RIGHT TO WORK AND TO A FAIR WAGE
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Every person has the right to work, under proper conditions, and to follow his vocation freely, in so far as existing conditions of employment permit.
Every person who works has the right to receive such remuneration as will, in proportion to his capacity and skill, assure him a standard of living suitable for himself and for his family.
1. Article 24 of the Constitution of Haiti grants full enjoyment of this right to the Haitian people.
Every worker shall be entitled to a fair wage, job training, health protection, social security, and the welfare of his family insofar as his country’s economic development permits.
Any worker may participate, through his representatives, in the collective determination of working conditions. All workers shall be entitled to rest and leisure.
All workers may protect their interests through trade-union activities. Each worker shall belong to the trade union representing his particular occupation.
Annual vacations with pay shall be compulsory.
2. Article 173 reads as follows:
Work, a social function, shall enjoy the protection of the state and shall not be subject to exploitation.
The state shall endeavor to provide the manual or intellectual worker with an occupation that will enable him to provide his family, as well as himself, with the economic conditions of a decent life.
3. The 1978 ILO Yearbook of Labor Statistics demonstrates that the economically active population of Haiti is very high, yet this must be understood in conjunction with an elevated unemployment rate and a very low salary range. Additionally, workers are sometimes not paid, are accorded no paid annual vacation, no transportation allowance, no medical assistance or any other social service. According to the World Bank Report of 1978, sixty per cent of the Haitian population live on incomes of G 300 ($60), and 90% cannot afford necessary minimum food and essential non-food items. Continuing inflation exacerbates this problem. According to the World Bank report of 1976, unemployment in Haiti is rampant. Real unemployment was estimated at 12.3% in the whole country and 16.2% in Port-au-Prince. Almost 80% of the economically active population is employed in agriculture, and of these 75% are classified as underemployed. An ILO report estimates that real unemployment reaches 49% in the agricultural sector and as high as 62% for the country as a whole, making the right to work somewhat illusory. This figure includes unemployment as well as underemployment.
4. Despite the Constitutional guarantees of Article 24, numerous obstacles prevent the formation and existence of unions in Haiti, not the least of which is Law 236(bis), already mentioned in the Report, that requires the authorization of the government prior to the formation of any group of more than 20 persons. No major union workers associations have existed in Haiti since 1962, and the country is unaware of all the conventions of the International Labour Organization.
5. The Haitian government recently announced a new minimum wage of 11 Gourdes a day beginning in December 1979. It is useful to note that this is equivalent to 3234 Gourdes a year, a sum achieved by less than 5% of the economically active population in Haiti. Despite repeated references to the minimum wage laws, the Haitian government has never explained this discrepancy.