The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Haiti:
The Fight for the Minimum Wage Continues

Jul 18, 2016

This article is translated from the editorial of Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Power to the Workers), the newspaper edited by the Organisation des Travailleurs Revolutionnaires (Organization of Revolutionary Workers) of Haiti.

Under the pressure of the street, the government of Privert/Jean-Charles has finally issued a decree announcing the wage increase (to 300 gourdes, a raise in the minimum wage of 25%) that was proposed by the upper chamber, retroactively applicable to May 1. The different actions in the industrial zone and in the press, starting with the demonstrations at the beginning of May to demand an increase in the daily minimum wage to 500 gourdes, paid off!

The workers feel like this is a victory, and with reason, above all because of the constant hounding in the press by the subcontracting bosses who blabbered on and on about how this 25% raise in their sector is too high. Public opinion has gotten a small idea of the cupidity of these exploiters who get their orders in dollars but pay their workers in gourdes, the local money which is in continuous decline.

Having lost the first engagement of this battle, the subcontracting bosses, with the complicity of their servants in government, have used all types of subterfuges to get around this decision to increase the minimum wage. Some have increased the daily quotas, others have gotten rid of workers to try to make a dozen workers do the work of twenty, for example.... With all this, since the salary was increased by 25%, the workers of Bakers have discovered that they are getting less than before. It is also the case in many other companies where the bosses push their arrogance and cynicism to cut the wages of their workers in order to punish them for having demonstrated for the increase in the minimum wage....

(In many companies) in the Sonapi industrial park, the workers have fought for more than fifteen days to impose the minimum wage increase. At Sisa and Tabarre, for more than two weeks, they have stood up to the bosses, who have pulled out every trick to try to divide and discourage the workers. The situation is the same at many other companies in the industrial zone, like Premium, where the workers oppose the resistance and maneuvers of the bosses who try to avoid paying the raise.

In the Sonapi park, after the official announcement of the raise in the press, during their breaks the workers gathered together to discuss their low salaries, the high cost of living, the conditions of work, and also the political events of the day. The discussions are lively and include more and more workers. The unions, reduced to almost nothing, have regained their courage, recruit, animate the collective debates, pose as leaders of strikes as was the case at Sisa, even though they did not call for it.

After the street demonstrations, the workers continue to fight in the workplaces, where they stand up to the bosses who don’t stop complaining to the press that they lost millions of dollars in lost production during the days of demonstrations....

The protests, strikes, and sporadic work stoppages heard across the industrial zone come together in a vast movement in order to impose the 25% raise and gain the social protections also promised for many years: reimbursement for the cost of transport, food during the workday, health insurance, etc.