Complaining underpaid child employees fired

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Ten employees of Comercializadora Agrícola Mr. Agro, S.A., a company in Antón that grows melons for export, have been fired because they wouldn’t stop complaining and making noise. One of the fired employees told MiDiario that she had to work on the plantations from 13:00 to 4:00 AM. And they were only paying her $1.04 an hour, which is about 33% below the legal minimum wage.

The company also employed children to pick melons.

A representative of the company, Laila Espinosa, said that they had to fire the employees because they behaved badly, complaining and making threats.

Of course, in order to stay competitive in today’s environment of free trade and globalization, companies like these have no choice than to exploit their underaged work force and fire them when they complain.

But that’s not what the people of the Ministerio de Trabajo y Desarrollo Laboral think. They have started an investigation based on the complaints, which they found to be true. So that will most likely result in stiff fines for the melon farmers.

The company was, according to the public registry, formed in 1996 and its directors are Manuel Fernandez, Margoth de Sapler, Lisbeth Abrego de Salas and Ariany Lyly Mon Camargo.

Okke Ornstein is an award winning journalist, TV/Radio producer and photographer from the Netherlands and currently based in Panama. Specialized in high-impact investigative journalism, his work has led to arrests, questions in parliament and the downfall of many frauds and swindles.

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