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#3985: Factory wages (fwd)
From: Tom F. Driver <email@example.com>
It seems to me that assembly-sector wages in Haiti are something of an
obscenity. Recently Shirley Jean reported the following to the readership
The minimum wage in Haiti is 36 gourdes per day. However, most
businesses determine pay in terms of a fix sum every two weeks since
they do not respect overtime. For example in one factory that I visited
two weeks ago while doing research on food security, the employees
were paid about $150 Haitian or 750 gourdes every two weeks. The
employees work 7 days a week for 16 hours.
In this example, the work week is 112 hours. The pay of 750 gourdes for this
amount of labor comes to 6.74 gourdes per hour, or 1.34 Haitian dollars
per hour. In early May this year the exchange rate was about 20 Haitian
dollars to one US dollar. That means the workers in the example are getting
6.7 cents per hour.
Early this month I visited with some assembly sector workers in Port-au-
Prince who were receiving wages similar to those in Shirley Jean's example.
Their job was to stitch together luxury-item brassieres and pack them in
fancy boxes with fancy ribbons ready to be sold in the U.S. by Victoria's
Secret for prices in the hundreds of dollars each. The workers were living in
abject poverty making garments to be sold only to persons who engage in
conspicuous consumption. When some had tried to organize in order to
demand higher wages, they were summarily fired.
There are those who defend this arrangement in the name of free trade and
free enterprise. There is not much freedom in it for the workers. Of course, if
they don't like the work they can always starve. That, plus the gross
disproportion of the whole thing, is the obscenity.
Tom F. Driver
New York City