Haitian Sugar Cane Workers Denied Pensions in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic’s sugar cane industry has long relied on Haitian workers, brought in by binational agreements with Haiti. Now many of those workers cannot access retirement funds, according to a new report. Photo: Pixabay/Bishnu Sarangi

Haitian sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic are struggling to access their retirement funds after decades of work, according to a new report published last week.

The workers had contributed to their retirement funds in the Dominican Republic through a system linked to an identification card called a ficha, according to the report by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a nonprofit foundation funded by the German government.

Haitian migrant workers without legal status in the Dominican Republic were assigned a ficha by the Sugar State Council, the government agency overseeing the sugar cane industry. Each ficha is supposed to register a worker’s contribution to their retirement fund.

“Now they’re told that the fichas are not valid to access their rights,” said Micely Diaz Espaillat, the report’s author, during a presentation of the findings, according to the Dominican website, acento.com.do.

The report lists 10 requirements sugar cane workers must meet in order to access retirement funds. Among them, being at least 60 years old and having a legal birth certificate.

Many Haitians workers can’t meet some of the requirements nor afford the $300 the report estimates it would take to request these from the Dominican government.

Also, many workers can’t access their pensions because their names are misspelled in documents due to differences between Kreyòl and Spanish pronunciations.

Many of these workers were brought from Haiti as part of binational agreements between the Dominican and Haitian governments. They toiled for decades under difficult labor conditions, including to sickness due to fumigation or injuries incurred while using machetes, according to the report.

An earlier version of this article was published in the Haitian Times.

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