Contract workers in Ecuador – for Expats!!!!

Hiring workers in Ecuador is not quite the same as in the United States. Since I have neither worked nor hired employees in Canada, I will not attempt to make a contrast of situations. I will start by saying that ignorance is not always bliss. But, alas, I truly was ignorant – but I learned a lot!

The developer and his wife kindly handed over the Las Palmas finances to me in April 2012. I thought this was no different than in the states – there is HOA and the lot owners or home owner pay into the fund. In my experience, the fund is set at a determined rate by amount of labor and expenses – sometimes set at a forecasted rate. My experience was a bit more complex than this method. I took the finances without discussions with the developer, because they were in a haste to leave the country for vacation or some random other reason.

We worked diligently to gather the funds from the lot owners. 2012 proved fairly simple as most had already paid. 2013 proved a bit more difficult, because now word of the HOA not being a registered, legally acknowledged HOA had spread through the community. There were maybe 3 people who did not pay for 2013 (out of 37 lots). As 2013 came to an end, it became apparent that the ‘HOA’ would not have enough money to pay the three employees, so I requested an additional payment for 2013. I also indicated that the fees for 2014 would need to be increased in order to afford the workers.  This was met with resistance as expected.

While all this is occurring, the HOA is trying to work with the developer to finish or fix things like electricity lamps not installed, electricity to street lights not hooked up or left unwired, some type of finish on our streets as they are simply dirt (mud when it rains), completion of our perimeter fence (aka ‘secured community’) and a plethora of other issues. Some I care about – others I could care less. But, be that as it may, the HOA fees were not going to cover wages for the workers and repairs of any sort.

In 2014, word of the developer starting new developments and possibly leaving ours to sit in an incomplete fashion began to surface. More lot owners decided to put their lots up for sale and not pay their dues. The promise, of course, is to pay the dues upon the sale of the land. But, the land is not selling, because Las Palmas is the black eye in Puerto Cayo for many expatriates looking to purchase land. I love the fact that no one wants to build or buy right now – we have a lot of beach and land around us that no one uses or intends to use. For us, it is a benefit….

In July 2014, I was asked to get a Registro Unico de Contribuyentes (RUC) for the workers by the Labor Relations Board. Along with their interpreter and at the advice of a Las Palmas lawyer, I was told that since I physically handed the guys their cash, in the eyes of the law, I am physically responsible and considered their employer. In order to provide myself some protection and to pay their necessary SS, I got the RUC. The RUC process is simple enough and the actual fractoras only cost $10. And so began the beginning of the oddest employer/labor relations board relationship I have even witnessed.

The labor board initiated contracts; the workers wouldn’t sign. So, without the contracts, I am again at risk. So, I determine that since we have no money, and we have no contracts, it is time to let the workers go and start fresh. I do not believe I made the decision in a vacuum, but have since been accused of making the decision by myself. Be that  as it may, I had no clue I had that type of influence on the folks here in the community.

So, the termination process started. It has been several trips to the labor relations board with lawyers and translators. Since, this is a new area for me, I want to make sure I understand everything that is being requested, communicated, and agreed upon. I will not bore you with the details, but it cost me about $50 to get these guys on contract, which they wouldn’t sign, and will cost over $9,000 to get them off contract, which was left unsigned.

My advice to you as an expat moving here –  do not let your builder/developer talk you into taking over the finances, especially if it is Gary Scarborough, without first ensuring you live in an urbanization, you get the contracts for the workers and go with your developer to the labor board to make sure the contracts remain the same, get the inside knowledge on how much is the social security, etc. Do everything you can and ask others who have gone before you.

I made a bitter mistake of not asking or of not knowing what to ask, but believe me when I say, I am now keenly aware and if you ever have a question – ASK.

