A decision is imminent on this years minimum wage increase for Haitis apparel workers

A decision is imminent on this year's minimum wage increase for Haiti's apparel workers

Violent protests in Haiti last month spared the country's $550m apparel supply chain, but industry executives are monitoring the situation ahead of a new decision on minimum wages.

"Garment workers missed two to three days at the most," Beatrice Ilias, executive director at the Association of Haitian Industries (ADIH), told just-style, adding that while most sewers stayed home on the Friday the protests took place, "most were back to work on Monday and Tuesday."

The protests on 9 July against a 50% fuel price hike were violent and deadly, stalling the country and triggering major merchant lootings. The events forced the government in Port-au-Prince to immediately cancel the fuel increases – and prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, who had brokered the rises as part of a development deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Ilias said the garment sector was mostly spared save for the looting of a Dominican Republic bound clothing shipment. However, she said she was still waiting for a strike inventory to calculate total losses, if any.

She declined to reveal the company behind the affected cargo but conceded that major apparel retailers were hit during the upheaval. Some of them included the Delmas 2000 department store and several boutiques in the Petion-Ville high-end quarter.

Calm after the storm?

Ironically, the protests came around the same time angry workers took to the streets last summer to condemn the government's refusal to meet demands for an HTG800 or $11.90 daily wage hike. They also coincided with violent uprisings in nearby Central America that have put international fashion labels on tenterhooks.

Following tense negotiations between union representatives, employers and the government, President Jovenel Moïse approved a 16% minimum wage hike last July.

State wage regulator the Council of Salaries is currently reviewing this year's increase and is expected to announced a decision in coming days, said Ilias, adding that the labour front has remained calm since last year's HTG350 or $5.24 daily bump.

A disappointing decision by the council could spell more trouble on the impoverished island, however, as unions have in recent years fought fiercely to improve worker rights and pay.

Haitian suppliers make clothing for Wal-Mart and the Children's Place among other global brands.