The Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge has always had a policy of hiring local help whenever possible. At this time there are 34 employees of which 33 are Costa Rican, 16 are from the district of Savegre where the reserve is located, 10 are from the district of Bahía-Ballena just across the river, and 6 are from Pérez Zeledón where San Isidro is located and 2 are from other places in Costa Rica. Whenever there is a vacancy it is filled with a local person if possible.
The hacienda has always strictly observed the Costa Rican Labor Code and Regulation. Relations with the local branch of the Ministry of Labor that regulates this area have been good for many years and problems have been few and minor.
Most of the employees of Hacienda Barú belong to an organization called a Solidarity Association. This is a type of labor organization which originated in Costa Rica and has begun to spread to other countries. It offers an alternative to labor unions, one where everybody wins. With the solidarity association the employer pays from 3% to 5% of the employees pay into the association each month. The percentage is mutually agreed upon. At Hacienda Barú it is 3%. Then the employees match that with another 5%. The employees elect a board of directors which manages the funds. The percentage that the company puts into the association is considered an advance on the employee’s severance pay which, by law will have to be paid when the employee leaves the company. When there are labor problems the management and employees talk directly and come to a mutually agreeable solution.
The big advantage of this system is that it puts capital in the hands of laborers who would never have the opportunity to manage large sums of money. In this manner they learn to look at many things from the point of view of management. Also, it tends to make the employees realize that the prosperity of the company is tied very closely to their own well being.
The name of the organization at Hacienda Barú is Asociación Solidarista de Finca Barú y Afines (ASEFIBA). It was founded in 1987. At this time they have over $28,000 capital working for them. Members of ASEFIBA have built homes with loans that they have acquired from the association. One worker was able to have a cataract operation that he would have had to wait a year for in the social medicine system. The workers are proud of ASEFIBA and work hard to make it generate more dividends for the members. Last year dividends of 12.5% of the capital were paid to the members.