From Wed Oct 8 13:39:57 2003
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2003 14:59:09 -0500 (CDT)
Organization: Quixote Center
Subject: [Haitireport] Action Alert—Support Labor Rights in
Article: 165996
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops!

Action Alert—Haiti, issued by the Haiti Support Group, 26 September 2003

Protest the physical abuse of Haitian workers in Port-au-Prince sweatshops!

Say no to the violation of workers’ rights!

Support Haitian workers’ attempts to organise unions!

The Haiti Support Group joins the Batay Ouvriye workers’ organisation in condemning recent acts of aggression against workers in Port-au-Prince garment assembly factories operated by the South Korean Willbes Company.

The latest chapter in a long-running catalogue of abuse of workers’ rights began on 12 August when workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factory No. 5 in the Shodecosa Industrial Park were beaten up and shot at by armed factory security guards and riot police. These violent attacks followed factory workers’ attempts to stop security guards from beating up a co-worker who had demanded severance pay after being arbitrarily fired. During the course of the attacks, several workers received gunshot wounds, many were beaten with police batons, and one worker who attempted to photograph what was happening was beaten unconscious and then detained overnight in the CitC) Soleil police station.

Subsequently a new factory manager at Shodecosa Factory No.5 has begun arbitrarily firing the workers involved.

More recently, the Batay Ouvriye workers’ organisation reports that a female worker at the Willbes garment assembly factory No.42 in the other Port-au-Prince industrial park—SONAPAI—has been beaten up by the factory supervisor, and then fired without any severance pay.

Please write letters of protest —demanding an end to violent and abusive treatment of workers at the four Willbes garment assembly factories in Port-au-Prince, and calling for the full respect of workers’ rights under Haitian and international law —and send them to the following email addresses:

Please cc copies to and


Mailing and fax addresses:

Background information

The Willbes & Co. Ltd was founded in South Korea in 1973. It established garment assembly factories in the Dominican Republic in 1986, in Honduras in 1991, and in Haiti in 2001. It currently runs four factories in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Unit 5 in the Shodecosa Industrial Park, and units 34, 41, and 42 in the Sonapi Industrial Park.

Willbes Haitian S.A. lists amongst its main clients the following companies: Target, Wal-Mart, GAP, Kmart, Newport News, Venator, Sears, ShopKo, C&A, and Kohl’s. Workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factories are currently producing Cherokee jeans and shirts for the US Target company.

According to information supplied by Batay Ouvriye, the violent incidents of 12 August are just the latest instance of Willbes Haitian S.A. calling on the police to intervene in a labour conflict, even though it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour to resolve such disputes. When faced with labour disputes, instead of adhering to proper arbitration rules according to Haitian labour legislation, the company has consistently chosen to call in the police to physically abuse and mistreat workers.

Workers at the Willbes Haitian S.A. factories also suffer from a variety of other arbitrary and illegal measures implemented by the managers. These include:

Batay Ouvriye notes that while all of these practices are taking place, inspectors from the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Social Affairs never visit the Willbes factories. The abusive Willbes Haitian S.A. managers benefit from a state of complete impunity.

In a 29th August press release, Batay Ouvriye situates the abusive practices of the Willbes Haitian S.A. management in a global context, and warns that workers at the garment assembly factories now opening in the new free trade zone on the Maribahoux Plain, near Ouanaminthe in north-east Haiti, can expect the same treatment:

We are calling everyone’s attention to an important point. We already know what is going on in the free trade zones throughout the world. These same types of violations, exploitation, and physical abuse happen in Honduras and Guatemala. What is happening at the Willbes factories shows us clearly what the free trade zones can bring to Haiti. Remember that the free trade zones are isolated areas without any real regulation or controls. The Willbes compan management in Port-au-Prince, who came here from the Dominican Republic, has set up its operations in the same way that the Dominican company, Grupo M, will in the free trade zone at Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone. Thus, as they continue to make propaganda concerning the employment opportunities they are supposedly going to provide the Haitian people, we need to clearly perceive the concrete exploitation and domination that they are in fact bringing. We need to understand that it is not very much different from slavery, two hundred years since Haiti won its independence in 1804.

—Batay Ouvriye, 29 August 2003.