San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Fired Guatemalan Workers Burn Korean Textile Factory

GUATEMALA CITY – Workers fired from a South Korean-owned clothing plant in the Guatemalan capital looted and set fire to the facility in an expression of rage over not receiving final paychecks or severance compensation, police said.

The sacking and arson took place Jan. 20 at the Genesis Feliz textile factory on the south side of the city.

A group of recently fired workers went to the plant to demand payment, but found no manager or executive of the company there.

“They were unhappy and chose to sack the plant of machinery and equipment, along with assembled clothing and raw materials,” a police spokesperson said.

Having loaded up all they could, they poured gasoline on the remaining bolts of fabric and other materials and set the plant ablaze. The fire raged for more than two hours before firefighters brought it under control.

There were no reports of injuries or arrests in the incident.

The incident was the latest in a series of conflictive closings of maquila factories, as the foreign-owned textile plants are known.

In many or most of the cases, the owners close up shop without paying workers either salaries owed or severance. The national Clothing and Textile Commission said 20 clothing assembly factories closed in Guatemala last year. The owners generally attributed the move to “the high cost of labor and electricity,” the commission said recently.

The closures left some 5,000 without jobs.

An estimated 100,000 Guatemalans, mostly poor young women from rural areas, work at some 300 maquilas throughout the country.


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