Migrant Workers and Subcontracting

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Internal and international migrants are most commonly subject to subcontracting schemes and precarious jobs. Migrants, like women, face extreme exploitation as they search for any work in unfamiliar terrain. Agricultural sectors tend to rely heavily on subcontractors who recruit migrants across borders. Migrants are often picked up by recruiters and have little knowledge of who they are working for as they employed indirectly. Because many are undocumented, they are less likely to assert their rights for fear of being deported. Companies deny responsibility for labor rights violations endured by subcontracted workers, many of whom are migrants. Migrant farmworkers or guest workers in the U.S. do not even have the same rights to unionize and are exempt from normal wage and hour laws.

Case Study: Nicaraguans in the Costa Rican Pineapple Sector

The majority of workers producing the fresh pineapple found in U.S. supermarkets under Dole, Del Monte or Chiquita brands are Nicaraguan migrants working on Costa Rican pineapple plantations. Companies will pay subcontractors to rent out and hire workers on pieces of unregulated land that is not under the parent companies’ jurisdiction but is instead under the subcontractors’ name. Thus, workers have no direct connection to the company, and the company has no legal responsibility to them, though the subcontractors take orders from foremen who are directly hired by the company. One worker disclosed that in the year 2000, a subcontractor was paid the equivalent of $7.22 a hectare by the company to apply pesticides to the crops. The subcontractor than paid the worker $1.71 a hectare to perform the work, thus keeping 75% of the income.

The following is an excerpt from a letter from Nicaraguan migrant worker,

“The company [Pina Frut owned by one Costa Rica’s largest land owners, Grupo Acon], denies workers their job security, the right to belong to a trade union organization, decent treatment, a living wage and reasonable working hours..Others still work here in Piña Frut but for contractors who do not always pay them the legal minimum wage and have to work very long hours…We believe that it is time to inform the Nicaraguan government about Nicaraguan migrants who come to Costa Rica and are exploited and ripped off by unscrupulous businessmen who make legal deductions for healthcare cover from workers' wage packets and then pocket these themselves; by businessmen who use contractors to avoid paying holidays, the thirteenth month, healthcare contributions etc. To be clear Piña Frut does pay its healthcare contributions, holidays etc, but it also pays contractors to avoid these responsibilities.”