Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops!

Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops!
May 28, 2010 Administrator
wage-protest-sweatshops

Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops! Sample protest letter to send to Willbes & Co. Ltd. and the Manufacturers’ Association of Haiti

ACTION ALERT – Issued by the Haiti Support Group – 26 September 2003

  • Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops!
  • Say no to the violation of workers’ rights!
  • Support Haitian workers’ attempts to organise unions!

The Haiti Support Group joins the Batay Ouvriye workers’ organisation in condemning recent acts of aggression against workers in Port-au-Prince garment assembly factories operated by the South Korean Willbes Company.

The latest chapter in a long-running catalogue of abuse of workers’ rights began on 12 August when workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factory No. 5 in the Shodecosa Industrial Park were beaten up and shot at by armed factory security guards and riot police. These violent attacks followed factory workers’ attempts to stop security guards from beating up a co-worker who had demanded severance pay after being arbitrarily fired. During the course of the attacks several workers received gunshot wounds, many were beaten with police batons, and one worker who attempted to photograph what was happening was beaten unconscious and then detained overnight in the Cité Soleil police station.

Subsequently a new factory manager at Shodecosa Factory No.5 has begun arbitrarily firing the workers involved.

More recently, the Batay Ouvriye workers’ organisation reports that a female worker at the Willbes garment assembly factory No.42 in the other Port-au-Prince industrial park – SONAPI – has been beaten up by the factory supervisor, and then fired without any severance pay.

Please write letters of protest demanding an end to violent and abusive treatment of workers at the four Willbes garment assembly factories in Port-au-Prince, and calling for the full respect of workers’ rights under Haitian and international law.

See a sample letter below or send your own letter to:

  • info@willbes.com (Willbes & Co. Ltd. Head office in South Korea)
  • oscar@willbes.com (Willbes & Co. Ltd. International Textile Business Division in South Korea)
  • adih@adih.org (Marie-Claude Bayard, president of the Manufacturers’ Association of Haiti, of which Willbes Haitian S.A. is a member)

Please cc copies to batayouvriye@hotmail.com and haitisupport@gn.apc.org

Mailing and fax addresses:

The CEO
The Willbes & Co. Ltd.
Mirae-wa-saram Building
494-3 Sinbu-dong
Cheonan-si
Chungcheongnam-do, 330-943
SOUTH KOREA
Fax: 82-41-552-5503/4/5

and

The Willbes Haitian S.A.
Bldg. No. 41 SONAPI
Route Nationale 1
Aeroport
Port-au-Prince
HAITI

Background information

The Willbes & Co. Ltd was founded in South Korea in 1973. It established garment assembly factories in the Dominican Republic in 1986, in Honduras in 1991, and in Haiti in 2001. It currently runs four factories in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Unit 5 in the Shodecosa Industrial Park, and units 34, 41, and 42 in the Sonapi Industrial Park.

The Willbes & Co. Ltd lists amongst its main clients the following companies: Target, Wal-Mart, GAP, Kmart, Newport News, Venator, Sears, ShopKo, C&A, and Kohl’s. Workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factories are currently producing Cherokee jeans and shirts for the US Target company.

According to information supplied by Batay Ouvriye, the violent incidents of 12 August are just the latest instance of Willbes Haitian S.A. calling on the police to intervene in a labour conflict, even though it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour to resolve such disputes. When faced with labour disputes, instead of adhering to proper arbitration rules according to Haitian labour legislation, the company has consistently chosen to call in the police to physically abuse and mistreat workers.

Workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factories also suffer from a variety of other arbitrary and illegal measures implemented by the managers. These include:

  • Stealing workers’ pay by the deliberate under-calculation of the record cards punched at the beginning and the end of each workday;
  • Forcing workers to pay for drinking water and for use of toilets;
  • Deducting more from workers’ pay than legally stipulated for national insurance schemes;
  • Firing workers as soon as it appears that a contracted order will not be completed on schedule;
  • Making workers clean dirty clothes and repair faulty garments as extra, unpaid work.

Batay Ouvriye notes that while all of these practices are taking place, inspectors from the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Social Affairs never visit the Willbes factories. The abusive Willbes Haitian S.A. managers benefit from a state of complete impunity.

In a 29th August press release, Batay Ouvriye situates the abusive practices of the Willbes Haitian S.A. management in a global context, and warns that workers at the garment assembly factories now opening in the new free trade zone on the Maribahoux Plain, near Ouanaminthe in north-east Haiti, can expect the same treatment:

“We are calling everyone’s attention to an important point. We already know what is going on in the free trade zones throughout the world. These same types of violations, exploitation, and physical abuse happen in Honduras and Guatemala. What is happening at the Willbes factories shows us clearly what the free trade zones can bring to Haiti. Remember that the free trade zones are isolated areas without any real regulation or controls. The Willbes company management in Port-au-Prince, who came here from the Dominican Republic, has set up its operations in the same way that the Dominican company, Grupo M, will in the free trade zone at Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone. Thus, as they continue to make propaganda concerning the employment opportunities they are supposedly going to provide the Haitian people, we need to clearly perceive the concrete exploitation and domination that they are in fact bringing. We need to understand that it is not very much different from slavery, two hundred years since Haiti won its independence in 1804”

Batay Ouvriye, 29 August 2003

Sample protest letter to send to Willbes & Co. Ltd. and the Manufacturers’ Association of Haiti

To the CEO
The Willbes & Co. Ltd.
Mirae-wa-saram Building
494-3 Sinbu-dong
Cheonan-si
Chungcheongnam-do, 330-943
SOUTH KOREA
Fax: 82-41-552-5503/4/5

Dear Sirs,

I vigorously condemn the recent acts of aggression against workers in Port-au-Prince garment assembly factories operated by the Willbes Haitian SA company.

I refer in particular to the latest chapter in a long-running catalogue of abuse workers’ rights which began on 12 August when workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A factory No. 5 in the Shodecosa Industrial Park were beaten up and shot at by armed factory security guards and riot police.

The violent attacks followed factory workers’ attempts to stop security guards from beating up a co-worker who had demanded severance pay after being arbitrarily fired. As a result of the attacks, several workers received gunshot wounds, many were beaten with police batons, and one worker, who attempted to photograph what was happening, was beaten unconscious and detained overnight in the Cité Soleil police station. In the aftermath of these violent incidents, a new factory manager has begun firing the workers involved.

More recently, in September, I understand that a female worker at the Willbes garment assembly factory No.42 in the other Port-au-Prince industrial park – SONAPI – has been beaten up by a factory supervisor, and fired without any severance pay.

I demand an end to violent and abusive treatment of workers at the four Willbes garment assembly factories in Port-au-Prince, and call for the full respect of workers’ rights under Haitian and international law.

I am are sure that your clients in North America will be very alarmed to hear of any continuation of such unjustified and repugnant actions on the part of the Willbes Haitian SA managers.

Yours sincerely,

cc:

Mme. Marie-Claude Bayard
Association des Industries d’Haiti
199 Route de Delmas Port-au-Prince
HAITI
Fax : 509-246-221

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