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Panel IV: Decent work in the garment sector

January 9, 2009

Sandra Ramos

 Sandra Ramos, MEC

Sandra Ramos, Director of the Movement of Working and Unemployed Women, Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC) described the issues facing women workers in Central America's garment industry, emphasizing the need to look at these issues from a gender perspective. She explained that women form the majority of the workforce in Central American maquilas, where they are paid lower salaries than men and left more vulnerable to forced labour, sexual abuse, precarious work and lack of freedom of association. She fears that regional free trade agreements, CAFTA-DR and the Association Agreement with the European Union, can aggravate women's situation further by increasing their unemployment, reducing income, diminishing the protection of workers' and their rights, and increasing immigration of women to other countries in the region.

As a strategy, Sandra Ramos proposed to increase communication and cooperation with stakeholders in the region in order to improve policies and their implementation and to promote discussion and awareness on gender issues. She suggested, as well, that mechanisms should be established for organizations and workers in Asia and Central America to exchange experiences.

Sandra Ramos, MEC: Decent work and the garment sector: What are the priorities and strategies from a perspective of the women workers' movement? (Power Point 2.2MB) (in Spanish)

Jose Ramirez, Regional General Secretary, International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) spoke about the commitment of the union movement to working with women's groups on campaigns against exploitation. He described the Decent Work campaign and the work of the MFA Forum in the Americas, noting that the effort to develop a common agenda on labour rights issues requires bringing all the right parties to the table. He added, "There will be no organization, union or NGO capable of stopping the perverse advance of multinationals if unions, women's organizations and civil socity groups are not united."

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