14 February, 2022IndustriALL Global Union has expressed its support for Haitian garment workers after police violently broke up a demonstration in support of demands for an increase in the minimum wage.
On Thursday, for the second day in a row, police fired tear gas and beat protestors with batons outside the SONAPI Free Trade Zone in Port-au-Prince.
Last month a coalition of unions, including IndustriALL affiliate GOSTTRA, called on Prime Minster Ariel Henry to increase the minimum wage in the garment industry from 500 gourdes a day (4.80 USD) to 1,500 gourdes. According to the Labour Code, wages must be adjusted when inflation exceeds 10 percent in the year. In recent months, inflation has already topped 23 percent.
Says GOSTTRA Coordinator Reginald Lafontant:
“The cost of food, rent, health care and transport is going up every day, yet our wages have stayed the same for the past three years. Workers are earning less than a third of what they need to survive. Life is a daily struggle, and people are desperate.”
Haiti’s garment factories mainly export to retail markets in the US and Canada. Says Lafontant:
“Haitian workers are not earning a fair share of the wealth we produce. A garment worker would need to work four days to afford to buy the T-shirt she sews. I know Haiti is a poor country, but this is ridiculous.”
The situation is made worse by the widespread violations of labour rights in the garment industry, most recently at Centri Group where some 60 workers have been dismissed for protesting at unfair wage practices, while the Ministry of Labour turned a blind eye.
In a letter addressed to the Haitian Prime Minister, IndustriALL General Secretary Atle Høie warned that brands and retailers are under increasing pressure to ensure due diligence in their supply chains.
“Paying starvation wages and repressing workers who protest is severely damaging the reputation of your country as an acceptable country in which to do business,”
IndustriALL has urged the Prime Minster to engage in meaningful dialogue with the signatory unions with a view to adjusting the minimum wage. It has further called on the government to take urgent steps to ensure national laws and international standards are upheld in the garment industry, and in particular to ensure the reinstatement of workers at Centri Group.