Haiti: police repress workers’ May Day demo

Workers in Haiti's garment assembly sector observed International Workers' Day on May 1 with a march continuing their campaign for a minimum wage of 500 gourdes (US$12.69) for an eight-hour day. The protest—organized by the leftist labor organization Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle") and the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA) and backed by the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) and other groups—started at the large industrial park in the north of Port-au-Prince. After a long march including a brief protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST), the protesters planned to conclude at the statue of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the city's central Champ de Mars. Agents from the Corps for Intervention and the Maintenance of Order (CIMO), a riot police unit, blocked the marchers, hurling tear gas grenades and beating and arresting two students. Several assembly plant workers required treatment at a hospital.

The two students were released later that day after union leaders intervened with the judicial authorities, but other students held a protest on May 2 against the arrests, using barricades of burning tires to block Christophe Avenue near the Human Sciences Faculty (FASCH) of the State University of Haiti (UEH). (AlterPresse, Haiti, May 2, May 3)

Labor protests continued the following week. The Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC), a massive facility built in the Northeast department with international aid to house assembly plants, was shut down most of May 5-7 when the workers walked out to protest the lack of a road. The facility, which US officials once claimed would generate at least 20,000 jobs, currently employs 3,600 workers. There were also protests at the Compagnie de Développement Industriel S.A. (Codevi) "free trade zone" in Ouanaminthe in Northeast department at the Dominican border; in this case the issue was the lack of electricity in the city. (Miami Herald, May 9, from correspondent)

After talks on May 6 with the National Education and Professional Training Ministry (MENFP), several teachers' unions agreed to have their members return to the classrooms on May 8, ending a job action that started on April 23. Other teachers' unions decided to continue the walkout. Josué Mérilien, the coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Teachers (UNNOH), said his organization would wait for an agreement to be signed before it would call an end to the strike. (AlterPresse, May 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 11.