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Central American workers face crisis amid Delta Apparel's operations suspension

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4 July, 2024Thousands of Central American workers are grappling with an uncertain future after Delta Apparel Inc. announced a sudden suspension of operations, citing financial difficulties. The announcement has sparked protests and highlighted the precarious situation workers face in the region's maquila sector.

On 7 June, workers at Delta Apparel's facilities in Honduras were digitally notified that the company could not pay wages or other entitlements and that this would result in an immediate 120-day unpaid suspension. This unexpected news led to protests, with demonstrators demanding that company executives address the situation. The protests were met with a heavy police response, including tear gas and water cannons, and a prolonged occupation of the Free Trade Zone entrance.
In Honduras, urgent negotiations involving IndustriALL affialiate the Federación Independiente de Trabajadores de Honduras (FITH) led to an agreement to pay wages and benefits on 5 July, but despite this agreement workers were left in the dark about the company's next steps. Workers were further distressed to discover that Delta Apparel was auctioning off its assets, preventing workers from pursuing a precautionary seizure to secure their claims.
Delta Apparel has been a significant employer in Honduras for nearly thirty years, with around 2,400 workers at Delta Honduras, Delta Cortes, and Ceiba Textiles. The crisis in the maquila sector, which has seen a wave of factory closures and the loss of 34,000 jobs in 2023 alone, has had devastating effects on workers, local economies, and the social fabric of the country.
The situation is just as dreadful in El Salvador and IndustriALL affiliate the Federación de Asociaciones y Sindicatos Independientes de El Salvador (FEASIES) reported that Delta Apparel sold its Delta Plant Textiles La Paz LLC facility. The company indicated that while the plant would retain its name, it would undergo restructuring resulting in significant job losses. To date, 600 workers have already lost their jobs, and the company has refused to provide information on the new owners or details of the restructuring process.

“The actions of Delta Apparel violates national laws and international labour standards, it contradicts due diligence standards which require companies to engage with stakeholders, provide transparency and mitigate adverse impacts to those who are affected by their activities, like workers and their trade unions. We call on Delta Apparel to urgently meet with IndustriALL and its affiliates to ensure compliance with labour rights and meaningful due diligence processes,” 

says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie.

Photo: Shutterstock