Port-au-Prince, Feb 17 (EFE).- Thousands of Haitian textile workers took to the streets of this capital Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage – currently the equivalent of $5 for eight hours – amid inflation of more than 26 percent in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
It was the fourth day of protests organized by employees of textile factories clustered at the SNPI industrial park in Port-au-Prince.
A day after marching toward the official residence of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, the workers and their supporters tried to gather in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, which they accuse of colluding with SNPI employers to keep wages down.
Participants erected a barricade of burning tires that extended the length of the main thoroughfare in Delmas, the capital’s main commercial area.
One of the organizers, Telemaque Pierre, said that police prevented protesters from approaching the ministry and announced plans for a meeting with the leaders of other unions.
“If the government doesn’t give an acceptable response to our demands, next week the labor movement will acquire a national dimension,” he said.
Article 137 of Haiti’s labor code mandates periodic wage increases tied to the cost of living, including an automatic raise in the event of inflation of 10 percent or higher for an extended period.
The textile workers have not seen a hike in minimum pay in three years.
Haiti has been mired in recession for the last three years and the economic woes are aggravated by political instability and natural disasters.
Henry was installed following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021, weeks before southwestern Haiti suffered a powerful earthquake.
Some 4.9 million Haitians, or 43 percent of the population, are in need of aid, according to estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
Late last year, the Henry administration sharply raised the prices of gasoline, diesel and kerosene, contending that Haiti could no longer afford to spend $300 million a year on fuel subsidies.
The increased fuel prices are burdensome in themselves and have also made basic goods more expensive by raising transportation costs. EFE