By: Federico Zelada
Agricultural and livestock work in Guatemala is one of the labor sectors that has received the least attention from state authorities and, on the contrary, according to INE statistics, represents 29.2% of employment in the country. The Labor Code establishes some provisions that seek to generate some degree of protection in favor of this type of workers, but without the necessary state supervision they do not achieve their purpose, this lack of intervention contrasts with the obligatory nature that the Labor Code itself establishes regarding the need for specific regulation that this type of work deserves.
According to the labor legislation, all recruiting agents are required to have a power of attorney from the hiring employer in order to guarantee to the agricultural or livestock workers the fulfillment of the offer made at the time of hiring. In this sense, the labor legislation also places these recruiting agents in the position of intermediaries of the labor relationship and eventually they are considered jointly and severally liable for the compliance of the conditions that govern the labor relationship.
One of the points that would merit a reform to the regime of this type of work, is the legal obligation of agricultural or livestock workers to present a settlement issued by the previous employer, in order to start a new work relationship, this rule is a legislative lag and preserves the validity of servitude in our legal system.
The salary of agricultural and livestock workers, according to the law, may be composed of a part paid in cash and another part, up to 30%, in the form of food and other similar items for the sustenance of the worker and his family. Additionally, in this type of work, workers have the right to be provided with housing by the employer, provided that the economic condition of the employer allows it.
The Labor Code regulates the case that other persons of the worker’s family render services in favor of the employer, establishing that such persons must also be considered workers. This protection is still important today, because it is very common even today, that in certain plantations, when there is some payment subject to productivity, the whole family helps the father of the family in the fulfillment of the objectives set and should be a subject of specific regulation to ensure that the rule, without neglecting the interests of the workers, is adapted to the reality of such plantations.
Agricultural work in Guatemala is one of the main sources of employment, which would merit a review of the legal regime for this type of work and the issuance of regulations that reflect the national reality and allow access to a series of minimum benefits for agricultural workers in order to achieve their integral development.