From Tue Nov 4 08:15:06 2003
Subject: ICFTU Online: violations of Core Labour Rights in Haiti
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 14:02:57 +0100
From: ICFTU Press <>
To: ICFTU Online <>

New ICFTU report submitted to the WTO: Serious violations of Core Labour Rights in Haiti

ICFTU Online..., 153/041103, 4 November 2003

Brussels, 04 November 2003 (ICFTU Online ): A new report produced by the ICFTU on core labour standards in Haiti, to coincide with the Trade Policy Review of Haiti at the WTO starting today, shows widespread violations of core labour standards in that country. The ICFTU report criticises Haiti’s flagrant lack of compliance with the eight ILO conventions referred to as Core Labour Standards.

The report notes that workers’ rights are essentially non-existent. Those workers who try to organise are subject to constant threats, violence and even murder. Yet the government does not investigate cases of violence against trade union members. Labour legislation is not enforced, collective bargaining barely exists and employers set wages virtually unilaterally.

The large majority of workers are employed in the informal economy, which makes protection of workers even more difficult as a result of the non-application of labour legislation.

Some 25,000 workers are engaged in export production, mainly in textiles (80%). Conditions in the textile plants are very bad, with workers expected to work for a pittance at extremely high rates and without proper sanitation, due largely to the absence of trade union rights. The government is now establishing export processing zones (epz) where violations of workers’ rights will almost certainly be even worse. There is however some prospect for improvement concerning a new epz development on the border with the Dominican Republic, where the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has made respect for all core labour standards a condition of a loan to Grupo M the Dominican Republic company developing the epz.

With regard to discrimination, the report notes the lack of employment opportunities for the majority of poor urban women. Most are employed in domestic service or informal vending. In the formal economy women have very limited opportunities and are rarely able to obtain better jobs. Women workers in export-oriented manufacturing are often sexually abused.

Child labour is a widespread and serious problem. It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of children between 10 and 14 years work. They are mainly engaged in rural and urban informal activities. School attendance is low and access to education is limited in rural areas.

One of the most serious problems is child domestic labour in Haiti, known as Restavek, whereby children perform domestic labour in exchange for room and board. Some of these children are sold into slavery. It is estimated that there are some 300,000 Restavek children in Haiti.

The report also mentions forced labour in trafficking for prostitution and labour into the Dominican Republic.

The ICFTU calls upon the government of Haiti to apply the core labour conventions it has ratified, and to ratify those it has not (ILO conventions 138 and 182, on minimum age and the worst forms of child labour). Legislation has to be brought into conformity with ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 and violations of trade union rights brought to an end. Child labour has to be eliminated, in particular child domestic labour (Restavek), and access to quality education for all children must be ensured. Furthermore, the Government has to take effective measures against discrimination of women.