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Haiti - Social : Difficult situation for trade unions and workers
28/06/2011 14:12:08

Haiti - Social : Difficult situation for trade unions and workers
Employers, workers, NGOs, governments and international institutions all speak of employment. The final communiqué of the New York Conference clearly stated: "The people of Haiti need jobs." Labour organisations, however, are doubtful about the type of employment foreseen. "Decent work policies have been given no place on the reconstruction agendas of government institutions, employers or the international community, including the United Nations, which is more focused on emergency action," warns the International Labour Organisation (ILO) representative in Haiti, Antonio Cruciani. "The only exception is the ILO, which has worked to ensure that the decent work agenda is included in these strategies."

For the Haitian trade union movement, the most crucial task at hand is that of creating a culture that promotes decent work in all sectors of society, something which has never existed in the history of Haiti. The laws only exist in the books. And so most unions do not have access to actuate. Furthermore, for workers there is a sense of fear and a plan of intimidation. They know that any noise or trouble trying to organise or trying to promote unions, their jobs would be at stake. This has been seen in a number of occasions in a number of different factories, where people raise issues to try to promote change and are fired as a consequence.

"With the shortage of jobs that existed, workers do not feel that they can in any way, shape or form, upset the employer. And so it is not only unionism but is a whole lot of actions that could improve workers lives that are not being discussed or addressed [...]" precise Anthony Jones, representative of CSI in Haiti.

The labor movement is trying to enter in the reconstruction of the country, but knows great difficulty "Trade unions in Haiti, in many ways, reflect the state of the economy. [...] Today, the formal workers represent only about 2% of the total and some unions have members in the informal sector. Therefore, the ability of union influence is weak" said Anthony Jones, Representative of the ITUC and the Trade Union Confederation/Americas (CSA).

Another blow for the Haitian labor movement, are the privatization started some years ago [Minoterie, and Ciments d'Haïti among other...] and still current. A few days before the earthquake, the President René Préval has privatized the telephone company Teleco [sold at Vietnamese Viettel Company] leading to the dismissal of 2,800 employees. "...The wave of privatization, promoted by the Government affects all unions in the country [...] because only the public sector is really organized. In the private sector, employers do not accept that you mention the word - union - " explains Raphaël Dukens, the Secretary General of the Confederation of the Public Workers and of Private Sector (CTSP).

The free zones, are clearly identified as places where employers do not respect workers' rights. As these areas were not affected by the earthquake of January 2010, they are the target of many Haitians looking for work "stable" and ready to accept any conditions including the absence of a social minimum .

Despite the difficult working conditions in the workshops, a public-private project of $248 million was signed for the creation of a new industrial park in the north of Haiti, with the promise of creating tens of thousands of jobs. A project where unions were not invited to participate...

HL/ HaitiLibre

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