Machilate and embroidery workers in El Salvador, the faces of exploitation - rebellion

Machilate and embroidery workers in El Salvador, the faces of exploitation - rebellion

El Estado de El Salvador considera las Zonas Francas como áreas para la atracción de capitales en un mercado global. Opera teóricamente sobre éstas la Ley de Zonas Francas Industriales y de Comercialización (1998), que reconoce derechos laborales al igual que en el resto de empresas; pero en la práctica -según las organizaciones sociales- muchas de las fábricas maquileras desarrollan su actividad al margen del Estado y de las leyes. Muros, portones, vigilantes privados con armas… El acceso a estas zonas se halla restringido, de modo que sólo tienen acceso trabajadoras, furgones y empresarios. Allí se violan los derechos humanos, laborales y las trabajadoras son víctimas de enfermedades relacionadas con su actividad. «Siempre he hablado del calvario de estas zonas francas, porque somos explotadas y maltratadas; el calor era demasiado, incluso no abrían las ventanas y todo aquello bien encerrado: muchas compañeras han enfermado de los riñones». Es el testimonio de una mujer que trabajó a los 19 años en la maquila textil, y se presenta como «niña Leticia» en el documental «Desencadenando historias en las maquilas salvadoreñas», de las ONG Mujeres Transformando y Paz con Dignidad. Obreras de la maquila y bordadoras en El Salvador, las caras de la explotación – Rebelion Obreras de la maquila y bordadoras en El Salvador, las caras de la explotación – Rebelion

«Bad, because we have no protection of anything;Neither mask, nor an adequate chair where to be sitting, nothing ... ", says another employee," Ester girl ".The feminist organization women transforming, which denounces these practices since he saw the light in the municipality of Santo Tomás, in 2003, reports temperatures of 37ºC, in jobs without ventilation and with the emergency doors blocked.«Quakes came out in the water and green things;They even told us that there were dead rats from where they took us the water, ”explains« Ester girl ».The other face of these situations is business profitability.The women's lawyer transforming, Marilyn Sánchez Najarro, recalls in an event organized by the Valencian Coordinator of NGOs that the companies benefiting from the free zones do not pay taxes for ten years for importing or exporting what occurs there.In addition, article 29 of the law that regulates the activity in these areas recognizes the rights of association, unionization, prohibits forced or compulsive labor, and establishes the minimum age for minors's work;also the "acceptable" working conditions regarding the minimum wage, hours of work and both health and occupational safety."This article is not respected in many maquileras factories," says Montserrat Arévalo, executive director of women transforming.

"Leticia girl" recounts her experience in these textile factories: "They made us work every day at 10 and 12 at night;Sometimes, on Sundays until one;And then I introduced me on Monday to work;quite hard: a ordeal;Only one Friday fired like 300 people ».Remember the day a partner claimed to feel bad and went to the bathroom.As he did not return, he went to look for her and asked what happened to her: vomiting and diarrhea."This partner was denied permission, and died".From this point it goes to the relationship with the bosses and in charge of the Tagus.«We have been mistreated by supervisors;One day she lacked respect and told me that I was shit that was useless;And yes, I fell a ‘shock’ of nerves ... I went to Social Security, where they gave me the inability ».The lawyer Marilyn Sánchez Najarro lists some of the main complaints against these companies: non -payment of "extra" hours made, of the full minimum wage, illegal discounts (for example, for personal permits, compensation, bonuses or vacations) and the refusal of permits of permits ofSocial Security Assistance.This reality in the day to day contravene the provisions of the Labor Code of the Republic of El Salvador.The Code establishes, for example, the adoption of safety and hygiene measures in the facilities by the employers;And in productive processes, the supply and maintenance of protection equipment.Article 163 also regulates the effective time of work, that of pauses for rest and to meet physiological needs.

But "the maquila is not today an alternative for people to get out of poverty," says one of those employees in the audiovisual "unleashing stories in Salvadoran maquilas".Single mother, "Ester girl" did not reach him for the payment of housing, light and water: "We received a poker".Another testimony, the "Julia girl", is striking to the penalties of work in the factory."They even told me the number of times I went to the bathroom".They admonished him if, since he went to work until noon, he went twice to the cleaning room."The only thing they needed was to put a" pamper "so that he does not have the need ...", he laments.On another occasion they told him to stop going to work, because he could suffer an abortion.

