Haiti: labor groups unite for May 1 march

Several hundred Haitian unionists and activists marched in Port-au-Prince on May 1 to celebrate International Workers Day and to demand reform of the country’s labor code, respect for labor standards and application of a legally mandated 300 gourde (about US$7.12) daily minimum wage for piece workers in the assembly sector. The march began at the large industrial park run by the semi-public National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi) in the north of the capital; the assembly plants there mainly produce apparel for sale in North America and are a focus of complaints over failure to pay the minimum wage. The unionists then moved on to the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development Ministry (Marndr) to highlight the situation of agricultural workers. Police agents blocked the march for 20 minutes because Haitian president Michel Martelly and other officials were attending an event at the ministry.

The May 1 protest in Port-au-Prince was larger and broader-based than a similar march last year, which was sponsored principally by the leftist workers’ organization Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) and the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA). This year Batay Ouvriye and SOTA were joined by nearly a dozen other organizations, including the Confederation of Haitian Workers’ Forces (CFOH) and the Autonomous Confederation of Haitian Workers (CATH); the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (CSA-TUCA) were also represented at the protest. (AlterPresse, Haiti, May 1) Batay Ouvriye reported that other May 1 demonstrations were held in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second-largest city, in the north; in Ouanaminthe in the northeast at the Dominican border, where workers at the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi) “free trade zone” have won the only union contract in the country’s assembly plants; and in Anse-à-Veau, in the southeastern department of Nippes, where agricultural workers demanded back pay they said was owed them. (Email from Batay Ouvriye 5/3/13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 5.

See our last report on the 2013 global May Day mobilization.