Saturday, October 11, 2008

Labor Relations

We've been learning more about Honduran law as it relates to workers. Our friends Dennis and Merlin have many people working for them: the construction crew working on the new house, the crew repairing the fallen retaining wall, the yard crew who take care of the grounds, a housekeeper. They've told us that when you have these full-time employees that in December you are required to pay them two extra months wages. If a holiday falls during a week when you have someone working for you, even though not a full-time employee, you are required to pay him for the holiday if he works the day before or after the holiday. Workers are protected by the labor board, at least to some degree. Employers are required to report any terminations of workers to the board, and the board then figures out how much prestaciones is owed the worker. I'm not entirely sure what a prestaciones is; it sounds like a severance package of sorts, however, I've read that some people informally cash out their employees prestaciones each year. If they were fired for certain reasons, such as stealing, you are not legally obligated to pay them, but some people would advise you to do so anyway just to avoid hard feelings (i.e. retaliation).

If this seems like a lot, just remember that wages are very low here. Merlin was talking about some mainlanders coming here to work in order to make better wages, and some employers wanting to only pay them what they earned on the mainland. Merlin says they make about 2000 lempira per month ($105. USD!) on the mainland; here workers make 4000 lempiras per month minimum. Dennis and Merlin pay their guys more. (Plus, the cost of living is higher here than on the mainland.) Of course, part-time workers are paid less, either a daily wage or a contracted amount. We pay our gardener 250 lempira each day, equivalent to just over $13. USD, standard rate. Maids and housekeepers also make very little. So you can understand why they really need holiday pay and prestaciones. Some employees also get paid vacation time.

This is just speculation on our part, but from what we have observed, the best job to have may be that of the young grocery baggers. These boys are only about 10 years old. They bag and carry out groceries, averaging two customers every five minutes. We tip 10 lempira (50 cents USD); if every customer tips that much, they would make about $12.00 USD/per hour, which is nearly what our gardener makes for an entire day! We don't know how many hours these boys work each day, but we do know that the grocery stores are always busy and that these young baggers are fast.

As far as I know, you don't have to pay into anything like social security, various income tax funds, 401k or insurance plans for your employees. It's a very different world here.

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