The impact of the Honduran coup on women maquila workers

The Honduran Women’s Collective, known as Codemuh, is a women-led rights organisation and long-term War on Want partner that works to empower women workers in Honduras’ Export Processing Zones (EPZ). Over the last 20 years the “maquiladora” industry, as it is known in Latin America, has become an integral part of the Honduran economy. Codemuh has monitored and documented human and employment rights violations in EPZs, especially among women workers.

Honduras’ maquila industry is highly dependent on the US and Central America markets. It is one of the largest exporters of textile products to US and the leading exporter to Central American and Caribbean countries. Employing 133,000 people , of which 70% are women, the country’s main export product is clothing, including well-known names such as WalMart, Adidas, Hanes, HBI, Fruit of the Loom and GAP. Though the maquila industry has bought much needed investment to Honduras, the benefits are felt by a minority, and these benefits have come at the expense of employment  rights.

Codemuh, as well as other Honduran grassroots organisations, is campaigning against the human and employment rights violations in the maquila industry in the aftermath of the coup. 

In July Codemuh reported that maquila workers were forced by factory owners to join in so-called "Marchas de la Paz" – Peace Walks – organised by the de facto president Roberto Micheletti and financed by the business community with the support of the military. Despite the fact that the majority of workers opposed the coup, they felt forced to attend these rallies two or three times a month for fear of  losing their jobs.  Workers were told  that they would be paid the daily minimum salary (around 100 lempiras,  roughly £3), but Codemuh informed War on Want that workers have received no payment. In fact, after attending demonstrations they were forced to make up for the ‘lost’ time by working an extra day.

As a consequence of  a curfew imposed by the de facto government, workers are forced to make up for the “time lost” by working two additional hours each day without pay. Codemuh condemns this flagrant violation of Article 23 of the Honduran Labour Code.

Codemuh has also denounced the actions of the Honduran Council of Private Companies, which is using the crisis to try to push through legislative reforms that would relax employment laws in EPZs. Under this proposed legislation, factory owners would be able to employ workers on a temporary or part-time basis. For EPZ workers, who already face appalling working conditions, long hours and low pay, such reforms would result in losing social security benefits, less job security and other long-term consequences that would affect their livelihoods.
Codemuh has been campaigning against these proposed changes, as well as raising awareness among  women workers of the impact of the current crisis on their civil liberties and employment rights. Working in partnership with Codemuh, War on Want is dedicated to exposing and taking action against the violation of basic human rights in sweatshops.

This article was originally published by Central American Report

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