BROOKLYN – 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 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 would 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, author of the report during a presentation of the findings, according to Dominican publication acento.com.do.
The report lists 10 requirements sugar cane workers must meet in order to access retirement funds. Among them, being 60 years old or older and having a legal birth certificate.
Many Haitians workers can’t meet some of the requirements nor afford the $300.00 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 in Creole and Spanish pronunciations.
Many of these workers were brought from Haiti as part of binational agreements between the Dominican and Haiti governments, and toiled for decades under difficult labor conditions due to sickness because of fumigation or injuries because of the use of machetes, according to the report.