Unions says two Haiti garment factories have violated ILO conventions related to pay and working conditions

Unions says two Haiti garment factories have violated ILO conventions related to pay and working conditions

Haiti is in the spotlight once again after workers at two garment factories in the country's free trade export zones this week denounced alleged violations of ILO conventions related to pay and working conditions.

Workers' organisations, including IndustriAll global union affiliate GOSTTRA, say employers at Interamerican Wovens and Sewing International have taken reprisals in response to worker denunciations of injustices and calls for decent work.

The unions have been taking action since May demanding attention to workers' labour rights. They claim the companies are violating International Labour Organization Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise) and 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining).

GOSTTRA says Interamerican Wovens and Sewing International are refusing to negotiate agreements that will improve pay and working conditions.

They also claim protests have led to brutal police repression, the confiscation of union members' telephones, the abuse of pregnant women and the dismissal of many workers for taking part in trade union actions.

The unions say they sought a meeting with President Jovenel Moïse on 20 July at the National Palace in an attempt to discuss the problems affecting the textile sector and to seek a solution.

"President Moïse said he was surprised to find that workers' conditions in the free trade zones were unacceptable and promised to provide social welfare support to workers," the unions say.

IndustriAll general secretary, Valter Sanches, wrote to the directors of the two companies condemning their "union busting operations" and "grave violations" of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

"We should remind you that Haiti, on ratifying ILO Conventions 87 and 98, undertook the commitment to respect and implement these conventions. Likewise, your company, on joining the Better Work programme, also undertook a commitment to respect all the fundamental ILO conventions," he wrote.

Separately, unions have been demanding an HTG800 or US$12.90 daily wage jump for apparel workers, more than double the HTG350 or $4.8 per-day increase Moise signed into law on 26 July.

The Haitian government has increased the minimum wage annually since 2014. The new official wage and subsidies add up to HTG485 per day, which trade union Batay Ouvriye says is still insufficient. 

Haiti garment industry says union wage claims unrealistic