Obreras de la maquila y bordadoras en El Salvador, las caras de la explotación – Rebelion

Another of the workers emphasizes the criteria of productivity and overexploitation: «As they take out the goal in the time stipulated in eight hours, he has a right to come home;If not, she stays to continue finishing the work;The goal was sometimes 20.000-30.000 pieces and if we fulfilled it, they gave us the incentive;Otherwise, we lost it and, so, they made us work more than the hour ».Women's sources transforming report that average salaries in the Textile maquila sector are around $ 210 per month, while the sales prices of the garments produced range, according to the brand, between 60 and 200 dollars.These are some of the companies based in the free zones of El Salvador: Brooklyn Manufacturim, Apple Tree, textile brothers, Samia, Olocuilta Apparel, Hanes Brand, Fruit the Loom, Argo, Averi, Exporta Salva and Colintex.They produce for firms such as Puma, Gap, Perry Elis, Mossimo, NFL, Dallas Cowboys, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes Brand, Columbia, Patagonia, Lacoste, Samia or The North Face.

In anonymity and invisibility, another link of the production chain, that of embroiderers at home has remained for decades.They sew the embroidery for dresses that will become a part of the exports of maquiladora factories.Thus, the product can end in exclusive boutiques of children's clothing or department luxury stores in Europe and the United States.They do not have a written contract, which prevents proving the employment relationship, and they make days of more than twelve hours in their homes (from Monday to Sunday).Each worker produces average between three and ten pieces a week for maquilas.According to the women's report transforming, «making the invisible visible.The reality of home embroiders ”(November 2013), these are unaware.Thus, disjointed, the different nuclei are unable to collective bargaining.This is also generally poor women, a situation that is aggravated with home work.Not only do remuneration under the minimum salary established for the maquila sector perceive, but they also have costs such as water payment, electricity or occupational health.Many of them must involve the entire family group in embroidery, in order to reach the basic food basket.And lack social security, even if they face occupational accidents and occupational diseases.

The maquila establishes the design, imparts the instructions and delivers the material to the embroiders, so that there is a technical and economic subordination palmaria.The finished pieces must be delivered at the place and date indicated by the company.What happens if the piece does not meet the conditions of cleanliness and accuracy in the type of stitch?«The maquiladora factory does not make payment effective;However, the company takes the garments, leaving the embroiders with time and the effort invested without being paid, ”explains the report of the feminist organization.Add the document that the salary or price for the piece is not communicated to embroiders until they deliver the product."They end up receiving the amount that the maquila wants to pay, because the work is already done," criticize women's sources transforming.Nor do companies deliver a payment receipt, although they do keep a record with the amounts that pay weekly to embroiders.These are workers between the ages of 13 and 58, with an outstanding segment between 18 and 32.One of the explanations of the strong presence of young women is the possibility of obtaining some income, before the barriers to achieve decent job.

Without stipulated workday, or rest days, annual vacations paid, days of horn, bonus, maternity licenses, compensation for dismissal or payment of overtime, everyday life is strenuous.Embroidery work produces in many women discomfort in the dolls, eyes, hands, fingers and both in the column and in the lower back.The pathologies that doctors have detected most frequently are those related to skeletal muscle (carpal tunnel syndromes and low painful back, and shoulder tendinitis), migraines and visual disorders.The women's document transforming the name of seven maquilas that make use of home work: Jacabi, Handworks, Velásquez Soto, Margareth Industries, Konffetty, Alonso Rochi de Vidri and Alejandrina creations.

These factories entail domestic work in different municipalities of the departments of San Salvador, Cuscatlán and Santa Ana.Capital is Salvadoran, and exports are directed mainly to the United States, but also to the United Kingdom, Japan, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.According to the study «Handmade.An analysis from the feminist economy »(January 2015), factories such as Handworks offer homework to embroiderers.This company specialized in children's clothing, shirts and embroidery dresses works for 32 brands: Zuccini, Sweet Dreams, Bambino L’ Amore-Baby Boutique, Cutie Pie, Little English and Posh Originals, among others.The study highlights the Quid of the conflict: the workers who embroiders at home receives only 4% of the value of the garment;The remaining 96% is distributed among Salvadoran companies, brands and multinational distributors.

Rebellion has published this article with the author's permission through a Creative Commons license, respecting his freedom to publish it in other sources.