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MANAGUA—Some 300 textile workers abandoned by their employer during the New Year’s holidays have been waiting for unpaid wages and accumulated benefits ever since, according to a CUPE BC-sponsored labour organization that is monitoring the case in Nicaragua.

The women workers, from the NICAMEX maquila factory, were left without financial or legal recourse on December 29 when the factory owner, Rafael Rodriguez, decided to close the plant and leave the country, according to the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement of Working and Unemployed Women (MEC), which is supporting the workers’ case.

MEC has demanded that the Labour Ministry and the National Commission of Free Trade Zones take charge of the workers’ demands. Negotiations with the ministry did not commence until a few weeks ago, when the workers and their supporters held a rally in front of the ministry offices to protest the workers’ situation and the ministry’s inaction.

We hope that the newly-elected authorities will take a stand on the issue,” says MEC executive director Sandra Ramos.

On our end, the Mobile Law Firm is working on seizing the machinery that was left behind in the factory, so that they may be auctioned off, and with that money pay what is owed to the workers by this Nicaraguan-North American (US) business,” she says. “We think we will resolve the problem, although the bureaucratic governmental solution and the lack of experience of the new decision makers means the solution may take some time.”

Founded in 1995, MEC is a leading advocate for women’s rights and labour rights in free trade zones, with several thousand women in its organizational network today. CUPE BC, through its partnership with CoDevelopment Canada, is among a group of Canadian unions that support MEC’s work.

Next month, CUPE BC general vice president Carlene Keddie and regional vice-president Susan Zander will join a multi-union delegation visiting Nicaragua to monitor labour conditions. That trip will be preceded late this week with a visit to Cuba by CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. The CUPE BC leader will meet with local labour organizations and receive updates on CoDev projects there.