USAID Opposes To Wage Increases In Haiti

Jolicoeur - July 18 2010, 3:15 PM

factory employee who worked for Wilson Sporting goods in Port-au-Prince during the period President Aristide was in office told us that he worked ten hours a day for US$ 12.22 a week. This would make an annual wage of $ 635.29. Even if this was only nine hours of work, allowing an hour for lunch, it would still amount to only 27 US cents an hour, $ 2.44 a day, without benefits.

This was a little above the minimum wage, which has been set at 15 gourdes a day since 1984. At the 1991 market exchange rate of 8.5 gourdes to one U.S. dollar, the minimum daily wage for an eight hour day was US$ 1.76, or 22 cents an hour. Wilson's extra five cents an hour meant it was paying 23 percent above the minimum wage. This must be what the U.S. Commerce Department meant when it stated, "Although no reliable data exists, wages in the assembly sector, which are based mainly on piece-work, are higher than the minimum..."31

On Apil 2, 1991, just two months into the new administration, President Aristide invited Haiti's private sector leaders to the National Palace for a meeting.

He appealed to them: "The country needs you." President Aristide requested their help. 32 Something had to be done to begin to improve the miserable conditions destroying the Haitian people.

A year earlier the Haitian Chamber of Commerce had warned that "the execrable living conditions of our workers" would eventually lead to social upheaval.

The U.S. Commerce Department was saying that, "In real terms the minimum wage declined 45 percent"33 in Haiti since 1985. But it was worse still, because health and pension benefits were not being paid. And as USAID observed, in 1990, "essential services and infrastructure have deteriorated significantly" because of military corruption preceding the Aristide government.

USAID pointed out that, "Haiti is one of the world's least developed countries and is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere."34

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