Viera Sanchez Santos Jeuoia, CEPIBO (Fairtrade)

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“Workers are persecuted to such an extent that they are afraid to voice their complaints. My female friends as a consequence are quiet and very shy, they don’t say anything. They are constantly afraid of being fired for their actions. I, however, do speak out, and I speak out for my colleagues and myself.”

How would you describe the working conditions for women?
I would say that as women workers we are marginalized. They don’t give us the proper materials. I fumigate and I don’t have boots. If we complain or say something we are marginalized, we would be fired, or moved from work crew to work crew until the lunch that is provided for us doesn’t reach us any more.

How would you describe your experience as a union member and a worker?
I am a union member and people are persecuted for being part of a union. Workers are persecuted to such an extent that they are afraid to voice their complaints. My female friends, as a consequence, are quiet and very shy, they don’t say anything. They are constantly afraid of being fired for their actions. I, however, do speak out, and I speak out for my colleagues and myself. This is why I am the only one of the women who gets moved from work crew to work crew. Both men and women are members. As a matter of fact, a male friend from my work crew was fired for complaining to the company. Even as a union member, they fired him.
 
The unions are important because they defend your rights and those of all the workers. One gets a voice and a vote to make claims. They also help to educate workers on their rights and the law. Many cases, our employers try to jeopardize our situation and we get advice from the union to know how to react to such abuse.
 
How would you imagine ‘decent work’ in your work place?
I would like for all supervisors to be fully trained and educated before giving them such responsibility. I believe that a better trained person would know how to deal and address the workers.
 
In contrast, some of the people who I have met are not trained and they use offensive language when speaking to us. For no reason what so ever they verbally abuse us, the workers. I also believe that people who are well trained will listen to us and will know how to value us. Currently, the supervisors humiliate us and do not value us. They say things like “ This one is no good. I will fire him”. There are so many people that depend solely on that job and have no option but to take the abuse.
 
The vast majority of my co-workers are afraid to speak out. I am not. For a while they kept on telling me that they wanted to fire me, over and over again. Until one day when I took up a position within the union, they stopped threatening me. This was quite recent.
 
They don’t treat us like people. When you come into work, they won’t bother to greet you. They just try to make you look bad for any little reason.
But even though the daily life of a women worker is quite difficult, it is all part of trying to improve our standard of living. It is all done for the sake of our children, for their education.

Photo: Barbora Mrazkova, Nazemi, Czech Republic