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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Belize

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Belize, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cb00c.html [accessed 28 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 297,613
Capital: Belmopan
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The structural and legal conditions undermining the full exercise of trade union rights have not changed. Since the beginning of the year workers have been faced with redundancies.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: By law, workers are free to establish and join trade unions, and members are free to elect officers from their membership. Foreigners are not allowed to hold leadership posts in trade unions. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, but does not provide for reinstatement in the case of dismissal for union activities. The fines imposed on companies for anti-union discrimination are extremely low.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Unions do have the right to strike, but this is limited for public sector workers in areas designated as "essential services". The Essential Services Act empowers the authorities to refer a dispute to compulsory arbitration to prohibit or terminate a strike. Such services are broadly defined, extending to postal, monetary, financial and transport services (civil aviation), and even the marketing of petroleum products. According to the ILO the list is too long and many of the services are not essential in the strict meaning of the term.

Restrictions on collective bargaining: The law provides for collective bargaining but, under the Trade Unions' and Employers' Organisations Act, a trade union can only be certified as a bargaining agent if it receives 51 per cent of the vote.

The Labour Code applies in the country's export processing zones (EPZs).

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Belize held general elections in February, which led to the election of Dean Barrow of the United Democratic Party (UDP) as the first black Prime Minister of the country.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs): Officially trade unions are not banned in the banana plantations or the EPZs, however workers have traditionally had problems organising themselves in these sectors.

Trade union leaders dismissed: In February, 13 employees of Belize Healthcare Partners Limited (BHPL) received redundancy letters. All of them were members of the Technical Administrative Medical and Managerial Workers' Union of Belize (TAMM), and some were leaders of the union. The union centre that TAMM is affiliated to, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUB), reported that having checked through the evidence and reports it had reached the conclusion that the management of BHPL had acted in bad faith and violated trade union protection and workers' rights with the clear intention of destroying the union.

Violation of a collective agreement: In June the Belize Energy Workers Union (BEWU) denounced abuses of a collective agreement by the company Belize Electricity Limited (BEL). BEWU represents around 72% of the workers in the company. Since 2006, trade union leaders had been re-negotiating the collective agreement that had elapsed the year before but so far with no success; on the contrary, the company was trying to cut the pay increments. Sheryl Cuthkelvin, the union leader and negotiator was dismissed in May after receiving just two days' notice.

Violations continue: In October, leaders of the BEWU reported that relations with the management were continuing to worsen. In September BEL sacked six workers, including two union leaders. The BEWU maintains that the company was taking reprisals as the workers had protested about the 13% rise in electricity prices although BEL had made record profits of 29.9 million US dollars in the previous financial year.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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