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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Haiti

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Haiti, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8894a1d.html [accessed 26 December 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 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 8

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Given the lack of jobs in the formal economy, trade union rights only apply to a minute proportion of the active population. In the few workplaces where rights do apply, they are violated, as seen in the Ouanaminthe and Port-au-Prince export processing zones, where eight trade unionists were dismissed in September and October.

Background

Over 520,000 people have been infected and 7,000 lives have been claimed by the cholera epidemic, thought to have been caused by Nepalese UN peacekeepers stationed in the country at the end of 2010. At the end of 2011, 200 new cases were being registered every day. It is one of the worst cholera epidemics in modern history. In March, Michel Martelly, a pop singer with no political experience, won the second round of the presidential election. He appointed Garry Conille, a UNDP officer and medical doctor, to the post of prime minister. He was the third prime minister nominated by the president; the first two were rejected by the opposition-controlled parliament.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Serious obstacles to organising: The formal economy only employs 2% of the active population. Attempts to organise in the export processing zones meet with serious obstacles and only one collective agreement has been concluded. Labourers work without protective equipment on construction sites. The vast majority of workers rely on precarious work in the informal economy and many continue to live in makeshift shelters. Under such circumstances, decent work and international conventions are often abstract concepts. Organising workers in unions, defending their rights and strengthening trade union organisations thus remain a major challenge.

Violations

Newly formed union decapitated in Port-au-Prince export processing zone:

On 23 September, just one week following the authorisation of the textile and clothing union Syndicat des Ouvriers du Textile et de l'Habillement (SOTA), the management at Genesis fired the union spokesperson, Johny Deshommes, for refusing to work overtime because he was suffering from a fever. Three other members of SOTA's executive, Brevil Claude, Wilner Eliacint and Sénatus Vilaire were also dismissed two days later as they were preparing to seek justice for their colleague. The factory managers called in two police officers, one of whom was not in uniform, to intimidate the workers, who had already been subjected to a complete search. A fifth member of SOTA, Mitial Rubin, was sacked from One World Apparel after trying to raise awareness and inform workers about the union's formation. Jean Jacques Hilaire, a sixth member of SOTA, was dismissed by Multiwear on 30 September.

A report by Better Work Haiti has underlined the link between the workers' dismissals and their trade union activities. It points out that the employers dismissed the workers in a bid to weaken the union and to stop its development, less than two weeks after it was formed. Better Work, launched in Haiti in February 2007, is a partnership programme between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Its role is to improve labour standards but also competitiveness in global supply chains. At the end of 2011, talks were being held between the union and the companies regarding the trade unionists' reinstatement.

Two trade unionists dismissed at Ouanaminthe EPZ: In October, Arnold Bien-Aimé and Dieubénite Dorsainville were fired from the Codevi export processing zone in Ouanaminthe, as soon as their union membership was announced.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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