The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Haiti—Mass Layoffs—and Workers’ Reaction

Feb 20, 2023

This article is translated from the February 11 issue, #1300 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

At the end of January, textile subcontractor S and H Global announced the layoff of 3,500 workers effective the end of February. The company is a subsidiary of the South Korean textile group Sae-A Trading, one of the world’s largest garment manufacturers.

It is the biggest employer at the Caracol industrial park in Ouanaminthe, near the border with the Dominican Republic. The company gave its capitalist reasons for the layoffs: strikes by customs officials, social unrest, fuel shortages caused by gangs who control the key fuel terminal in the capital Port-au-Prince, which paralyse production, blocking of shipments of finished products, cancellation of orders, loss of confidence by customers in the United States …

A long press release after having exploited the labor of Haitian workers at low pay and after having made colossal profits! The boss would seek other workers to exploit elsewhere …

Following the announcement of the closure, workers demonstrated in three workshops. In fact they occupied the premises. Police intervened. The workers were expelled. Machines were ransacked. In the end, the company closed the workshops for three weeks and announced in one week it would pay the workers.

The bosses in the industrial zone in Port-au-Prince use similar methods. They dismiss workers or hire them only three or four days a month. During these few days, the workers are forced to finish an entire month’s production, which the boss hoards for later resale.

While waiting to find work, unemployed workers become itinerant merchants. They buy what they can in bulk—candy, cigarettes, sandwich bags of water, plantain chips—and wander the neighborhoods trying to sell a few things, while avoiding armed gangs.

In the workshops, a system of exchange has developed among workers. They buy from one another on credit and pay each other back when paychecks come. These individual survival measures don’t stop anyone from reacting collectively, though! Workers struck for two days in January at two companies in the industrial park. They forced the bosses to pay additional salary they were owed. This was the salary adjustment the bosses withheld and stole back during the February 2022 protests.

Even under the dictatorship of the gangs, workers’ solidarity, combativity, and organization allows some fights to succeed.