Little red fire truck but no license…

   How excited I was when I woke up. Today was the big day. We were going to Jipijapa to get my Ecuadorian driver’s license. I have studied the test and knew all the answers. We drove to meet our translator and had all the necessary paperwork (this mean you simply drag your mini-filing cabinet along) and copies of everything they could possibly ask for that might be related to driver’s license. We arrived at the station and waited for our turn. When we approached the window, the lady explained that the tránsito station in Jipijapa was in the midst of getting a new boss, so they were not testing until the new boss and his employees arrived. She pointed to the archives room and stated, as if we should have figured this out, that there was no one in there to administer the test and yes, the door to the testing room is locked. But  never fear, because there is always another piece of paper that one can acquire. As it turns out, I would not have been allowed to test because I had not taken the eye exam – mind you, I walked in with a U.S. driver’s license in hand. At this location, we acquired one piece of paper that provided a list of all the papers we needed to bring on test day.

So we went across town (for those of you familiar – across the street from the electric company) to a driving school beside the Red Cross building. I thought this rather appropriate. We went upstairs and I had to pay $16.00 to get this ‘certificate’. Then I went to the back room to take the test, which resulted in the certificate that I had already paid for – in the event I failed my eye test, it was non-refundable. Testing over, we have to pay another $1.00 for a copy of the certificate. At this location, we acquired three new pieces of paper: (1) certificate, (2) copy of certificate, and (3) proof of payment, which we promptly made a copy of for our future records. 

We were instructed to go to the Banco de Pacifico to pay a $38.00 fee for the license test (again non-refundable). We get to the bank at about 1545 and were told that they do not accept license payments past 1530. So, we regrouped and decided that today was pretty much a useless day in Jipijapa, but we did see the coolest little red fire truck (see photo).

 

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Salinas Trip

I rarely drive in Ecuador. Not that I don’t know how to drive – I have been driving since I was very young. But generally speaking, I will open and close the gate and Mark will drive. But recently, I have been doing more of the driving. I am in the process of getting my driver’s license, so I want to make sure I am comfortable. Also, when I drive, I pay close attention to the road signs and how the flow of the traffic works or doesn’t work in some cases.

My friend from the United States came to visit me in October. We only had a week together since I had to leave on work related travel. So, we packed in as much as we could possibly do in that one week. We first took a trip to Salinas. I took her around to places she and I were before on her previous visit.  We visited with some friends, had supper at Sin’s for Canadian Thanksgiving, and returned home the next day. On the way home, we got off the main road and visited Puente Blanca. The homes and the view from this location was spectacular.

 

We continued up the Ruta del Sol to Ayangue Beach. I love this place for the quietness, small breezes, nice people, and always good food.

 

I took her to the Palo Santo Artesian shop in Puerto Lopez, and then we continued home to Puerto Cayo. It was a great day to travel. As you can see from the pictures, the sun was shining and the weather was just perfect.

Exciting News for Las Palmas

Las Palmas has experienced some rough spots since we have become a community. Like all other communities, we have felt our growing pains. The diversity in the neighborhood tends to add to the confusion and misunderstandings. But, this week, so much progress has been made for those of us who have houses started or finished. We have decided to use the Workaway program. I believe this will be the best move forward that our community could make.

We decided as a community, that we have waited long enough for Gary Scarborough to finish our community (which I have said from day one would likely never happen). He is no longer concerned with Las Palmas and in part, I do not blame him. The people in general were expecting his word to be the truth. We believe that what he posted in the Las Palmas website and touted at his buyers’ conventions must be the truth. We believed that since he was a U.S. citizen with a family and religious values, that this would follow through to his written promises to the community. Such is NOT the case.

Be that as it may, I am happy to say that I believe everyone is finally onboard with what Mark and I have been saying for quite some time – Gary is through, done, finished, etc. He is focused on his Grand Palmas and Palmera Beach projects with the same great promises of ‘built to U.S. standards’ and all the promised amenities that will likely never come to fruition. Those are not my concern.

I am happy that Mark and I live there and do not mind living in a community that is unfinished – we have only one full time neighbor. They are an elderly couple who apparently do not speak English. We do miss Alex, the previous housekeeper. While he didn’t speak English, he sure was making a concerted effort to learn Spanish and English. He was super friendly and he and Tupoc, the dog, were quite the pair!

