Bogotá, Colombia- Carlos is a twenty-year-old young man, who worked in the African oil palm plantations as a harvester. After working there for two years, he had an accident and the company refused to recognize it as an occupational injury. Shortly afterward, he was fired for poor performance at work. Since then, his dream of joining the army was truncated because he was injured for life.
There are many other similar cases like Carlos’. All of these demonstrate the vulnerable situation of oil palm workers, who after an accident at work, must fight for job relocation, or compensation for the occupational accident. The injuries vary case by case, ranging from lumbar injuries, to carpal tunnel syndrome, to vision loss. All of these diminish and degrade their quality and standard of living.
In some cases the accident is recognized; however the medical diagnosis does not reach the percentage required for compensation or disability pay (medical declaration that the worker has lost 50% of his/her working capacity and over).
It is important to note that –in most cases- these workers, before their accident, were dedicated to their jobs. Currently, however, even when they try to do their best, they are discriminated against because of their condition and are pressured by managers to work as an employee would in normal conditions. There is no consideration for their physical state, worsening their situation.
Given that they are paid a production quota, this also results in low levels of motivation, since they no longer have the physical conditions to work efficiently and consequently can not bring home the earnings necessary to fend off impoverishment.
Therefore, the general expectation for these workers lies in acquiring a dignified level of quality of living, through due recognition of their occupational accident or illness.