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Better living through…peonage?

5 February 2011

While I’ve suggested that corporate agriculture is destroying independent agriculture, I didn’t think the term “slave” was one to be used more than metaphorically.  Boy was I wrong.  I don’t make a habit of reading in Spanish newspapers articles on Argentine administrative court rulings, but happened to catch  an article in El País recently about DuPont Argentina, losing its “aduana domiciliaria”  — a tax advantage given to foreign companies for employing a certain number of Argentines —   because DuPont was including contract employees of their seed and fertilizer subsidiary, Pioneer, in the number of employees.

Which might have been ok, but…

Tax court officials noted  that rural workers were paid 97 pesos a day (about 20 euros), but  were only paid at the end of the season, after deductions for damage to plants.  None of the workers knew how damage to plants was measured, and ultimately, how much they would be charged. In addition, the workers were not allowed to leave the premises until they finished the job  in a field 40 kilometers from public transportation.  Additionally, the drinking water was defective.

Pioneer in its defense, said it was limited to hiring contract workers, and the peons were duly registered as such.

I was for a time a contract worker for Dupont (updating safety procedure processes in an Texas explosives plant) and —  I gotta admit I was treated decently, and it was a laid back place (considering it could blow up) — but I can see how contract employees might think they’re peons.  Especially when they ARE peons.

And you’d think a big company like Dupont would know this… whether you’re in Argentina or Texas… it’s not labor or human rights violations that will get the government on your back… it’s trying to screw with the tax man.

 

 

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