Dominican Republic: laid-off Haitian workers win

After months of struggle, 112 Haitian workers laid off last year by a coconut processing plant in the southern Dominican province of San Cristóbal learned on April 1 that they had won their suit for severance pay and back wages. In a March 18 decision that wasn’t made public for two weeks, San Cristóbal Civil Appeals Court president Juan Procopio Pérez ordered the company, Coquera Real, and its owner, Rafael Emilio Alonso Luna (“Billo”), to pay 10 million pesos ($243,015) in back wages and 30 million pesos ($729,042) in fines for “non-payment of benefits over a period of 10 years.” The court ordered the immediate seizure of Coquera Real’s property to guarantee payment, as the company has declared bankruptcy.

Although the workers were reportedly undocumented immigrants, they insisted on their labor rights when the company closed down last year. In addition to filing the lawsuit, the workers and their families held a sit-in in front of the Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo from Dec. 14 to Jan. 19. Although they finally agreed to leave the Labor Ministry, the Haitians remained in the Dominican Republic, camping out in a San Cristóbal parking lot owned by a relative of one of their lawyers. After the court decision was announced, Francisco (or Elmo) Ojilus, the workers’ spokesperson, said they would remain in the Dominican Republic to wait for their payment before returning to Haiti. (, Dominican Republic, April 2;, Dominican Republic, April 4; Haiti Press Network, Haiti, April 4; Dominican Today, Dominican Republic, April 2)

Correction: Following our sources, in previous Updates we referred to two companies, Coquera Real and Coquera Kilómetro 5. More recent sources refer to one company, Coquera Real, located at kilometer 5 on the Sánchez highway.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 7.