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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec8f28.html [accessed 21 September 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: 256,000
Capital: Bridgetown
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The industrial relations system is characterised by a high degree of voluntarism, which has allowed the employers to refuse to recognise or negotiate with trade unions at times. The law fails to recognise the right to collective bargaining.

Trade union rights in law

Despite some initial guarantees, trade union rights are not sufficiently secured in law. While the law secures the right to form unions except for members of the armed forces, employers have no legal obligation to recognise unions. Anti-union activities are not prohibited, and although workers who are wrongfully dismissed can apply to the courts, this right is very limited since judges generally award compensation instead of reinstatement. Furthermore, despite having ratified ILO Convention 98, the right to collective bargaining is not explicitly recognised. Since 1993, a set of protocols has provided for increases in wages, and the fifth Prices and Incomes Protocol was signed by government, the private sector and union representatives in 2005.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Barbados is governed by a parliamentary democracy and boasts a rather stable political environment and a calm industrial climate with limited strikes. However, violent crime linked to narcotics trafficking has emerged as a major problem.

Right to organise is still weak: As they are not obliged to do so by law, employers sometimes refuse to recognise trade unions.

Government neither supports nor guarantees collective bargaining: Since there are no legal requirements, collective bargaining is only practised on a voluntary basis or based on tradition. Generally the bargaining is restricted to four areas: minimum wages, working hours and standards, recruitment procedures and disciplinary and grievance procedures. Often, despite recognising unions, employers refuse to negotiate a collective agreement.

Anti-union discrimination: As there are no laws prohibiting anti-union discrimination, when workers are dismissed for union activities, they are hardly ever reinstated and only receive compensation if they win the court cases.

Evading union procedures: A series of events at LIME, formerly known as Cable and Wireless, marked 2009. Early in the year, workers at the LIME Barbados contact centre found themselves locked out from their workplace as the company announced the discontinuation of the centre. The company then issued termination letters to approximately 100 of its workers without engaging in any prior discussions with the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), thus failing to comply with the proper procedures for lay-offs and breaching the collective agreement with the BWU. Following local and international union pressure, as well as involvement from the government, LIME withdrew the dismissals temporarily and agreed to abide by the procedures. Already in 2008, the company threatened to lock out the workers after talks over wages and working conditions broke down, and also announced lay-off plans without properly consulting with the BWU.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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