Haiti should raise living wage for garment workers: Solidarity Center

Haitian garment workers would have to be paid four times their current wages just to keep up with the cost of living, according to a new study from the Solidarity Center. The study determined that based on the current minimum wage ($781 per month), workers spend almost a third (31.39%) of their take home pay on transportation to and from work and a modest lunch to support their work.

The Solidarity Center, a non-profit organization, released a report titled “The High Cost of Low Wages in Haiti: A Living Wage Estimate for Garment Workers in Port-au-Prince.” The report builds on two previous Living Wage studies that the Solidarity Center published in 2014 and 2019 and an unpublished 2011 Living Wage report which demonstrates that the daily minimum wage for garment workers is well lower than the estimated cost of living, including in 2019, when inflation was 18.7 percent. The latest data for May 2022 shows Haiti’s inflation rate at 27.8%.

Haitian garment workers would have to be paid four times their current wage just to keep pace with the cost of living, according to a study by the Solidarity Center. The study determined that based on the current minimum wage ($781 per month), workers spend approximately 31.39% of their take-home pay on transportation to and from work and lunch to support their work.

The Solidarity Center estimated the basic cost of living for a garment worker in Port-au-Prince at 90,928.51 gourdes (about $791.08) per month. The report found that based on the standard 48-hour workweek, workers need to earn at least 2,989.43 gourdes (about $26.01 a day) to support themselves and their families. The cost of living in Haiti is more than four times the minimum wage. The cost of living in the Caribbean country has risen 44.04% since the Solidarity Center last assessed in 2019. The minimum wage has risen 63.1% since the Solidarity Center last assessed in 2019 due to advocacy union using living wage studies. Based on the current minimum wage, workers spend almost a third (31.39%) of their take home pay on transportation to and from work and a modest lunch to support their work.

The report recommends that the Haitian government ensure that workers earn a living wage. The political establishment should raise the minimum wage to a living wage (estimated at 2,989.43 gourdes per day) and allow workers to choose their representatives and have a voice in the tripartite Higher Wage Council (CSS). The regular functioning of the CSS as prescribed by Haitian law must be ensured. Workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining must be fully respected, so that workers are empowered to negotiate wage increases and better working conditions with employers.

“Employers must respect labor law and fundamental labor rights, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining. Apparel brands sourcing from Haiti should require employers to respect freedom of association and collective bargaining, commercially penalize employers who violate these rights and commercially reward employers who sign collective agreements with independent unions,” the report states.

The Haitian government should ensure that employers properly compensate workers in accordance with the law, including the correct payment of OFATMA (Office of Insurance Against Workers’ Compensation, Sickness and Maternity) and pension contributions . Clothing brands should closely monitor compliance with legally required contributions to national health and pension funds and commercially penalize employers who do not guarantee full contributions to these funds.

The Haitian government should improve OFATMA services and the quality of care to minimize the cost of private health care for garment workers.

Employers or the government should subsidize work-related expenses, including transportation and lunch. Clothing brands should increase the prices they pay to suppliers to share the cost of subsidies.

Clothing brands that source from Haiti should pledge not to reduce orders, but rather to increase what they pay for the products if the government raises the minimum wage to a living wage. Employers should standardize and set reasonable production quotas that allow workers to earn a premium above minimum wage when they reach established quotas. These supplements should not require workers to work overtime or work at a pace that is detrimental to their health and safety.

In addition to a living wage contributing to the dignity of work and the well-being of individuals, families and communities, it also has the potential to create a positive multiplier effect, leading to a reduction in poverty and dependency. help ; weakening of the push factors that contribute to unsafe migration; and stronger participation in the formal economy and democratic processes.

Fibre2Fashion News Office (NB)

Michael O. Stutler