From: (Judyth Mermelstein)
Subject: Fwd Labour rights in Nicaragua
Date: 31 Jan 1998 04:38:43 GMT
Message-Id: <>
Organization: Babylon, Montreal, Canada

From Mon Jan 26 20:34:59 1998
From: Campaign for Labor Rights <>
Subject: 90 Nicaragua unionists fired

90 Nicaraguan workers fired after union organizing effort

Labor Alerts, 26 January 1998

Ninety workers from the Chentex factory in Nicaragua's Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone were fired on Saturday, one day after workers filed at Ministry of Labor offices the documentation for the legalization of the union they had formed on January 20th. The Chentex factory, which is Taiwanese owned, produces pants for Buggle Boy.


The Chentex factory, which employees over 2,000 workers, is part of Chi Shing consortium which also includes the Nien Shing and Chi Shing factories. This consortium employs half of the workers in the Free Trade Zone and is responsible for almost half of the production of the Zone ($110 million out of $250 million dollars in 1997). Besides their current production of Bugle Boy pants, Chentex workers have also sewed garments under subcontract for Wal-Mart (Faded Glory), Kmart (Route 66), J.C. Penney (Arizona jeans) and Gloria Vanderbilt.

Chentex was one of the factories investigated by the National Labor Committee (NLC) and the staff of the television program Hard Copy for its three-part series aired in November 1997. (An update is scheduled for today.) The base wage at Chentex is approximately $1.84 per day but, with the piece-rate system, the wage (usually for about 10 hours work) comes to, on the average, about $2.48 per day or 24 cents per hour. Often, however, workers are obliged to work overtime, usually 12 and one half hours on weekdays and 10 hours on Saturday. This brings a worker's annual earnings to $574, less than 30% of a small family's most basic survival needs.

In November, the NLC reported that everyone with whom they had spoken had said that if the company even thought they were interested in a union, or organizing any meetings, they would be immediately fired and blacklisted. Chentex managers let it be known very clearly that they would never allow a union at the factory.

In September, two people on line #7 were fired because their supervisor suspected they were organizing. In October, workers from each production line were called together and told by their supervisors, Anyone who doesn't like the system here can go. There are plenty of unemployed people who would love to have your job. Line supervisors told the workers that they would receive payment worth more than a week's wages if they informed on troublemakers trying to organize a union.

On November 15, supervisors set up a large TV/VCR at the factory and played a tape of the Hard Copy programs. They watched for any of their employees who appeared in the show. They saw Julieta Alonzo and two days later fired her. Her crime was speaking on the program about the difficulty of getting permission to go to the medical clinic and about forced overtime.

The cases of four workers fired at the time of the Hard Copy programs (including that of Julieta Alonzo) are still before the Second District Labor Court in Nicaragua. Meanwhile, workers at a U.S.-owned factory, Jem III, received legal recognition for their union from the Ministry of Labor and organizing was proceeding in other factories.

On January 20th, 72 workers at the Chentex factory, tired of mistreatment by management, withholding of payment for overtime, difficulty in getting permission to visit the medical clinic and other grievances, met and formed a union. On Friday January 23, they presented their documentation to the Office of Union Associations at the Labor Ministry. On Saturday, management began firing all the workers who had signed up for the union and union organizers accused the Labor Ministry of having given the list to the managers.

[Note: A coalition of US solidarity groups is funding a six-month labor organizing campaign by the Nicaraguan Federation of Textile Workers.]


Send a fax to the Nicaraguan Minister of Labor asking him to follow the Labor Code of Nicaragua and not allow the firings at Chentex to stand. A sample letter follows:

The Honorable Wilfredo Navarro
Minister of Labor
Managua, Nicaragua
Fax: 011-505-228-2103

Dear Mr. Navarro:

I am writing to express my concern about the situation in one of the factories of the Las Mercedes Industrial Free Trade Zone in Managua.

Ninety workers have been fired at the Chentex factory evidently because of their support for a union that has been recently organized in that factory. The papers requesting legal recognition of that union were filed at the Labor Ministry on Friday and on Saturday the firings began. Factory management at Chentex has given workers no written reason for the firings.

I urge you to investigate these firings and insist on the re-hiring of those workers fired for organizing or supporting a union in the Chentex factory. Such organizing is guaranteed in the Constitution and Labor Code of Nicaragua.