Primary links

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVE (1994-2014) OF THE MAQUILA SOLIDARITY NETWORK. For current information on our ongoing work on the living wage, women's labour rights, freedom of association, corporate accountability and Bangladesh fire and safety, please visit our new website, launched in October, 2015:

Can National Competitiveness Strategies Include Decent Work?

September 4, 2012

What options are open to poor garment-producing countries in a period of trade liberalization and global economic crisis? Must they join the race to the bottom on wages and working conditions or can they take a different road to competitiveness that respects workers' rights and provides decent work?

A new joint study by the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH), Professionals for Corporate Social Auditing (PASE) of Nicaragua, and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) attempts to answer these questions based on research carried out in the two competing Central American countries, as well as interviews with international apparel brands and manufacturers.

The study, which was launched in separate sessions in Nicaragua and Honduras in mid-July, found that while the Nicaraguan and Honduran governments are offering similar concessions and incentives to foreign investors and buyers, Nicaragua is beginning to distinguish itself as a country with a strong tradition of social dialogue, an improving industrial relations climate and greater respect for workers' right to organize and bargain collectively.

In contrast, social dialogue is at a very preliminary stage in Honduras, where the unilateral power of employers has been strengthened by the country's 2009 military coup. According to civil society leaders interviewed by EMIH, the lack of meaningful social dialogue is a legacy of the coup, "but also a result of employers' lack of interest and commitment. "

Although the existence of constructive social dialogue does not guarantee that a country has adopted a socially responsible competitiveness strategy, "the active participation of trade unions, women's groups and other civil society organizations in social dialogue with employers and government is... critical to achieving competitiveness strategies that seek a balance between the interests of workers and investors," says the report.

Abuses Continue

While acknowledging improvements in the industrial relations climate and respect for workers' rights in Nicaragua, the study found that the country's maquila workers continue to suffer many problems and abuses that are very similar to those experienced by their counterparts in Honduras, including:

  • poverty wages that don't begin to meet workers' basic needs;
  • high production targets and relentless pressure to meet them;
  • compulsory overtime and failure to pay the legal overtime rate;
  • debilitating injuries associated with the rapid pace of production and long work shifts;
  • lack of access to social security benefits;
  • lack of protections or compensation when factories close; and
  • gender-based discrimination and lack of attention to specific problems and needs of women.

In addition, Honduran workers also continue to face severe repression and discrimination when the attempt to organize unions, as well as threats to their job security and social entitlements caused by the introduction of a Temporary Employment Law that allows employers to hire workers on short-term contracts.

EMIH, PASE and MSN have also published an accompanying series of demands to international apparel companies calling on them to take action to eliminate the problems and abuses described above.

  • The full report, a report summary and the demands to apparel companies are available here


Share this