Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2018, 16:21 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 20 June 2018]
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

As with the previous year, 2010 saw restrictions on the exercise of the right to organise owing to the government's refusal to recognise certain unions. Workers who have been able to unionise experienced difficulties fully exercising their rights. The right to collective bargaining has still not been regulated by law, stripping the mechanism of its effectiveness. Legislation tolerating certain anti-union practices, such as dismissal for union activities, is also still in place.


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.


Background: Barbados is a parliamentary democracy, modelled on the British system. The most recent parliamentary elections, in January 2008, saw the victory of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), bringing an end to the 14-year rule of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). David Thompson was appointed as prime minister.

As part of its efforts to tackle the financial and economic crisis, Barbados announced a strengthening of its social dialogue mechanisms. In this respect, it should be noted that the unemployment rate in the country was 10.6%. The government also announced that it had launched a mass media campaign to promote policies against child labour, particularly its worst forms.

No progress on right to unionise: The government and employers have refused to recognise unions on a number of occasions over recent years.

Right to organise remains weak: Employers refuse to recognise unions in some instances, being under no legal obligation to do so. The Barbados Workers' Union (BWU), affiliated to the ITUC, has called on the government to make the recognition of unions obligatory, provided that the requirements are met in terms of representativeness.

Government neither supports nor guarantees collective bargaining: In the absence of legal requirements, collective bargaining is only practised where there is good will between the parties or a tradition of such negotiations. The negotiations are generally restricted to four areas: minimum wages, working hours and conditions, recruitment procedures, and disciplinary and grievance procedures. Despite recognising unions, employers often refuse to negotiate a collective agreement with them.

Anti-union discrimination: There are no laws prohibiting anti-union discrimination, which facilitates anti-union practices. As a result, workers dismissed for union activities are rarely able to secure reinstatement and only receive compensation if they secure a court ruling in their favour. According to the BWU (Barbados Workers' Union), a law should be adopted to make it an offence punishable by the courts for employers to deny this human right to associate freely.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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