Haiti textile workers fight sackings of six union leaders

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Six union leaders employed by the One World Apparel garment factory in Haiti have been fired.

The leaders of the Textile and Garment Workers Union are demanding an increase in the daily minimum wage of 12 dollars a day.

The Haitian minimum wage was increased recently, after protests in its capital Port-au-Prince. The minimum wage was lifted from 200 Haitian gourde (3.65 euro) to 225 gourde (3.73 euro).

Haiti 17, the labour union for the textile sector, finds the increase ‘ridiculously low’ and is demanding a 500 gourde (8.29 euro) minimum wage per day.

The labour union believes that amount would enable workers to fulfil their basic needs.

The Haitian textile industry makes up 90% of the country’s export, bringing in 440 million euro per year – 31,000 people work in the sector.

Manufacturers fear they will not be able to compete with other countries if the wage costs keep rising. According to the industry, wages are already four times higher than in Bangladesh.

Elsewhere in Haiti, the Government Commission ‘Ad hoc’ responsible for conducting negotiations with the teachers unions Platform (CONEH, GIEL, UNNOEH, CNEH, FENATEC), have signed a protocol, but union leaders say there is only a strike truce.

The two sides met with their representatives on 22 and 23 January, around the claims that have been at the heart of the public sector teachers strike.

After these two days, a protocol was signed between the two parties, involving among other things, a truce of the teachers’ strike, as of Friday, January 24, 2014.

The basic teachers’ claims were for: 1) Standardisation of basic wages of different categories of education professionals in the public sector – guaranteeing the careers of professionals in the public education sector in accordance with the prescribed provisions:

2) A grid of advancement on the basis of qualification and experience;

3) The availability and accessibility of services offered by the Insurance to the agents of the Public;

4) The appointment of teachers and full payment of salary arrears;

5) Improving access to programmes Kredi Pam and Kay Pam.

After two days of meetings the parties agreed:

1) Adopt a salary increase based on a grid proposed by the Office of Human Resources Management (OMRH) in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, whose implementation is provided from the month of April 2014, once the Finance Act 2013-2014 passed by Parliament.

This wage increase of staff is as follows: Professor single chair: +36%, Full-time faculty: +38%, Professors: 34%, General supervisor: +38%, Censor: +40%, Director I (high school): +29%, Director II (full fundamental school): +43%, Director III (fundamental school 1st and 2nd cycles): +57%, Teacher-I: +38%, Teacher-II: +35%, Teacher-III: +32%, Teacher-IV: +41%,

2) Continue negotiations around other points in a period not exceeding 20 days from the date of the signature of this.

3) Make a truce as of Friday, January 24, 2014 to facilitate the resumption of ‘normal course’.

In addition, the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training is committed to continuing discussions with officials of the Ministry of Economy and Finance to revise the salary of the teacher-I in the perspective of promoting the professionalisation of the teaching profession.

This protocol was signed for unions by Franck G. Wilbert, General Coordinator UNNOH; Joseph Lourdes Edith, Secretary General NECH, Saint-Preux Paul, Secretary General CONEH; Pierre Leonel GIEL Coordinator; Joseph René Previl, President FENATEC, and Admettre Ivel, Secretary General, LINEH.

To the Ad Hoc Committee by Vanneur Pierre, Minister of National Education and Vocational Training and President of the Commission.

Just signed President of the Federation of Workers in Education and Culture (FENATEC), René Previl Joseph, has insisted that it was a truce and not the end of the strike and threatened the authorities to resume the mobilizations, if they do not fulfill their commitment.

For his part, Josué Mérilien, Coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Normaliens (UNNOH) stated that there was no question of truce (agreement) yet signed by Frank G. Wilbert, the General Coordinator of the UNNOH) and that the agreement did not engage teachers, encouraging them to continue their protest movement until satisfaction of their demands.

Members of the Commission ‘Ad Hoc’: Vanneur Pierre, President of the Commission; Guichard Doré, Representative of the Presidency; Uder Antoine, Representative of the Primature, Emmanuel Jean Pierre, Representative of the Ministry of Economy and Finance; Denis Cadeau, Director General of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training; Ecclesiastes Thélémaque, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training; Lucas Sainvil, President of the Education Commission of the Senate and Elie Blaise, President of the Education Commission of the Chamber of Deputies.

• In neighbouring Dominican Republic, approximately 10% of the Dominican workforce is employed in manufacturing, according to a January 2013 report by the International Labour Organisation.

Last year the Dominican Republic exported $1.3 billion worth of textiles and other goods from its free trade zones.

Nearly 26% of the Dominican Republic’s total exports were clothes or other textiles made at the 80 or so clothing factories that operate there. The largest portion of the country’s clothing exports go to the United States.

Dominican law guarantees the right of association, but only an estimated 11% of the workforce is unionised.

Due to internal disorganisation or opposition from companies, many unions struggle to enact real change for their members.

• In Jamaica, a two-day strike by tanker drivers is over, following the signing of a six-month Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) partially developed by the Energy Ministry, with haulage contractors and petroleum marketing companies.

Chief Union Delegate for the National Workers Union, Cleveland Guscott, says all parties must comply with the terms of the agreement by January 1 next year.

Tanker drivers withdrew their services over payment-related issues and the lack of benefits.

The contractors had argued that they cannot grant any increase until they receive an adjustment in the rates paid by the marketing companies.