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The Honduran Women's Collective Statement on the Signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and Canada

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The Honduran Women's Collective Statement on the Signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and Canada

In a country like Honduras, using free trade treaties to open the domestic economy to competition with countries with asymmetrical economies has only attracted transnational companies which operate and implement work systems that exploit Honduran women workers. In the first place, these companies register in export processing zones, or as various kinds of ‘maquilas’ -- for example: clothing manufacturers; spinning mills; call centres; agro-export companies, most of which are tax exempt. In other words, all they bring to the country where they establish themselves is the liability of jobs for the GDP, jobs under the supervision of a state that is passive and permissive when faced with violations of female workers’ human rights.

The ‘maqilas’ (sweatshops), acting in an openly discriminatory fashion, prefer to employ women because they have better hand-eye coordination, have little education, no organizing experience, because this kind of work is socially considered to be an extension of the domestic work imposed on women and because women’s gender socialization tends to make them work and accept the working conditions without demanding their human rights be respected.

These exploitative and enslaving working conditions --such as those which exist in Gildan Activewear headquartered in Canada and promoted by  nation states and trade treaties—involve  normal work days of an illegal 11 and a half hours, with obligatory overtime, bringing the work week to up to 69 hours. Its system of production goals and quotas is indexed to the salary paid; this therefore brings about the even greater exploitation of having to produce 500 dozen every day in order to earn a weekly salary of L1,600,00, which equals US$76.16.

These illegal working days and the obligation to meet the daily production quota cause damage to the women’s health such as occupational musculoskeletal ailments – currently The Honduran Women's Collective (CODEMUH by the Spanish acronym) is treating more than 100 male and female workers from the Gildan company who are living with health problems caused by substandard working conditions. 50 of them have been advised to move to employment which forbids performing repetitive movements and assuming positions which strain the neck and shoulder. This should sound a cry of alarm to governments and human rights defense organizations because fostering these kinds of industries and types of employment is violating a woman’s right to live a violence-free life, with decent working conditions, with no discrimination and with adequate health care.

It is critical that governments promote decent, secure jobs, and wages so that workers can live and not just survive.

November 5, 2013 - Choloma Cortes, Honduras C.A

The Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH by its Spanish acronym) is a grassroots, feminist organization with 24 years of experience working with and for women in health, labour rights, gender-based violence, organizing and advocacy. They work with Honduran women, many of which work in clothing and textile sweatshops owned by transnational corporations including Hanes or HBI (US-based), Delta Apparel (US-based) and Gildan (Montreal-based)  translation by Janet  Esti    

para leer la versión en español

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