Nicaraguan Minister of Labor Wilfredo Navarro signed a 10-point Code of Ethics that will regulate conditions and labor relations for women maquila workers in the country’s free-trade zone. The women work for maquiladora companies, which help foreign coorperations set up production operations in developing countries so that they can take advanatage of the lower labor costs and weaker laws.
Coordinator of ïMaria Elena Cuadra,’ a group for working and unemployed women, and union leader Sandra Ramos said, “[The code] is the result of five years of hard work – a long and difficult struggle, in which the maquila workers gave the best of what they had.”
The Code acknowledges the “historical demands” of women maquila workers, prohibits hiring child workers under age 14, and demands: equal pay, protection from abuse and from discrimination because of pregnancy, periodical medical examinations, training programs and social security benefits.
The free-trade zone was activated in Nicaragua in 1992, employing 1,300 workers. Figures for 1997 report 15,000 maquila workers.
Ramos, author of an essay titled “Free-Trade Zone: A Woman’s Face,” said that this is the first Code of Ethics signed in Central America. “I believe that we have had enough confrontation; our women need jobs and employment stability and they need responsible organization to ensure employment and their rights …. The most difficult task will be to ensure that the companies abide by it,” said Ramos.