Haitian Factory Workers Demand Fair Wages

Pay Fair Wages 

Haiti’s minimum wage is among the lowest among countries that export apparel, and it is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti’s Parliament passed the new minimum wage law specifically to relieve workers from what were widely recognized to be starvation wages. In 2009 minimum wage laws took effect for export manufacturing; it includes a gradual wage increase spanning four years. As of 2012, minimum wage was set at 300 gourdes per work day, however the majority of factory workers are only making 100 gourdes per day. The little pay workers do receive only provides 19 percent of the amount needed to support a family of four, leaving them to borrow money to prevent their families from starving or losing their home. 

Factory Non-Compliance 

As factory owners deny their workers the wages they are owed, they take advantage of low labor costs and benefit from trade preferences under the HOPE II Act. Common garment factory practices preventing workers from receiving fair wages include: setting piece rates beyond attainable standards, paying below minimum wage for over-time worked, and not being compensated for work performed while off-the-clock. According to the report released by Worker Rights Consortium last month employees are cheated out of an average of seven weeks of pay per year. It is clear that factory owners knowingly deny workers of wages they deserve and retailers continue to profit from the illegal practices. 

Taking Action 

We feel it is ethically and morally imperative that Haitian workers, already the lowest paid in our hemisphere, receive the fair compensation required under Haitian law. Therefore, we are calling on U.S. based corporations who buy from factories in Haiti to set a standard of conduct requiring their intermediaries to treat Haitian workers fairly and respect Haiti’s minimum wage law. Factory workers should immediately begin receiving the legal wages owed to them and piece rates be revised to follow these legal standards. If garment factory working conditions are expected to change, owners must be held accountable by monitoring programs, partnering retailers and appropriate law enforcement. 

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