Date: Mon, 24 Aug 98 12:09:44 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #447, 8/23/98
Article: 41775
To: undisclosed-recipients:;;
Message-ID: <>

/** reg.nicaragua: 51.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #447, 8/23/98 **
** Written 9:02 PM Aug 23, 1998 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **

Maquila Contract Signed in Nicaragua

Weekly News Update on the Americas, issue 447, 23 August 1998

Unionized workers at the Taiwanese-owned Chentex maquiladora (tariff-exempt assembly plant) in Nicaragua were scheduled to sign an agreement with management at the Labor Ministry on Aug. 19 following a year-long struggle to win recognition and a contract. The agreement was said to provide for a clinic at the workplace, a 30% subsidy on eyeglassses, a contribution in the event of a birth or a death in the family, free school supplies for the children of workers, and a credit fund. It also contains a clause to re-open in six months' time issues on which workers and management were unable to agree: transport allowance, meal allowance and wage review.

Chentex, part of the Chi Shing consortium, employs some 1,700 workers stitching garments under contract for US retailers, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Gloria Vanderbilt; the plant was one of several plants in Managua's Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone investigated by the US-based National Labor Committee (NLC) and the US television program Hard Copy for an expose aired in the US in November 1997. The Federation of Garment, Textile, Leather and Shoe Workers—affiliated with the Sandinista Workers Federation (CST), which is linked to the leftist opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)—won recognition on Feb. 16 after a six-month struggle. One month later, on Mar. 19, Chentex announced that it was moving operations to Mexico because of the most recent violent events by CST leaders [see Updates #407, 408, 418, 421, 425].

The threat to move appears to have been a negotiating ploy, and management—which had received hundreds of letters of protest from international solidarity activists—agreed in May to negotiate in good faith. In early August, the company made public a decision to renew its contract in Nicaragua. Union sources say that over the next six months the Federation plans to consolidate its strength at Chentex and organize the other two plants in the Chi Shing consortium. [Labor Alerts/Campaign for Labor Rights 8/19/98; Federation letter 8/14/98]