From email@example.com Wed Aug 20 09:00:15 2003
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 06:52:48 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bob Corbett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Haiti mailing list <email@example.com>
Subject: 16429: Bellegarde-Smith: Workers’ Struggles in Haiti (fwd)
From: P D Bellegarde-Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Workers struggles are surging on various fronts, away from head-line news. Among the many struggles, there is the question of wages and exploitation. During recent months, the Haitian bourgeoisie has maneuvered to lower real wages of workers in order to gain a comparative advantage as compared to other countries in Central America. Thus the constant devaluation of the gourde, the Haitian currency. This leads not only to a decrease in workers real wages but also constitutes a net transfer of wealth from the working class to the bourgeoisie. It is just highway robbery.
In the same context, the government, the bourgeoisie and the corrupt central federations of labor unions have colluded to fix the minimum wage at 70 gourdes, which is worth much less today than the 36 gourdes previous minimum wage when it was enacted in 1995. Confronted with this situation, workers have waged numerous struggles. Some bosses at first refused to pay the new minimum wage. Others took more than 2 months before they were forced to comply. And others yet are still refusing to pay the 70 gourdes daily wage. This is an ongoing struggle. We must fight for even more and Batay Ouvriye is committed to this struggle.
In the rural areas, farm workers have also fought to raise their wages. In a few areas some important gains have been made. Wages in some areas have gone from 20 to 36 to 70 gourdes per day, while in others still they went from 50 to 100 gourdes daily. This continuing struggle needs to be generalized throughout the country.
The struggles of sharecroppers have also yielded some important gains recently. The rural labor code stipulates that crops should be divided into 3 equal lots; 1 lot for the landowner, 1 lot for the sharecropper, and the remaining lot to provide for tools, seeds and to maintain the land. But landowners traditionally had forces sharecroppers to give up the third lot and had simply divided the crops into 2 lots, sometimes even 1/4 to 3/4. In various localities successful struggles have been waged to force landowners to respect the rural labor code and comply with the 3 lot separation of crops. Again, this is a struggle which needs to be generalized throughout the country and which we must take even further.
During the first half of the year, there have been numerous struggles. Numerous demonstrations, pickets have been held in Archaie, Lagonave, Port-de-Paix, Jean-Rabel, Saint-Michel, Mol St. Nicolas, Bombardopolis… The question of wages and of the 3 lots was of great significance in these struggles, among other issues. There were a number of violent confrontations. The general tendency is for the contradictions to become more exacerbated and for confrontations to be more acute. There again the struggles go on, in different ways on, on various levels.
Nowadays, in the rural areas, there are 4 major campaigns of importance, beside the issues of wages and exploitation: justice, education, healthcare and birth certificates. All these struggles demand continuous support from progressives, from those who believe in the justice of workers struggles and from those who believe that only workers struggles can liberate the country from the morass which it is now in. The struggles continue, and the solidarity must also be reinforced!
Batay Ouvriye, July 2003