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Agreement Signed at Legumex/Guatemala!

March, 17 2007 Share

Unprecedented in all of Guatemala says CEADEL human rights organization

According to CEADEL, the agreement signed between Legumex management, CEADEL and the workers is "unprecedented--the first of its kind in all of Guatemala.

  • Child Labor Ended
  • Children will receive stipends to return to school
  • Factory will comply with Guatemalan Labor Law--workers will receive proper wages and health care
  • Legumex may emerge as a better-than-average factory, well on its way to establishing a new model for Guatemala's agro export sector

The lives of the young workers at the Legumex factory in Guatemala are about to change for the better. On Sunday, March 18, the highly respected independent Guatemalan human rights organization, CEADEL, had its first face-to-face meeting with Legumex management which resulted in an agreement that will bring many significant and positive changes to the Legumex factory.

The details of the agreement are still being worked out, and will be signed later this week, but the main points are:

  • Twenty-four 13-year-old children who worked at the Legumex plant will receive a stipend to return to school. The stipend, or severance package, is being worked out now. The child workers will have the option of returning to the factory when they are of legal age.
  • Every worker will be inscribed in the social security system guaranteeing access to free health care. In addition, the factory will open a clinic with a woman doctor available at least two days a week for consultations with the workers.
  • Piece rates will be increased and everyone will earn at least the legal minimum wage.
  • More workers will be hired to cut back on overtime hours.
  • Health and safety improvements will be made, including issuing waterproof boots and jackets to the workers.
  • A school teacher will be hired to coordinate an after-work continuing education program for workers wishing to continue their studies.
  • Though minors 14 years of age can legally work in Guatemala, Legumex will adopt the United Nations Convention establishing the legal working age at 15. The 14 year olds currently at the factory will work no more than seven hours a day.
  • No one under 18 years of age can work at night or on Sundays.
  • CEADEL representatives will have unprecedented access to the Legumex plant—including unannounced surprise visits—to review factory conditions and speak with the workers. On the basis of these audits, CEADEL will be able to make ongoing recommendations to factory management. On their part, management says they are wiling and open to continually improving conditions so that Legumex emerges as a model factory.
  • Gabriel Zelada, director of CEADEL—The Center for Study and Support for Local Development—described the negotiations and tentative agreement as "a complete success because the workers, their organization and the company will win."
  • Superior Foods in Watsonville, California has played a very positive role by working quickly and seriously with factory management to encourage and help bring about these changes. Equally important, they and their customers have resisted the easier option of discontinuing business with Legumex. They have instead committed to continue to purchase products so that their financial support of the enterprises will give the workers and the growers a real chance at a better and sustainable future. Inn Foods, also of California and a minor importer from Legumex, has played a positive role as well.

[NOTE on the educational stipend: CEADEL, which is accredited by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education as an official educational institution, estimates that the minimum yearly stipend necessary to return the child workers to school would total $983.14 per student. To survive, the former child workers would need a subsistence stipend equal to at least one week's pay per month, or $49.22, and $590.64 for the year. In addition, direct educational costs--including infrastructure, books and a teacher--would amount to $392.50 per year per student, for a total of $983.14. For all 24 thirteen-year-old workers, the total minimum cost would be $23,595.36 for the year. Hopefully, the educational stipend can be negotiated upwards of this bare bones minimum.]

 

 

UPDATE 3/23/2007

Sysco, the largest food service company in the United States, has also indicated that they would strongly consider placing orders at the Legumex plant once the agreed upon reforms are implemented, bringing the plant into full compliance with Guatemalan law. Superior Foods has clarified that, prior to this point, Sysco has not purchased products from the Legumex factory.

 

AGREEMENT signed by Legumex management and CEADEL