Guatemala: NGO blasts maquilas’ abuse of women

On April 22 the French nongovernmental organization Doctors of the World (MdM) released a report on the condition of women in Guatemalan maquiladoras in the apparel and food processing industries. “The job is unstable and badly paid, the work is dangerous for health, there is psychological and sexual harassment, insults, physical abuse, unjustified firings and interminable workdays,” according to the report, based on interviews in 2006-2009 with 530 women working in 16 factories in Chimaltenango and SacatepĂ©quez departments in western Guatemala.

The investigators found that workdays were as long as 11 hours, while the pay was 51.75 quetzales a day ($6.46), below the minimum wage of 56 quetzales ($7). In the apparel maquiladoras, 65% of the women received less than 1,500 quetzales a month ($187.5), while in the food processing plants some 70.5% of the women got less than 1,000 quetzales ($125) a month. About 34% of the food processing workers interviewed were minors, while 4% of the apparel workers were minors. Some 56.2% of the food processors were indigenous, while 41% of the garment workers were indigenous. Just one third could read and write. Seven out of 10 of the women in food processing were single mothers, as were more than half of the women in the apparel plants.

The report found that 90% of the women interviewed had suffered either psychological or physical abuse. The workers put up with the abuse because “they are regularly threatened with being fired if they try to defend their rights,” said Pilar Giraux, the head of the MdM mission in Guatemala. There are 180 maquiladoras in Guatemala, employing 75,000-100,000 people. (EFE April 22 via, Spain)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 25.

See our last posts on Guatemala and Central America.

  1. Maquiladoras – but there are worse
    Minumum wage in Guatemala increases every year, so from 2006 to 2009 it was not 56 Quetzales a day.
    The maquiladoras are relatively well supervised. In other areas workers are exploited more. For instance, in the Catholic Mission in San Lucas Toliman – financed by the New Ulm Diocese in the USA – there are workers with families, who have worked for years there, and only get paid 200 Quetzales a week, with no health insurance, pension benefits etc.

    1. Maquiladoras—still a hoax
      You are correct that the Guatemalan minimum wage wasn’t 56 quetzales a day in 2006. It was “$6.95 (52.91 quetzales) per day for agricultural work and $7.12 (54.15 quetzales) for nonagricultural work,” according to a US State Department report, which added that this “minimum wage did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.” And this was still higher than the 51.75 quetzales a day average wage for maquiladora workers cited in the MdM report.

      Of course these aren’t the worst jobs in Guatemala. The point is that the US government and the US media are still pushing maquiladoras as an engine of economic development in places like Guatemala and Haiti (see “REBUILDING HAITI”—THE SWEATSHOP HOAX). At least people should know what we’re really talking about: hard work, low pay, sexual harassment and physical abuse.