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Bolivia: Empowering Sugarcane Workers

A small but significant stride towards fair payment

Sugarcane workers in the Santa Cruz region have endured exploitation and the disregard of their rights for years. But with the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement, they gained not only a small pay rise, but also a sense of empowerment. Sugarcane cutters (Zafreros) are paid per amount of sugarcane they cut. “The negotiated pay raise from Bs 30 to Bs 31 for burned cane and from Bs 35 to Bs 36 for fresh cane might seem modest,” says trade union leader Hernán Anagua. It’s far from a living wage “but it’s a first significant stride towards fair compensation. It brings hope to the 7,000 workers our union represents and their entire community.”

Sugarcane truck workers Bolivia

Foundations of Success: Unity and Data-Driven Negotiations

This success didn't come easily. It was built upon a foundation of joint actions and data-driven negotiations. Supported by CNV Internationaal, the union conducted studies on the cost of living, which provided crucial evidence to bolster their demands at the negotiating table with the company. With backing from local authorities and governmental departments, the implementation of the agreement was ensured, further cementing its significance.

Looking Ahead: Building on Achievements for a Brighter Future

The journey for sugarcane workers is far from over. We aim to replicate the successes of 2023 and further utilise resources like the Fair Work Monitor and the Economic Studies of the Sugar Sector to achieve even better outcomes. Empowering workers remains our goal. They deserve dignity and respect and we intend to forge onwards, towards a brighter future for all those toiling in the sugarcane fields of Santa Cruz.

sugarcane worker

Publication date 28 05 2024