leave that association and Cepibo.
That is when I came to BOS. I told the president that I no longer wanted to work in fumigation. I explained to him that I was feeling ill. I urged him to move me to another area. I told him that I could work putting on the stickers. He insisted I stay in fumigation as a new worker and I told him that due to health reasons I could not do that. There was another female worker that could be put in my position, and she objected. I had to be the one to take it all. It was as if I was made out of iron.
In the end, they finally moved me so now I put on the stickers, but what if they move me again? It is highly plausible because I have the experience in fumigation.
Now I work for Association BOS the same is happening. A year ago they told us we had to put in an extra effort, as they were just starting up, but a year has gone by and the situation is the same. We work long days without extra pay. We do not get days off during the weekends or the holidays.
What is your vision of decent working conditions?
I would like for the associations to share their gains, like they say they will. We see them with their nice houses, their children all in good schools. They have begun to make the gains they expected and they refuse to share them with the workers.
I have two children. My daughter also works for the company. My son can’t work because he has a damaged foot. My husband is a seasonal worker. He makes money only when there is work for him, if there isn’t he won’t earn anything.
I would like for the associations to stop marginalizing us in such a manner. The money they make is a dollar that goes into their pockets, not into the association or the workers. I would like for the association leaders to be well trained and to be encouraged to treat us better. The producers do not know what a premium is, they don’t know many things, and therefore they over look many aspects of the work.
As a daughter of a producer, I would like for workers to be better trained and not fooled.
Photo: Barbora Mrazkova, Nazemi, Czech Republic