Last Updated: Friday, 22 August 2014, 15:07 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Haiti

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 - Haiti, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea6620916.html [accessed 23 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: Port-au-Prince
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

In October, the police killed a member of an education trade union during a demonstration. Management suppressed the activities of the Syndicat des employés de l'Office national d'assurance-vieillesse. Two of the leaders were arbitrarily dismissed. The role of both the country's institutions and social dialogue have been virtually non-existent this year. Many categories of workers enjoy limited or no freedom of association and the right to strike is excessively restricted.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Despite promises of reform, trade union rights are not adequately secured in law. While the Constitution provides for freedom of association, the Labour Code excludes many categories of workers from its scope. Any association comprising more than 20 people must also receive prior authorisation from the government in order to be recognised. Civil servants and agricultural workers are not covered by the Labour Code, and foreign workers are not allowed to hold union leadership posts. While the law bans anti-union dismissals, it does not provide for reinstatement.

Furthermore, the right to collective bargaining is not guaranteed as employers are not obliged to meet or negotiate with trade unions. The authorities also have the power to intervene in the drafting of collective agreements. In addition, the parties to a collective dispute must try to resolve their differences by using mediation, conciliation and arbitration, and it is a tripartite consultation committee that gives the final ruling on a dispute.

Although the right to strike is provided for in the Constitution, no strike may exceed one day. The Law also defines three types of strikes and any action that does not fit one if those definitions is considered illegal. Finally, strikes are illegal in public sector enterprises.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: The earthquake on 12 January claimed the lives of 222,000 Haitians and left more than 1.5 million people homeless. The country's already weak infrastructure was ravaged. Approximately 90,000 stable jobs were lost. The catastrophe generated a large-scale humanitarian response. In March, during an international donor's conference, the international community pledged to donate 5 billion dollars over two years to rebuild the country. But many have criticised the lack of transparency in the management of the funds that have already been allocated and the lack of concrete results. Since October, a cholera epidemic has spread across the country, causing approximately 3,600 deaths and creating new needs. In November and December, trouble broke out during governmental and presidential elections.

Employer impunity: The government has never fined an employer for interference in a union's internal affairs, despite the fact that such acts are prohibited by the Labour Code. Enquiries into abuses committed against trade unionists rarely produce results.

Dispute resolution virtually non-existent: The institutions set up to resolve labour disputes are completely dysfunctional. The Tripartite Committee responsible for mediating and arbitrating disputes has been a failure, since the cases submitted to it are never resolved. The industrial tribunals system is also defective, since trials are rarely fair, judges are poorly trained and deadlines are not respected. Using a lawyer is often prohibitively expensive, resulting in the workers hardly ever using the industrial tribunals. When the tribunals do pronounce in favour of the workers, their rulings are not implemented.

Labour inspectorates ineffective: Charged with enforcing legislation, labour inspectorates are often short-staffed, poorly equipped and badly trained, or even directly threatened by employers.

Trade union roadmap for the rebuilding of the country: The large mobilisation by the international trade union movement following the catastrophe highlighted the urgency of addressing the current very mediocre respect for trade union freedom: the right to strike is excessively restricted, ineffective resolution of labour disputes and flagrant hostility by employers have characterised the social climate in recent years. In April, in Saint Domingue, an international conference brought together over 120 trade unionists from the four corners of the world. Haitian and global trade unionists focused on the agenda for decent work, strengthening the Haitian trade unions and social dialogue as the basis for rebuilding the country. The participants at the conference called on national and foreign employers as well as NGOs and international organisations to respect the fundamental ILO labour standards and the labour code.

Interference and persecution at the Office national d'assurance-vieillesse, two trade union leaders and one member dismissed: The Syndicat des employés de l'Office national d'assurance-vieillesse (SEONA) affiliated to the Confédération des travailleurs haïtiens (CTH) were put under constant pressure by Jean-Alix Boyer, the new director of the institution under the repeated and false pretext of administrative errors. Mr. Boyer proposed the establishment of an organisation that would operate in parallel with the trade union composed of two trade union representatives, four non-trade union workers' representatives and Mr. Boyer himself as chairman. On 18 February, the director forced the closure of the trade union office. A few days later, he confiscated the car that had been given to the trade union two years previously.

Reginald Petit-Homme, SEONA's president was the director's first target. On 1 April, he was demoted and transferred to an area in the capital which is considered very dangerous. He was then put on a 3 month unpaid leave of absence and subsequently dismissed. His life was threatened in August and December, the first time by thugs at his home and the second, by security guards with management links. John Joseph Chenier, the Assistant General Secretary was dismissed on 26 April. Another activist, Schiller Abellard was also dismissed.

Teacher killed during a demonstration: On 8 October during a demonstration in Port-au-Prince, Jean Filbert was struck on the head by a tear gas grenade thrown by Francine Desruisseaux, a police officer. He died from his injuries following 14 hours in intensive care. Jean Filbert Louis was a mathematics teacher, a member of the Union nationale des normaliens d'haïtii (UNNOH) affiliated to the Confédération des travailleurs/euses des secteurs public et privé (CTSP). The demonstration had been organised by a coalition of organisations involved in an awareness campaign for the education of thousands of children outside the education system due to poverty or the earthquake in January.

Two trade unionists killed in suspicious circumstances: On 16 November, Miguel Saint-Louis, leader of SOS Transport, a transport union, was killed. He was targeted by three armed motorcyclists. The Unité d'actions constructives des syndicats haïtiiens (UACSH) also denounced the suspicious death two months previously of Marcellus André Louis another trade unionist from the transport sector.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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