yves_savain.jpgPORT-AU-PRINCE (AP) —  A labor rights group has accused clothing manufacturers here of frequently cheating workers out of their meager wages. The U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium said in a report that workers receive an average of 32 percent less than what they should get.

The practice is “both widespread and severe” in the apparel industry which the U.S. and other nations hope will create jobs in the impoverished country.

The report draws on interviews with garment workers and a review of pay records from five of the country’s 24 export garment factories.

The head of a government commission that supports the garment sector insisted that the factories comply with the law and said the country’s minimum wage is higher than in places like Pakistan, India and Mexico.

“No one in this country would show up for work if they felt their wages were being stolen,” said Yves Savain, executive director of the commission. “They would speak up.”

Under a law that took effect in 2009, garment workers who meet production quotas earn 300 gourdes, the equivalent of $6.81, for an eight-hour day. Workers elsewhere earn 200 gourdes, or $4.54.

The report accuses employers of cheating workers in three ways: Production quotas are set so high that workers can’t meet the goals in a regular work day. Wages paid for overtime are based on an hourly rate below the minimum wage for production workers instead of at a premium rate above this wage as required by law.

Some factory workers aren’t paid for work performed before and after their recorded working hours or during lunch breaks.

Such practices deny workers and their families adequate food, medical care, shelter and education for their children, the report said. The report also said wages at the Caracol Industrial Park are paid on average 34 percent less than required by law. The park has been the U.S. government’s biggest investment in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Built in northern Haiti through subsidies, the $224 million park was inaugurated a year ago during a star-studded ceremony whose speakers included then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

*Pictured above is Yves Savain.