Honduras — injured garment workers seek justice*
A woman who cannot hug her son or daughter bids for compensation today over injuries she claims were caused making clothes for US multinational HanesBrands.
The Honduran partner of the UK anti-poverty charity War on Want will seek pension and welfare benefits for her and 45 other injured women workers at a special tribunal in Madrid amid the run-up to the EU-Latin America summit next week.
Luisa del Carmen Alfaro Campos, aged 40, suffers from back, shoulder and arm pain from producing sweatshirts at a factory in northern Honduras, where she toiled up to seven days a week for little more than £1 an hour.
Her 21-year-old daughter Fanny has cervical, shoulder and back injuries from efforts to meet fast production targets in the same plant, neither able to spare time for toilet or meal breaks.
Like most of the injured women, both continue to work in the factory, but due to disability they have been switched in jobs at barely half the pay rate, which earns them far less than the £358 a month the workers say they need as a living wage.
Luisa said: “My health condition prevents me doing personal and domestic things. Dishes have fallen from my hands and I cannot hug my daughter, son or husband.
“In the company I feel discriminated because I’m ill. Some days I just want to run away and leave the factory. The most painful thing is to see how they mistreat my daughter.”
This will be the first case on the textiles industry to go before high-level judges on the Permanent People’s Tribunal, the independent body which influences international opinion on human rights violations by multinational corporations.
It will come from War on Want partner Codemuh, the Honduran Women’s Collective.
In the case to the tribunal, Codemuh accuses HanesBrands of criminal abuse.
It also blames the Honduran government for giving impunity to multinationals supplied by factories in export processing zones.
The group will ask the tribunal to support these charges and endorse the women’s claims for benefits.
Codemuh will urge the judges to condemn rich nations’ pressures which force Honduras to sign damaging free trade deals.
Codemuh general coordinator, Maria Luisa Reglado Moran, said: “Many women repeating the same movements for long hours in garment factories suffer lasting injuries which blight their work and family life. The tribunal offers hope that a positive verdict will increase the pressure for them to win compensation.”
Laia Blanch, international programmers office at War on Want, said: “We give our full support to Codemuh for a hearing that puts business and government leaders in the dock over neglecting vulnerable women’s health. It should issue a clear message to these leaders against putting profits before workers’ needs.”
Siri Svendsen/Paul Collins, War on Want media office(+44 (0)20 7549 0588/(+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or(+44) (0)7983 550728
*The text is a War on Want press release.
Any opinions or viewpoints that are published herein are directly from the contributing author and does not necessarily represent the philosophy or viewpoints of Latin America Bureau