The El Muelle plantation, owned and operated by Dole in Costa Rica, is one of the most responsible employers in the area and possibly in the industry. Workers have access to on-site medical care, flexible hours (with limitations), and toilets. Workers are generally given the option to make more than minimum wage, and housing conditions reflect the adequacy of salaries. Even laid off workers have positive words for the Company that recently fired them. One woman credits the Company with providing her leadership skills that she employs in her daily life even after her dismissal.
Employee families, too, benefit from Company policies. Annual vision and dental exams are a key benefit for families of workers, and standards of living are high for the area. Children of employees are provided school supplies, and the company’s generous scholarship program has sent many a worker’s child through secondary school. Workers, provided transportation to work, can live near their extended families rather than move to the Project area, promoting the Right to Privacy and the Right to Housing.
The greatest weakness in Dole’s human rights regime is its approach towards the communities nearest to the project. The Company has struggled to see that rightsholders relevant to its operations are not just employees but also the people external to the project, who are impacted by operations both directly and indirectly. This perspective has resulted in declining human rights protections for residents, particularly in the town of San Jorge, and may, if unchanged, result in human rights campaigns and lawsuits against the company.
Residents of San Jorge town have seen declining protections for their Rights to Education, Health, Adequate Standards of Living (and Housing), a Clean Environment, Adequate Supply of Water and Privacy. There is a global pattern of businesses ignoring community complaints and later being slapped with lawsuits. Whatever the cost of addressing grievances, it is less than that of fighting a court case. More importantly to this assessment, it is the appropriate way to ensure the company is not associated with human rights violations.
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