Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2014, 12:38 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jamaica

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jamaica, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca885.html [accessed 10 July 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: 2,780,000
Capital: Kingston
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Anti-union practices prevail in the export processing zones (EPZs), so there are not even any unions there. Dismissal is used by employers as a strategy for dismantling trade unions. JAMALCO is continuing to refuse to engage with a union. Employers are fighting to get unions' recognition withdrawn after they have been legally registered.

Trade union rights in law

Limitations on collective bargaining: The Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) provides for the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining and applies to most workers. However, collective bargaining is denied if no single union represents at least 40 per cent of workers or when the union seeking recognition for collective bargaining does not obtain 50 per cent of the votes of the total number of workers.

The law prohibits anti-union discrimination. Employees may not be fired solely for trade union membership.

The right to strike is not specifically protected in law, but neither is it explicitly prohibited except for workers in essential services, who are not allowed to go on strike.

The Ministry of Labour has the power to refer an industrial dispute to compulsory arbitration and to terminate any strike. As the ILO has commented, compulsory arbitration should be limited to essential services or situations of acute national crisis and the notion of "a strike which is likely to be gravely injurious to the national interest" can be interpreted very widely.

The law applies in export processing zones.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The Jamaican Labour Party won the elections on 3 September in a free and peaceful contest. Nevertheless, during the year there were complaints and demonstrations against the brutality of the armed forces against many people suspected of having committed crimes, and there were over 200 assassinations, most of which were not investigated. The media unions issued complaints about restrictions on freedom of expression. Overall, the level of violence and criminality remained very high.

Few unions and de-recognition or dismantling of existing ones: It is estimated that 20% of workers belong to a union. In some companies where a union already exists, bosses have been fighting to get the recognition withdrawn. In the private sector, employers have sacked unionised workers before re-recruiting them with short-term contracts and lower benefits.

Anti-union practices are preventing the creation of unions in EPZs: It is common practice in companies in EPZs to threaten workers and create pro-employer "workers' councils", which interfere in the handling of complaints but are not allowed to engage in collective bargaining on working conditions or minimum wages. As a result, so far there are no unions at all in these zones.

Right to strike exercised despite legal bans: Although the right to strike is not recognised in law, 11 strikes were held during the year. However, those workers who go on strike risk being dismissed. Also, although the law explicitly bans strikes of workers in "essential services", there were strikes in some of those sectors in 2007.

Government intervention in labour disputes: The Ministry of Labour intervened directly in labour disputes at some workplaces, since the law supports it when intervening to end strikes.

JAMALCO continued not to recognise a union: In June, the workers of the aluminium refinery JAMALCO held protests against the company management's refusal to recognise the union representing 200 employees (around 60% of the workforce). The workers were trying to get the company to recognise their union, the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, but the company management insisted that they hold individual negotiations with managers, since they have individual employment contracts. This dispute has been going on for almost two years.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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