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BURNABY—Nearly one year after the coup d’etat that ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, labour rights and working conditions for most of the country’s residents have only gotten worse—especially for women, a leading Honduran activist told CUPE BC’s International Solidarity committee  on June 14.

Occupational health and safety is a virtually unknown subject in Honduras,” said Maria Luisa Regalado of the Honduran Women’s Collective (Colectiva de Mujeres Hondureñas, or CODEMUH).

Regalado, also this year’s guest speaker at CoDevelopment Canada’s annual fundraising dinner, said that labour and human rights in general have decayed since the coup. In the first five months of this year, she said, 130 women and five journalists have been murdered, community radio has been shut down, and people no longer feel safe in their own homes.

It is not only the capitalist structure that must be overcome, but the patriarchal system of machismo that defends it,” Regalado said. “Women are not allowed to be political, even though we form more than 50 per cent of the labour force.”

In such a climate, she explained, transnational corporations feel no obligation to protect the women they employ.  In particular, Regalado urged CUPE and other union members in Canada to apply pressure on Gildan Activewear, a Canadian multinational whose clothing factories badly exploit Honduran women with low wages, dreadful working conditions and no benefits.

We don’t want them to leave the country—we just want them to do their job,” said Regalado.