April 2, 2007

Workers' lives in the banana republic

banana worker, HondurasWhat is she painting on the bananas
that require her to use a respirator?
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

Sharon (A cup of coffee blog) from New Zealand wrote about an interesting article about Honduras from Ireland of all places. Called "Life in the banana republic," it not only discusses workers in the banana industry but also workers in the maquilas (factories) in the ‘free-trade zones’:

"The country’s sweatshop-friendly industrial culture helps to ensure that Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in impoverished Central America."

"Sweatshop-friendly" is the right term. New businesses operating in Honduras pay no taxes for the first 10 years. Just recently the government of Honduras agreed to reduce the minimum daily wage by L.20 for the next ten years for companies who want to operate new maquilas in the southern part of the country.

The government, despite protests, agreed to a minimum wage of L.86 per day (US$4.55). Some of the companies who have indicated interest in the new Pacific Free Zone are Lovable, Fruit of the Loom, Bay Island, and Dickies. The area involved includes
Choluteca, Valle, El Paraíso, Olancho y Santa Bárbara.

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