Friday, August 6, 2010

EARNINGS- Textile Factory Workers in the Capital

Income and Expenses

Among the sample we interviewed, factory worker earnings ranged from 125 goudes or $3.00 base pay per day to am alleged 425 goudes per day (one worker claimed to earn this much) with overtime and bonuses. Our team was skeptical that Marline did earn this much on any day, but this is what she told us and that’s what we report.

A “niveau”, typical, entry level worker in textiles at SONAPI gets 125 goudes, or roughly $3.00 per day. This is the new, legal minimum base pay for textile factory workers set in 2009, after considerable wrangling in the Senate and between factory owners, worker representatives and the GOH. For other sectors of the fractured economy, the minimum wage was set at 200 goudes or 5$ U.S. Textile factory owners cut a deal. This report will not remark on the why’s and wherefores of that, as it was not something posed in our interview questions.
[But see: and]

We interviewed four such new workers, all at SONAPI, 3 young women and one young man. The women all lived at home, with their families – parents, siblings and extended kin. They all worked in the same factory, on the same team. They had been students, finished school in 2008. They had not held jobs, paying jobs, before. The young man was married, with two small children. Previously, he had been a student and did not have a job. After Jan. 12, a friend helped him get into the factory for this job.

All of these young people were happy, if not ecstatic, to have the jobs they started. They had obtained the work after Jan. 12. They were all very well-spoken, articulate and enthusiastic to speak with us. Not surprisingly, they were not critical about the pay or working conditions. The young man offered a Kreyol proverb, equivalent to “You have to start somewhere,” “Kanpe sou bwa kwochi pou koupe yon bwa dwat.” He saw the job as an opportunity, an experience he could learn and build on.

More experienced workers had more to say, and were more comfortable with some criticisms, suggestions for improvement. Better pay, of course, was always the starting point, and it was usually couched in terms of meeting their needs, their family’s needs, and not in terms of the factory owner cheating them, or making too much profit. (Perhaps if I had been able to spend time with workers at the offices of AUMOHD (Human Rights Legal Center), I might have heard such?).

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