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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Dominican Republic

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 - Dominican Republic, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec8028.html [accessed 22 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: 10,000,000
Capital: Santo Domingo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Restrictive labour laws coupled with poor enforcement made organising difficult. Attempts to set up a union at Gildan were obstructed by the company. Workers in EPZs continued to face difficult conditions, as well as large-scale lay-offs.

Trade union rights in law

Basic trade union rights are secured, however there are some problematic areas in the law. Freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution, but is limited for public servants. In order to establish a public servants' union, 40% of the total number of employees in an institution is required. Staff of autonomous and municipal bodies run by the state are prohibited from organising. Also, to form a confederation, a federation must obtain a two-thirds majority vote by their members. Furthermore, the law does not establish effective sanctions to protect workers against acts of anti-union discrimination.

While the right to collective bargaining is recognised, a union must represent an absolute majority of workers in an enterprise or branch of activity to be able to bargain collectively. To call a lawful strike, there must have been a prior attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation, and a majority of the employees must vote in favour of the action, regardless of whether they are trade union members.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Numerous protests erupted over the government's public works policy, as people took to the streets to convey their discontent with the condition of the infrastructure – most notably roads – in various provinces of the Republic. Several people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and the police. Migrant workers crossing the borders from Haiti were often abused and exploited, and were not seldom subject to human trafficking. At least 5,000 workers were let go by companies in the country's free trade zones.

Lax enforcement of laws on anti-union discrimination: Even though the law prohibits dismissals of trade union members and their leaders for trade union activities, it is generally not applied and the penalties are not sufficiently dissuasive to prevent employers from violating workers' rights. Dismissals of the founding members of a union that is denied registration by the administrative authorities are not unheard of.

Labour court proceedings are too long: It takes an average of 15.3 months to settle cases in courts of first instance and 16.4 months in the court of appeal. Furthermore, justice is still administered, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past, by judges and magistrates who are political appointees and tend to be in league with employers.

Restrictions in the public sector: Given that a majority of formal economy workers are state employees, the exercise of the right to strike in the country is limited due to the prohibition of strike action for civil servants. What is more, despite the Law on the Civil Service and Administrative Careers, mass dismissals take place in the public sector without any guarantee of the employees receiving the required compensation.

Collective bargaining restricted: Due to the requirement that a union must represent an absolute majority of workers in a company in order to bargain collectively, only a minority of companies have a collective bargaining agreement. In the EPZs, only a handful of companies have negotiated collective agreements.

Use of flexible contracts makes organising difficult: In the stagnating formal economy, companies are increasingly imposing so-called "flexible" terms of employment, which are gradually stripping workers of their rights and indirectly hindering freedom of association. Subcontracting represents a particularly serious obstacle, as it means that workers are constantly being moved to different companies, thus hampering union organising. In addition, they do not have a contract with the employer at their actual workplaces, which makes collective bargaining impossible even when workers do manage to set up a union. The practice of cancelling contracts every three months leaves workers in a state of perpetual insecurity, increasing their dependence on their employers and leaving them under the constant threat of losing their jobs.

Complete lack of protection of Haitian workers: Most of the workers on the sugar plantations are undocumented Haitians. They do not have the right to form unions or therefore to bargain collectively. Employers prefer to hire them as a means of evading the law and paying lower wages.

Workers' rights not respected in EPZs: Union organising in EPZs is very difficult, as harassment and persecution lead to workers having to deal with union matters outside the workplace, for fear of dismissal. Blacklists of trade unionists are also circulated, preventing them from getting new jobs.

Child labour: Child labour remains a serious problem, with 14.5% of children aged between five and 14 working in the services, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Protesting doctors attacked by police: Six doctors were injured when a peaceful march called by the doctors union, the Dominican Medical College (CMD), was broken up by the police, who hurled tear gas at the doctors and beat them with batons. The march was part of a long struggle by the physicians to increase their minimum salary.

Union busting attempts at Gildan: Workers at Gildan, a clothing company headquartered in Canada, attempted to form a union but were met with reprisals by the company. After formally presenting all the paperwork required to register the union to the Ministry of Labour, the company responded by laying off workers and coercing them not to join the union. After a successful international campaign, two investigations were launched – one by the Worker Rights Consortium and the other by an outside investigations team hired by Gildan – and both recorded violations of freedom of association.

Trade union members killed by police: On 30 December, five men, three of whom belonged to the national transport federation, Federación Nacional de Transporte La Nueva Opción, were killed by the police. According to the official report, the five men shot by the police were criminals, a claim contested by the union.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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