Translated by Yolaina Vargas Pritchard, from a Maquila Solidarity Network article
On the 2nd of March, the Central American Women Solidarity Network for the Maquila Workers (REDCAM) launched an agenda on maquila women workers’ rights in the region.
The regional launch took place in Managua, Nicaragua during the Annual Colloquium of the Movimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas, Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC). National launches also took place in Honduras and Guatemala.
The ‘Agenda of the Workers’ Rights for Women Workers in the Maquila Industry ‘ is a product of 2 years of consultation with women workers and women’s organizations and trade unions in the Central American region.
The agenda is supported by 14 national women’s organizations and 2 trade union bodies – the National Commission of Women’s Trade Union of Nicaragua and the Central American Coordinator of Maquila Trade Unions. The Women’s Central American Fund and the RSM are also signatories of the agenda.
The RSM is working with some of the signatory organizations to present the agenda to the international clothing brands in order to lobby for changes in their policies and labour standard practices so that the priority issues for women maquila workers are addressed.
Here are, in short, some of the agenda’s main demands on governments, garment manufacturing companies and international brands:
Right to a job and living wage
– Provide interim funding to guarantee the payment of employee benefits to workers (s) in case of a plant closure.
– Adopt policies that promote affirmative action which prohibit discrimination when hiring.
– Prohibit temporary or hourly contracts and the practice of non-scheduled work hours that avoid paying overtime earnings.
– Ensure the maternity rights of women, as well as job security during the prenatal and postnatal periods.
– Ensure the legal requirement for the provision of child care centres in the factories.
– Impose sanctions on employers who dock pay for the day or time taken by workers to attend medical appointments
– Demand that the Parclacen Centroamericano promotes the adoption of the minimum wage according to the enlarged basic food basket/basic living costs of each country, based on the analysis of the costs of each country.
Right to health and safety
– Businesses and governments in the region should train their staff and officials as well as the workers on the health and safety risks of the work in the maquiladoras.
– Governments should penalize the companies that do not have joint health and safety committees; that do not comply with international ergonomic standards; and do not meet the preventative measures required by law
– Train staff in social security and clinical staff in factories in occupational medicine
– Conduct regular ergonomic studies of the workstations and use the results to redesign the work posts and improve the work environment
– Improve the physical conditions of the workplace and the organization of work to avoid musculoskeletal strains and disorders
– Eliminate the patterns of 4×4, 3×4 and 5×2 workdays that violate the rights to an 8 hour workday, overtime pay/compensation and a suitable working environment
– Improve the health and safety inspections conducted by the Ministries of Work, in order to give greater weight to the opinion of the workers and prohibit the dismissal based on the diagnosis of occupational hazards.
Right to sexual and reproductive health
– Prohibit pregnancy tests and / or HIV tests as a requirement for hiring or continued employment.
– Impose sanctions on employers who require pregnancy tests as a requirement for getting a job or that discriminate against women on grounds of pregnancy or maternity.
– Ensure that pregnant women are not forced to perform tasks that may cause damage to them or their babies.
– Ensure that workers are entitled to maternity allowance as established by law; ensure that workers can return to work once the allowance ends, without the threat of dismissal or non-renewal of their contract.
Right to social security
· Perform ongoing inspections to ensure that employers respect the right of workers (s) to be affiliated and have access to social security and health.
· Monitor the performance of the private health clinics in factories, to prevent low quality service; to prevent claiming extra costs and to prevent replacing access to social security with private clinics.
· Ensure that staff working in health service companies are not influenced by economic and/or other interests or relations with the employer.
Right to non-workplace violence and sexual harassment
– Improve coordination among relevant ministries and institutions to address complaints from women maquila workers concerning violence (physical, verbal, sexual, psychological and economic) in the workplace.
– Improve mechanisms for preventing and punishing sexual harassment, bullying and any act of violence against women workers, and provide effective legal instruments to address these abuses.
– Improve internal reporting mechanisms in companies on sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and violence against women, and promote information campaigns among staff in the factories.
– Develop outreach strategies between maquila workers to promote and efficiently meet the reporting of abuse.
– Promote legislative changes to facilitate and encourage companies to adopt security measures, such as infrastructure and public lighting, to prevent violence against women.
– The institutions of the criminal justice system and law enforcement institutions in Central America must ensure staff training and research that address the handling of cases relating to workplace violence and sexual harassment against women workers and ensure high quality attention rather than re-victimization.
– Ensuring that management personnel receive training on how to prevent these crimes and in the workplace.
Right to training and technical assistance
– Ensure that educational institutions develop programs designed for working women, to give them the opportunity to pursue technical degrees and/or higher education.