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6850: Urgent Action Needed for Labor Emergency in Haiti! (fwd)

From: Haiti Reborn <haiti@quixote.org>

Dear Friends of Haiti,

Recently a delegation including members of the 50 Years Is Enough
Network met with labor organizers outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
According to their testimony, the Government of Haiti is pressuring the
management of both the state-owned electric company and telephone
company to quickly move forward with plans to privatize the companies. A
serious human rights violation is taking place - at the Electricity
Company of Haiti all labor union members have already been fired and the
lives of union organizers are being threatened.

As you know, privatization of state-owned industries is a requirement of
structural adjustment programs of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
and the World Bank. It is much easier to attract international investors
to companies that do not have labor unions.

Please join us in calling on the Government of Haiti to take all
necessary steps to investigate this serious situation. Labor rights must
not be sacrificed to please international financial institutions. Join
us in standing in solidarity with Haitian workers in their struggle for
labor rights!

Below you will find a sample letter. Please send letters to all the
Haitian leaders listed below. Feel free to copy and paste, or to alter
according to your needs. For more information, contact Melinda Miles at
Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center, (301)699-0042 or email haiti@quixote.org.

For a more just world,
Melinda Miles, Coordinator
Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center


Address letters to:

President Rene Preval
fax: 223-7323
Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis
fax: 245-1624
Minister of Justice, Camille Leblanc
fax: 245-0474
For all three above, mailing address:
Presidential Palace
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Yvon Neptune, President of the Senate
fax: 222-8541 (this is also phone, so won't automatically pick up)
Senate Bureau
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Florence Elie, Co-Director, Office of Citizen Protection
fax: 244-3066 (this is also a phone, so won't automatically pick up)
80 Bois Patate prolongee
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide
email: fonaris@haitiworld.com, phone: 250-3048

Dear President Preval,

In the last few weeks the Government of Haiti has taken steps to further
the privatization of Ed'H (Electricte d'Haiti). According to the
representatives of the Federation of Electricity Workers' Unions of
Haiti (FESTREd'H), conditions for the workers and technicians of Ed'H
are quickly deteriorating. More disturbing however, are reports of
surveillance and threats directed at organizers of the Ed'H labor union.

In 1996, Ed'H laid off over 400 workers, all of whom were members of the
labor union. Only fifty union members remain in the employment of Ed'H.
Since 1996, workers have been fighting to get their jobs back. According
to reports, some union leaders have been imprisoned. The stated reasons
for the massive lay off in 1996 - administrative limitations and
sabotage - appear to be a cover for an attempt to eradicate the union.

I understand that policies of the International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank demand the privatization of state-owned industries, but doing
so at the expense of labor rights is unacceptable and must not be

The Electricity Workers' Union held a press conference during the first
week of January 2001 to denounce the recent intimidation and oppression
they are experiencing at the hands of the management of Ed'H. They are
also protesting the Government of Haiti's initiative to re-structure the
company. In the days following the press conference, union leaders have
experienced increased pressure and some have been forced by threats
against their lives to leave their homes and go into hiding.

President Preval, I implore you to investigate this matter immediately
and thoroughly. These events represent severe violations of the basic
human rights of workers in Haiti. I urge you to inquire about the
conditions of workers at Ed'H as well as to protect their right to
organize a union to represent their interests. I also urge you to take
all steps necessary to ensure that if the privatization and
restructuring of Ed'H continue it is not at the expense of the good of
either its employees or its clientele.

I appreciate any attention you can give to this matter immediately. I
will continue to follow the situation of the union members and leaders
whose lives and safety are in danger and I hope to see the situation
peacefully resolved as soon as possible.


Background of the Electricity Workers? Situation

In 1996 a systematic violation of workers? rights began at the
Electricity Company of Haiti (Ed?H). It was recognized that
international investors would only invest if unions were removed, so
leaders were targeted, even to the point where they were locked in their
offices and arrested there. In all, over 450 workers were fired. All
leaders, members and sympathizers of the union were fired, and some
people were fired simply for talking about having a union.

According to the management of Ed?H, workers were dismissed because of
administrative reasons and for allegations of sabotage, but no
accusation or legal procedure was ever taken against those who were
fired. The Federation of Electricity Workers? Unions of Haiti
(FESTREd?H) recognized that dialogue with the management was impossible.
Therefore, the Union attempted various solutions at the national level.
They approached these departments: Management of Work, Department of
Social Affairs, Tripartite Commission of Consultation and Arbitration,
Department of Public Works, Transport and Communication. All of these
attempts failed.

In addition to violations of the most basic workers? rights, armed
attempts were made on the lives of union leaders, including Mr. Vibrun
Laguerre, who eventually retired. Unionists were also arbitrarily
arrested and held without charge.

In August of 1998, a long line of negotiation meetings came to an end
with a meeting attended by Preside of the Federation Workers of Quebec
(FTQ), Mr. Clement Godbout. It was recognized at this point by all
parties that the situation needed to be corrected, but since that time
all union efforts to re-launch a dialogue with the management of Ed?H
have met ends which were not accepting.

Now, as the term of President Rene Preval reaches its end, it appears
that his government is trying to move forward with plans to privatize
the Electricity Company of Haiti. The Union has denounced both the
?reign of terror? instigated by the current management and the moves of
the Preval government to restructure the company. During the first week
of January, 2001, the Union held a press conference and circulated a
bulletin among Ed?H employees. These actions, and in particular the
bulletin, incensed management. In the ensuing days, Harry Clervau,
Secretary of FESTREd?H, has had his life threatened. His home has been
subjected to intimidating visits and surveillance and he has now gone
into hiding for his own protection.

The Union believes the break up of the company being pushed forward by
the Preval government is a way to escalate the effort to eradicate the
Union, and that repression of workers? rights will increase. Clervau has
suggested that organizations working in solidarity mount a press
campaign, pressure the Haitian government to respond, and circulate
information among interested groups.

FESTREd?H believes that the workers and their organization should be
able to express their displeasure with regard to economic and social
questions which effect the interests of their members. The systematic
refusal of any dialogue and the brutal repression orchestrated by the
management constitutes violations of the principles that are the most
fundamental liberties of the union.

The information in this report comes from several sources including:
Harry Clervau, statements, July 1999; FESTREd?H letter to the ILO, April
1999; Harry Clervau statements, January 2001.