Ingenio San Antonio, February 19, 2015
On behalf of the workers at Ingenio San Antonio, our affiliates and myself, receive warm greetings. Our Trade Union, Revolutionary Workers Trade Union “Ronald Altamirano”, affiliated to Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (C.S.T.), was founded in 1979, with the same vigor, energy and class principles that have always characterized us to defend the rights and social achievements of workers in order to improve their life and the lives of their families, which is reflected in collective agreements and extra-agreements that we have been signing for decades and of which the Ministry of Labor has been guarantor, indistinctly of the Governments in turn, we can affirm with knowledge of facts and accurateness that our collective agreement is the best at a national level and let alone at an industry level, our workers and their families have access to a hospital, a unique modality in Latin America, scholarships, school supplies, school, transportation for our children, Christmas toys, provisions, uniforms, life insurance, etc., if this is not the case, show us one that comes close to ours. Dear Sirs, with that same determination we have had over thirty-five years of struggle, today we stand strongly against the publication you made where you pointed out that part of the workers at Ingenio San Antonio, specifically our cane cutters, work extreme hours and in inadequate health conditions.
During 35 years of Union existence and leadership, we have seen that Ingenio San Antonio is a company based on the respect of labor and environmental rights and support for the community. This is why we give faith that in this company, the production processes in the fields and in manufacturing are made under strict standards of safety and environmental health, occupational health and other laws that regulate this type of industries, and this is ratified in our collective agreement and organizational technical regulation of safety and occupational hygiene, as well as under our Union experience; since we have participated in different forums, we give faith that these productive practices are similar to those of the best sugar mills that exist in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Colombia, etc.
We categorically guarantee that our “paileros”, or cane cutters, work on average 6 hours per day with breaks during the day, and have a day of rest per week with their full salary; they are provided work uniforms, boots, Jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and their work tools as well as their protective equipment, and in the workplaces they are guaranteed with: drinking water, awnings for shade, latrines for their physiological needs, hydrating beverages “bolis”, and lunch recommended by a nutritionist; there is also a mobile clinic that remains at the cutting places in order to provide medical attention to the cutters when needed. This mobile clinic has a qualified staff, among them a doctor and a nurse. In addition to this, our cane cutters and families enjoy, since their first day of work, the right to be treated at Ingenio San Antonio‘s Hospital, which, we reiterate, you cannot find an experience like ours in Latin America and beyond, that workers can enjoy good specialists and our own high-quality hospital; this is enshrined in the collective agreement as a right we have acquired.
Health is a common social responsibility of the members of the society and the labor collective, considering that health means that individuals and social or work groups share alike the responsibility for their own biological, psychological, social, economic and environmental welfare, therefore we act with great responsibility in order to monitor strict compliance of labor laws and we have promoted that Ingenio San Antonio maintains constant surveillance in not allowing the work of minors and of people who do not comply with the requirements that the law demands.
The authorities of the Ministry of labour (MITRAB), the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security (INSS), the Ministry of Health (MINSA), the Ministry of the Environment (MARENA), etc., can attest the foregoing, through countless inspections carried out and where we have participated, and that not only we have been audited to supervise compliance of the different mandatory regulations in occupational health and labor, but also that we have been awarded with recognition plates as leaders in respect and strict compliance with the standards that safeguard the rights of workers under our labor code, and this has occurred regardless of the different Governments in turn in our country.
We are an active part, we are subjects and not objects of the Joint Committee of Health and Safety of the Company, we audit each of the processes in the Sugar Industry, we are part of the pride of this company as pioneers in Central America in good labor practices and for bringing health to the fields where our workers are. Furthermore, we are certified by OSHA 2007-2009, ISO 9001, HACCP 2009 – version 2008, ISO 22,000 and KOSHER, etc. As we commonly say in good Nicaraguan “Que no nos vengan a contar el cuento”. (Don’t tell me stories).
It is not surprising that La Isla Foundation has been manipulating studies (survey) at a national and international level as an attack campaign in a defamatory manner filled with falsehoods since they lack technical and scientific foundations; we already know their pretensions, by mid 2013 a document of a University of Nicaragua came to our hands. We know perfectly well that La Isla Foundation and its leader JASON GLASSER manipulated this document so the community of Chichigalpa and our workers would believe that the responsibility for this health problem is exclusive of this company, therefore we are sure of how la Isla Foundation and its leaders are trying to manipulate the feelings of our workers.
We want to make it clear that we have always been deeply concerned about the CKD issue since it is a problem of substance and not of form, and that it has affected many of our former colleagues and relatives at Ingenio San Antonio and other people from different parts of our country, the Central America Pacific region and Panama, which to date is considered a public health problem of national and international nature.
Very respectfully and responsibly we express and urge you to use research techniques that tell you to seek first the problem and then the source, therefore we say to you that we are open to any kind of interview and even more, we extend you an invitation to come to our land so you can see the work we do, the actual labor conditions of our represented workers and the investigative studies that have been conducted throughout these years. Never forget the fundamental factor in any trial, the principle of equality of the parties.
Ronaldo Vallejos Bautista
Sindicato Revolucionario de Trabajadores Ronald Altamirano
Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (CST)