SEATECH processes tuna for European consumers. Meanwhile, it
cans and chills the dreams of its women workers. The
company’s ads are full of how much it cares for dolphins,
but they say nothing of the human carnage at the SEATECH
plant in the city of Cartagena.
-You used to work at SEATECH?
-Yes. Up until two years ago, when I was diagnosed with
three occupational injuries or illnesses, which forced me to
-What were you diagnosed with?
-De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and
cervicobrachialgia (or cervical root pain).
-What tasks did you perform at the plant?
-I was hired as an operator, and my work involved cleaning
tuna. We had to meet a certain quota of production, so we
were under enormous pressure.
The tasks required constant repetitive movements. Our
workdays stretched for more than 16 hours with only one
ten-minute break in the morning and a half-hour break to eat
in the afternoon. Terrible!
When the pain got so bad, just thinking I had to
go to work everyday was excruciating. In the
morning the pain was unbearable, but I had to
gather all my strength to go to work, because I
knew that if I didn’t show up they’d fire me.
-What was your daily routine like back then?
-I got up at 4:30 a.m. to leave everything ready for my
kids. Some days we worked until midnight, and we knew that
the next day we would still have to be up before 5 a.m.
When I left home for work, my kids were still sleeping, and
when I got back, they were usually already in bed too.
-Did you work Monday through Friday?
-Yes, but sometimes we even had to work Saturdays. That gave
us only one day to recover and rest; but I had to spend
Sundays doing all the housework I couldn’t do during the
-And all that began to take its toll on your health…
-Yes. I started with pain in my wrists. I had spells of
swelling, pain, and even numbness. Then the symptoms
worsened until they got so bad I couldn’t go on with my
-And when did you start treatment?
-It took me a long time to go see a doctor because I was
afraid I would lose my job. I have three kids and I’m the
head of the household, so I couldn’t afford to be out of
One of my girls is deaf, mute and blind in one eye. She
needs special care and I was the sole breadwinner in our
house. I tried to work as long as I could stand it, until I
just couldn’t bear the pain any longer.
I went to a clinic almost every day, where they gave me
painkillers. But it got to the point that the pain was too
much for me to withstand.
There are many women who worked with me who are
sick and are afraid to talk. I made the decision
because I couldn’t take it any longer. I was
very depressed. There were days in which I was
in so much pain and felt so sad that anything
would set me off crying.
-When did you realize you couldn’t continue working?
-When the pain got worse and just thinking I had to go to
work every day was excruciating. In the morning the pain was
unbearable, but I had to gather all my strength to go to
work because if I didn’t show up, I knew they’d fire me.
There are many women who worked with me who are sick and are
afraid to speak up. I made the decision because I couldn’t
take it any longer. I was very depressed. There were days in
which I was in so much pain and felt so sad that anything
would set me off crying.
-Why do you think the company acts the way it does? why does
it treat its workers so badly?
-They have their production quotas and all they care about
is meeting those targets. They’re fixated on those quotas
and they make us work like slaves, and if we get sick they
just fire us and replace us. We’re only worth anything as
workers as long as we produce. If your production drops, it
doesn’t matter why it drops, you’re out.
-How are you doing now?
-The pain is so bad I can’t sleep. I can take certain
medicine to calm it, but it’s a chronic pain and it won’t go
away. It’s a degenerative disease.
Now I’ve also started to feel pain in my knees from the
endless hours of working on my feet.
The doctors tell us that we have to get used to the pain.
It’s a terrifying prospect, but unfortunately it’s true.