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Conditions In Canadian-owned Factories Are The Worst In Honduras

Conditions in Canadian-owned Gildan garment factories are among the worst in Honduras says Reyna Tejada, a former factory worker and representative from CODEMUH, a feminist labour organization. Tejada was in Vancouver to speak at the CUPE-BC convention, held April 29 to May 2.
Gildan factories produce t-shirts, fleeces and apparel for other  companies to put their logos and graphics on. The company currently has  contracts for brands such as New Balance and Secret.


Founded in Montreal  in 1984, Gildan closed its last factory in Canada in 2007, moving  manufacturing to countries where it can take advantage of free trade  zones and cheap labour. Gildan’s market share doubled between 2009 and  2013, and since Canada and Honduras have signed a fair trade agreement,  in 2014, Gildan is planning to increase sales in Canada.
Gildan has been accused of firing workers for organizing unions and failing to comply with  occupational health standards in Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican  Republic.
“By working together we are going to be able to work towards stopping workplace violence and ensuring we have jobs,” says Tejada via translation by Kathryn Janzen, the Executive Director of CoDev Canada, a Canadian NGO that has partnered with CODEMUH since 1998.
Reyna at HEU meeting in Vancouver in May 2015 / Photo taken by Caelie Frampton

Reyna at HEU meeting in Vancouver in May 2015 / Photo taken by Caelie Frampton

CODEMUH receives support from CUPE-BC, as well as other Canadian unions,  for its work improving the health and safety conditions of women  working in maquilas (garmet factories run by foreign companies that export product to the countries of the company) in Honduras.
For over 22 years, CODEMUH has been fighting to improve the working condition in maquilas. Workers, who are mostly young women, suffer from neck and spinal injuries from being hunched over, and tendentious and rotator cuff injuries due to making the same repetitive action.
In one shift a worker typically does over 60,000 repetitive movements while sewing, for example, between 6,000 and 7,000 arms onto shirts. She’ll earn about $245 a month, representing the lowest-paid sector in one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. If he has to stop working due to injuries, there is no compensation from the company and no government benefits.
Reyna (right) in a meeting with CODEMUH coordinators / Photo taken by Julián Ara

Reyna (right) in a meeting with CODEMUH coordinators / Photo taken by Julián Arango

While CODEMUH represents women from many different factories, Tejada says that the most complaints come from Gildan factories. Gildan, which has head offices in Montreal, organizes workers on what they call a four-by-four system: four, 11.5 hour days in a row, followed by four days off. However, women are often pressured to work extra days, so they don’t get the four days off, and the long hours and intensive work mean they get injured sooner and suffer more serious health complications.
Tejada says that the four-by-four system is illegal in Honduras, where employers are not supposed to schedule shifts longer than eight hours. However, the government does….
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