It is rumored that this meeting was used by the porter’s union to agree on a general strike action by the union that would support the blocking of the access ways to the Inca trail if things would not change. The fact is that the long list of grievances that these porters presented at this meeting shone a light on the horrible working conditions to which they are forced to work, which brings to memory the terrible treatment and abuse of the Thailand elephants; being the only difference here that in this case, we are talking about human beings.
As a result of these meetings, a non-binding agreement concerning the porter’s wages was made between the Inca trail tour operators and the representatives of the porters. It is worth mentioning that porters receive an average of US$ 72 for a 4-day trek.
Is the adjustment of wages an overall solution to their requirements or just a band-aid to a long list of problems that need to be seriously addressed as soon as possible.
The Peruvian government rules for porters establishes clear guidelines regarding the maximum weight that a porter can carry, which is 20 Kg. However, porters maintain that they take an average of 25 to 35 kg, no matter what company they are working with. Such situations highlight the abuse of travel operators who continue to display contempt of the government’s rules and the inefficiency of the park rangers at the Inca Trail checkpoints to expose the rife exploitation of the porters. Exposing a complicit attitude supporting the significantly high levels of corruption existing in Peru’s public institutions.
This corruption deteriorates the already unsafe working conditions of the porters. Tourists might not be aware of the extent of the situation, as some very renowned travel operators purposely mislead their clients by assuring them that the maximum weight that porters carry is 25kg. Watch this video of a “regular checkup” carried out by officials of the Ministry of Labor of Peru on the Inca trail, minutes 1:30 to 2:30, and see for yourself the real weight that porters carry on a daily basis.
Every year, more than seventy thousand people hike the Inca Trail, millions of dollars in revenue is made by tour operators, both foreign and local, but things as essential as food and shelter for the ones who perform the hardest work remain stuck in time and with no signs of change in sight.
The 2018 Inca Trail reservations have started already, and it is very important for travelers to choose wisely which tour operators they use for their Inca Trail adventure. The choice they make can improve the working conditions of the porters. The trend in the world of traveling is to move toward sustainable and eco-friendly practices. New groups of local people coming together to establish alternative forms of businesses are coming forward and need to be supported; especially when working conditions for their workers, together with a sensitive treatment of mother earth are at the core of their practices.