Vicini Company Issues ‘Pink Slips’ in Lieu of Written Work Contracts According to Report by Human Rights Advocate Fr. Christopher Hartley: ‘New Forms of Human Rights Abuses on Vicini Company Sugar Cane Plantations’

September 2, 2009

MADRID, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ — The atmosphere of racism surrounding Haitian sugar cane cutters in the Dominican Republic and the ongoing affronts of child labor, human trafficking, statelessness, and extreme poverty are nothing new to Catholic priest and human rights champion Fr. Christopher Hartley, who spent ten years ministering to inhabitants of Vicini Company bateyes (slum-like settlements). This toxic situation, he maintains, has been aggravated by recent “inventive” human rights abuses occurring on Vicini plantations during the current (2008-2009) harvest season.

Paramount among them is the Vicini Company’s refusal to issue written contracts guaranteed under Dominican law. A history-making court decision, he explains, could reverse this by November 2009.

In retaliation for employee participation in a class action lawsuit calling for the issuance of written work contracts, the Vicini Company — claims Fr. Hartley — is instead issuing “pink slips,” and has appealed the November 7, 2008 Labor Court ruling in the workers’ favor. As part of the appeal process, testimony from the first wave of laborers began on June 9, 2009..

“How extraordinary to witness the dignity of these poor people!” declared Fr. Hartley. “Who could have told them that one day, at the end of their lives, they would stand in a court of justice to demand their rights face-to-face with the all-powerful Vicini family?”

Clemente Francois, 70, testified: “An ox kicked me a few years ago and left me an invalid. But I continue cutting sugar cane,” he added quietly. “How can you do that in your condition?” asked a magistrate. “On my knees, Your Honor,” he responded. The judges were visibly moved. [El Mundo, "On Trial: Slaves with Rights?"; Martin Lucha, 6/14/09]

Guillermo Jean, who earns approximately $11.00 per week, stated: “Things are terrible now. Parents can’t even buy a school notebook for their children or give them decent food to eat.” [El Caribe, EFE, "500 Haitians Demand Work Contracts," 6/9/09]

On September 15th the Vicini Company is scheduled to plead its case. However, if the scales of justice tip in favor of men like Francois and Jean, this case will set an unparalleled moral and legal precedent in the Dominican Republic.

To download a complete copy of the report “New Forms of Human Rights Abuses on Vicini Company Sugar Cane Plantations, Current Harvest (2008-2009) Dominican Republic,” Father Christopher Hartley, August 31, 2009, go to http://www.ereleases.com/pr/2009-Hartley.pdf.

    Press Contact:

    Fr. Christopher Hartley
    Fundacion Mision de la Misericordia
    Phone: 1 (917) 887-6908
    e-mail: Press.MisionMisericordia@gmail.com

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SOURCE Fundacion Mision de la Misericordia

Source: newswire

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