Palo Santo in Puerto Lopez

We veered off the beaten path and what did we find? Nothing less than the strong sweet aroma of the Palo Santo tree. It really did not happen that way, but you get the idea. Travel to Puerto Lopez and there you will be able to see a small Palo Santo artisan family hard at work.

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Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal.  In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood”. It has an unforgettable smell and has many medical purposes. It is also a great mosquito repellent.  The Palo Santo shop had two of these vats that were used to extract the oil from the wood. I can not tell you how wonderful this room smelled.

 

 2014-09-29 12.05.02  These are some of their products.

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The Queendom got a master bath makeover

Construction completed in the master bathroom today. The white ceramic tiles are now all gone and the new warm colored rocks are installed.

This is the old: 

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And this is the new and improved:

 

We hired Paul Hill & Angel Ponce to complete some miscellaneous repairs and updates to the Queendom. We needed to run a pipeline from the cistern to the road, so that we do not need to be here when we get the cistern filled. This will allow the water delivery drivers to fill our cistern without the hassle of backing into the driveway or using the water pump. This is much better for both of us.

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We also had the crew fix the top of our garage roof. The roof was flat with what appeared to be rake marks all over the top. When it rained, the rain drained down our house causing dark nasty streaks. The test drive for the newly designed roof top was this week as the rain poured. Now the water drains right into the garage. The drains that Mobusa and Gary installed obviously do not work properly…. AUGH. We are going to get a snake and clean it out. Presumably the snake will come in handy for future uses. ‘’

The crew also installed a bamboo trellis. We intend to plant some fruit vines and see what grows. I believe the shade that it will someday provide will be pleasant. 

The guys also put turrets on the tops of our glass block walls. They will paint them at a later date. We are giving the cement dry.

And Paul drives off after a long week of work.

 

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Air Condition Installation and Repair in Puerto Cayo

2014-09-23 16.47.52 Don Bolivar came to the house at our request to service our air conditioners. Living on the beach is really hard on the air conditioner units. Once these go bad, we will most likely not get new ones, but since we have them – we might as well keep them serviced.  He checked each unit to ensure the electric wires were all still functional and not corroded. He serviced the one that had a corroded circuit board and then he and his partner cleaned all of the units. He comes from Manta, so that is generally inexpensive compared to what others may want to charge for the drive.  He is very professional and has a very pleasant demeanor.

Represa Poza Honda, Santa Ana

I left our house in Puerto Cayo and headed north to pick up my friends Paul and Danni. We were heading to Santa Ana to see the Represa Poza Honda.

Santa Ana is located north of Jipijapa. Santa Ana contains many forest resources and water life. The area is lush with green foliage and flowers.  The reservoir of Poza Honda, is a tourist attraction where one can go for a voyage in pangas (long boats as shown in the picture).

We went on the outskirts of Manta to Montecristi where you can purchase many souvenirs such as Panama hats and replicated artifacts. Artists display their items while they work on new ones in the background. I intend to buy two gargoyles to place on the two corners of our curtain wall. Montecristi is rich in history and tourist attractions.

We then passed through Puerto Viejo and stopped at a nursery. A one  meter tall mango tree was only $1.00. I got $4 in plants and all of them are fruit bearing; two trees and eight climbing vines.

But the highlight of our trip was the Represa Poza Honda. The road dead ends at the reservoir. There are small shops where one can purchase small souvenirs. We sat for lunch at one of the restaurants. I had arroz con pollo and my two friends had arroz con carne. We shared two large pilsners. Out total cost for the meal was $12. It was a bit pricy for the food. There was plenty of food, but the chicken was by far the worst I have had in Ecuador. But the rice and the sauce was delicious. I didn’t go hungry or thirsty.

The day, as you can see from the pictures, was sunny and HOT. We were going to take a panga ride, but we had no sunscreen or hats with us. I think we made a wish choice by getting out of the sun. Was a great day and wonderful place.

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