Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

2015-02_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:2 15 chines, tools, plants and components. Moreover, they can set up shop anywhere in the country. Many companies cheat. After the 10 year-period, they change their address or close a facility, only to re-start under a new name at another place. That is also how they act when grievances become known. Moreover, they tend to rely on small subcontractors in order to save compulsory contributions to govern- mental social-security schemes. The Ministry of La- bour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs close their eyes to these facts. Exhausted from work No formal training is needed to work in a maquila. Some dexterity in stitching parts together will do. The employers like to hire poor women with little or no edu- cation, because they tend to be obedient and subser­ vient. The workers’ average age is 27. Many are single mothers who left their villages in search of work. Maquila workers are formally employed, but their employment is not stable and barely regulated. Inter- national investors want great flexibility and insist on piece-work. They violate human rights and labour laws daily. The pace of the work is too fast, so it wears people out. Companies keep increasing the workload, and it is impossible to get one’s job done in eight hours. Many women work 10, 12 or even more hours per day, and overtime is not paid. There are no breaks, and access to toilets is restrict- ed to certain times. As nobody cleans the toilets, they tend to be extremely dirty and unsanitary. Production facilities lack relevant tools or only provide too few of them. Ventilation and lighting are deficient. Loud music is played, supposed to keep workers “awake”. Gloves and protective gear for mouth, nose and ears are not made available. There is no drinking water. Women are verbally abused, threatened and sometimes beaten. In- digenous women suffer in particular. They are humili- ated, sexually harassed and even raped sometimes. Guatemala has signed international agreements and treaties regarding workers’ rights. However, the authorities are not fulfilling their duties to enforce the rules. In 2008, a minimum wage was defined for maquilas, but it is below the minimum wage appli­ cable for other non-skilled work. Currently, the aver- age maquila worker earns the equivalent of about $ 290 per month, plus a bonus worth $ 33. That is not enough money to fulfil basic needs, which, according to official estimates, would require $ 423,42. Fleeing from poverty Globalisation has had a negative impact on the situa­tion of factory workers, and women must bear the brunt. To be hired, they need to provide a medi- cal certificate to prove that they are not pregnant. Protective laws concerning maternity are disregarded. Women, moreover, are paid lower wages than men, even when they do the same work, have the same skills and are equally experi- enced. Men are promoted to manage- ment positions, because employers believe they are better leaders. Gen- der discrimination is blatant. Racism haunts the maquilas as well. Initially, most of the workshops were in the agglomeration of the capi- tal city. Most staff came from ethnically diverse urban areas or the surrounding regions. But Globalisation sceptics often blame trade liberalisation for unjust labour conditions in developing countries. They have a point, but their analysis is somewhat incomplete. Yes, it is true that open bor- ders allow businesses to move to where labour is cheapest, so there tends to be a lot of misery where companies start producing. On the other hand, textiles and garment production is typically the sector in which industrialisation sets in. As economies develop and diversify after that stage, wages tend to rise – and so does the qual- ity of products. Trade unions emerge and fight to improve work places and social- protection schemes. Things improve in the textiles and garment sector too, and as the costs increase, supply-chain man- agers begin to check out places with lower labour costs to start anew. It is important to see that brutally exploit- ative conditions mark the early stage of industrialisation not only because of em- ployers’ disregard of workers’ plight, though that certainly plays a role. It also matters, however, that desperate rural poverty typically haunts the countries in which industrialisation begins, and that was even the case in Britain in the late 18th century. In such circumstances, many people appreciate any opportunity to make money, even though it is not enough to escape poverty and regardless of their miserable jobs being considered unacceptable in more developed world regions. To improve the fate of textile workers, one must therefore not only consider the industry they work in. The socio-eco­nomic context of the industry matters too. The essential thing is not so much to fight the industry as such, but to put it and the countries it operates in on a developmen- tal path that leads to fast progress. (dem) Early industrialisation “The willingness of young women to do poorly paid work in exploitative ­circumstances is what ­attracts investors.”

Seitenübersicht