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Haitian government called on the carpet at the ILO

Said IndustriALL Global Union’s project and rights Officer Suzanna Miller:

“For workers in the Haitian garment industry, including members of our affiiate GOSTTRA, ILO standards on working hours and the 48-hour working week are meaningless concepts. Not because they don’t care about their rights, but because all they can afford to think about are the hours they have to work in order to survive on starvation wages.“

In theory, workers in Haiti’s garment sector typically start at about 7am and work till 4pm. In practice, though, it’s a different story, as workers often put in several more hours off the clock in order to reach their daily production quotas.

Explained Miller:

“Not reaching the daily production quota can have a devastating impact. Without it, workers are left with only the minimum wage of 350 gourdes a month, about a third of what they need to survive.

“Excessively high targets. Off the clock working. Underpayment of overtime: This is nothing short of wage theft. The failure of the Haitian government to uphold international standards and national laws is giving employers and their multinational customers free reign to steal from some of world’s poorest workers. 

“Now, to make matters worse, the government has introduced a new law on working time which repeals existing standards on overtime, weekly rest and Sunday pay and nightime rates.

“In May of last year, workers at 22 garment factories went on strike to demand higher wages.  Dozens of union leaders and members of our affiliate GOSTTRA have yet to be reinstated, in spite of very clear recommendations following an investigation by the ILO’s Better Work programme.  Not only were they not reinstated, they were also blacklisted. Meanwhile, the government continues to sit on its hands.

“Just ten days ago thousands garment workers again took to the streets of Port-au-Prince to demand a wage increase.  With their leaders dismissed, their legal rights trampled and their laws rolled back,  their kids going hungry and the debts piling up, they simply had no other choice.“

Concluded Miller:

“Without better wages and respect for union rights, ILO Conventions on hours of work will remain purely academic. And without those rights, there will be no lasting social peace in Haiti’s garment industry.“


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