Haiti Government Garment Sector Commission not Enforcing Wage Laws

Employers in the Haitian garment manufacturing industry are exploiting their workers as a dirt-cheap form of labor, as well as forcing them to work under unsafe conditions in violation of laws governing the industry. Garment workers are drastically underpaid, on average 32% less than minimum wage requirements. The standard pay rate is $4.54 per eight-hour shift. If they make their quota for the day they receive $6.81. The quotas are set are unrealistically high, the better for employers to avoid paying an extra $2.27 per day.


Henri-Claude Muller-Poitevien, who heads the government of Haiti's Garment Sector Commission (GSC), has an explanation why garment workers can't meet the daily quota. He says they are less able, and need practice to work faster and more competently.

For overtime pay, employers set the daily wage even lower, in defiance of a law that states workers must be paid at a higher rate than the standard eight-hour shift. Some factory employers won't pay for overtime, period.

The United States' Worker Rights Consortium commissioned a study on garment workers' wages and working conditions, compiling information, using interviews conducted with garment workers, and inspecting pay logs. The study, in particular, looked at the pay logs of the new Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti. A Korean garment manufacturer leasing space there has been underpaying workers as much as 34% below the legally-mandated minimum wage.

A U.S. State Department liaison to Haiti spoke before a congressional hearing, regarding the problem of garment workers' wages, in response to Yvette Clarke, Democratic representative, who alleged the State Department had been ignoring the wage issue. He said the Haitian wage law had been poorly drafted and would be amended to clarify what garment manufacturers must do to be in compliance.

A secondary issue regarding Haitian garment workers is they toil under unsafe conditions in the workplace. Lapses in safety and sanitation conditions include no easily-seen fire exits, no uncontaminated drinking water, and an inadequate number of bathroom facilities.

Better Work, a Geneva watchdog group, conducted a study covering 23 Haitian garment factories. What they found was alarming. In 13 factories not enough lighting existed; in 11 emergency exit signage was not visible; in another 11 fire-extinguishers were under-supplied; and in 21 the legally required number of toilets was unmet.

Muller-Poitevien says he is glad the survey reveals what needs to happen to improve working conditions at garment factories. He adds the GSC is helping the fire department to put up better signage, and place more fire extinguishers around the factories. But he adds ". . . we will never be the triple-A student."

Several assessments have been carried out on 23 factories, and a mere seven of them have shown improvement in compliance. The rest have experienced increased non-compliance. It appears not only is the State Department ignoring the problems of below-minimum wage earnings and unsafe working conditions, but also the GSC, who gets a triple-F final grade for the term.

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Read more: Caracol, Caracol Industrial Park, Garment Industry, Manufacture, Factory, Minimum Wage, Wage, Wages, Worker, Overtime, Employee, Business & Finance

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