Profile of Working Conditions at a Guatemala Plantation
The following information is based on interviews conducted by USLEAP (then the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project) staff in Guatemala at the San Sebastian coffee plantation outside of Antigua in February 1997. More recent surveys and anecdotal reports indicate that there has been little improvement in working conditions for most coffee workers in the region.
Number of workers on the plantation:
Permanent: 100 families, about 550 people, most of whom have lived on the plantation all their lives.
Temporary: 500 workers and family members for the harvest season that begins in October and ends in March.
Legal minimum wage: $2.85 a day
Wage needed to meet essential needs: $8 a day, $240 a month for a family of five in rural areas.
Permanent workers: $2.33 a day plus periodic overtime; monthly wage of $70 to $100
Temporary workers: The plantation pays $2.50 for each 100 pounds of coffee berries picked. A family can pick between 50 lbs and 300 lbs a day, depending on how many family members are working and whether the picking is done in the middle of the harvest when berries are plentiful or at the beginning or end when they’re not.
Workers older than 12 are also given, per day worked:
* 2 ounces of beans, and
* 4 ounces of corn.
Working Family, Example #1:
Man and 9-year old son picked 80 pounds on Feb. 14, 1997, earning $2 plus 4 oz. beans and 8 oz. corn.
Working Family, Example #2:
Family picks 50 pounds on Feb. 20, earning $1.25, plus beans and corn.
Working Family, Example #3:
Eight-member family works all day; bean and corn are provided only for the four members of the family older than 12 years old.
Temporary workers start work between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and work until 4:30 p.m.; permanent workers work eight to nine hours, with a lunch break of an hour or 90 minutes.
Temporary workers live in everything from large, open-aired one-room long-house-type structures holding up to 70 people to lean-tos of plastic and wooden sticks. Permanent workers live primarily in small, dirt-floored homes of wood or cinder blocks for which they pay rent, although no worker interviewed knew how much rent was being deducted from his/her pay.
None is provided or available for children of temporary workers; a primary school through 4th or 5th grade is available on the plantation.
An inadequate number of latrines are provided for temporary workers, so some workers must use the shoulder of the road near the living area as a toilet. Fly-infested human feces observed 20 feet from cooking area.
No protective equipment provided to workers; waiting period that is required before workers reenter an area that has been sprayed is sometimes ignored. One supervisor said that safety precautions were usually ignored, e.g. spraying near drinking water or near houses.
Health insurance provided, in accordance with the law.