Montreal-based Gildan Activewear to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day.
One of Canada’s largest garment companies has promised to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day, the country’s minimum wage.
Montreal-based Gildan has been under scrutiny in recent weeks following the release of a report from the Workers Rights Consortium, a group representing nearly 200 universities that monitors factories making college-logo apparel.
The WRC said workers making apparel for Gildan earned well below Haiti’s minimum wage and, in some cases, were forced to remain in locked factories until their assigned work was completed.
In its report titled “Stealing from the Poor: Wage Theft in the Haitian Apparel Industry,” the WRC interviewed workers from five of Haiti’s 24 factories. On average, workers were being paid 32 per cent less than the law required, according to pay stubs reviewed by the watchdog group. “They are being cheated out of an average of seven weeks’ pay per year,” the report said. “They are ill-fed, indebted and without access to medical care.”
At least 75 per cent of workers interviewed said they couldn’t afford three meals a day for themselves and their families and 71 per cent said they borrowed money to buy food.
WRC official Scott Nova told the Star in an interview that Gildan and rival Fruit of the Loom had agreed that they would begin to demand that at least 90 per cent of employees in any Haitian factory making their products were paid the minimum wage. Some trainees earn less.
The companies are scheduled to meet with union representatives in coming weeks to discuss back pay, Nova said, adding U.S. apparel maker Hanes refused to make a similar commitment.
“The commitments from Gildan and Fruit of the Loom will put substantial pressure on other buyers,” Nova said.
A spokesperson for Hanes couldn’t be reached by phone or email.
Gildan spokeswoman Stephanie Gaucher said her company would immediately require third-party contractors in Haiti to comply with minimum-wage laws and would monitor compliance of those laws.
“It is important to note that in the past year, Gildan has implemented a series of price increases with each of its contractors in Haiti in order to ensure that the payment of the 300 gourdes is respected,” Gaucher wrote.
For Gildan — whose sales have nearly doubled in three years, to $1.9 billion last year from $1 billion in 2009 — Haiti is an attractive place to make clothing.
The minimum wage in the garment sector is 87 cents per hour. Trainees are paid 58 cents. Only Bangladesh and Cambodia offer cheaper labour for the garment industry.