A number of garment factories in Haiti were forced to close last week following protests by workers demanding a higher minimum wage.

The workers say a rise in the minimum wage set out last month, and due to come into effect from 1 January, is insufficient.

Haiti's newly formed tripartite Higher Council on Wages (CSS), which includes government, management and labour representatives, has proposed a new rate of HTG225 (US$5.43) for an eight-hour day.

This is a rise of just 12.5% above the HTG200 (US$4.83) a day which has been in place since October 2012.

Apparel workers' unions have been demanding a minimum of HTG500 (US$12.08) a day - more than twice the proposed rate. 

The Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH) said the decision to close the factories was taken to ensure worker safety - and added that "these violent incidents discourage Haitians and foreign investors, with [the] consequent worsening of the unemployment situation in our country."

It added that demands for a daily wage of more than US$11 would mean Haiti would no longer be competitive with other apparel suppliers such as Cambodia (US$2.67), Vietnam (US$2.61 to $3.71) and Bangladesh (US$3.53 to $3.86).

It added that the clothing and textiles sector in Haiti has the potential to create 200,000 jobs over the next six to eight years, and add more than $2.5bn a year to exports - but only if the business climate is attractive to foreign investors.

Wages paid to garment workers in Haiti also came under the spotlight in October, when a report accused factories of minimum wage violations that routinely deprived workers of nearly one-third of their pay.

Research carried out by the US-based Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) claimed that workers in Port-au-Prince, where more than 90% of Haiti's garment factories are located, are paid an average of 32% less than they should be under the country's minimum wage and overtime laws.