A report from the Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
Hundreds of workers from SOKOWA (Sendika Ouvriye Kodevi Wanament), an independent union from the Codevi Free Trade Zone on the Haitian side of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, affiliated with the Batay Ouvriye May First Federation in Haiti, took to the streets last month in protest against arbitrary and illegal firings of union members and union organizers at one of the factories in this Free Trade Zone.
These workers have protested labor abuses by management using wildcat strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins in front the Department of Labor Affairs to demand that the fired workers be re-hired and to demand the dismissal of repressive and abusive management staff at the factory.
These protests started with the illegal firing of one of the organizing members of the union, leading to a wildcat strike, a subsequent lockout of all workers by management and the firing of 34 workers (most of whom were union members and organizers) in reprisal for the wildcat strike, and the refusal by management to negotiate the re-hiring of the illegally fired workers. This is one of the many ongoing struggles by workers in the assembly manufacturing sector in Haiti.
Workers in the garment industry have recently formed a new Union coalition, PLASIT, (Platform of Garment Factory Unions) in order to better confront the increasingly repressive tactics of management to suppress workers’ demands and their organizing efforts. These illegal repressive tactics have been waged with impunity and in collusion with corrupt government institutions.
This new coalition is also working on re-launching the struggle to increase the minimum wage in Haiti, which is currently less than half of a subsistence wage, about 60¢ an hour. Imperialist Free Trade structural adjustment policies have staked economic development in Haiti on the availability of slave wage labor.
Let’s mobilize in opposition to these policies of misery for workers to guarantee profits for rich foreign investors and multinationals. Let’s mobilize to support these valiant and combative struggles led by Haiti’s growing independent union movement!
Copyright © 2015 Stephanie McMillan. All rights reserved.
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Reprinted with permission and with support for the Haitian workers.