Haitian Workers at Factory Supplying Gildan Activewear Fired for Striking over Poverty Wages

An investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) has found that a supplier factory to Gildan Activewear located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, engaged in a mass firing of its workers in retaliation for their going on strike over unpaid overtime. The WRC found that the dismissal of 64 Haitian workers at Gildan’s supplier, Centri Group, was an act of reprisal by factory management in retaliation for workers’ exercising their right to freedom of association by conducting a nonviolent strike to resolve the unpaid wage issue.

Garment workers in Haiti are the lowest paid in the western hemisphere, receiving a daily wage of only $4.62. Gildan is the largest seller of t-shirts in North America with over $3 billion in revenue in 2022.

The WRC’s investigation determined that, in January 2022, after several months of negotiations with the factory’s owners failed to resolve the union’s claims of workplace wage violations, workers at Centri Group conducted a preannounced nonviolent three-day work stoppage, in which the majority of the factory’s workforce of approximately 600 workers participated. The WRC found, however, that immediately following the three-day strike, the factory refused to permit 64 of the factory’s employees to return to work, including all 21 of the leaders of the factory workers’ union—and subsequently informed all 64 employees that they were fired.

The factory management claimed that the group of fired workers prevented other employees from entering the factory during and after the strike. However, internal factory video footage reviewed by the WRC showed no evidence of this and revealed that, to the contrary, it was the factory’s own security guards that barred workers from the facility. This footage also made clear that the strike, itself, was wholly nonviolent.

The right to freedom of association, which is a fundamental international labor and human right, protects workers’ rights to organize and to engage in nonviolent workplace protests, including the right to strike. Gildan’s supplier, Centri Group, violated this right when it retaliatorily terminated the group of workers whom it identified as having organized and led the work stoppage, which included the leaders of the factory workers’ union.

Over the past year, the WRC has called on Gildan to require Centri Group to reinstate all 64 fired workers and pay them back wages from the date of their dismissals to the date when such offers of reinstatement are made. However, Centri Group has refused to take such remedial actions, and, to date, Gildan has failed to require the factory’s owner to take these steps.

Garment workers in Haiti—or any other country—should not face the loss of their livelihood when their employer’s refusal to address wage violations compels them to engage in nonviolent protests and exercise their right to strike. The WRC urges Centri Group and Gildan to ensure that the violations of these workers’ associational rights are fully remedied and that all 64 fired workers are given the opportunity to return to their former positions with full payment of back wages.