Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Belize

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 - Belize, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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: 307,000
Capital: Belmopan
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unionists face discrimination in the banana plantations and export processing zones, where companies totally forbid unions. Women workers do not receive equal pay and are faced with high levels of unemployment.


While the law guarantees basic trade union rights, there are some shortcomings. Workers are free to establish and join trade unions, and members are free to elect officers from their membership. However, foreigners are not allowed to hold union leadership posts. While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination, it does not provide for reinstatement in the case of dismissal for union activities. The fines imposed on companies for anti-union discrimination are also extremely low.

The right to collective bargaining is recognised, however under the Trade Unions' and Employers' Organisations Act, a union can only be certified as a bargaining agent if it receives 51% of the votes of the workers. Furthermore, the Settlement of Disputes in Essential Services Act empowers the authorities to prohibit or terminate a strike in "essential services", the list of which exceeds the ILO definition, as well as to refer a dispute to compulsory arbitration.


Background: Belize is considered to be a stable country, although it is not without its economic and societal problems. The next elections are not until 2013, but the political parties are already gearing up for them. The country is regularly hit by natural disasters and the situation in their aftermath leads to workers' and trade union interests being sidelined by the government. Child prostitution is a major cause for concern. The government showed no evidence of any progress in eradicating human trafficking and legally combating the traffickers. The mistreatment of migrants on the border with Mexico is a nationwide concern. It has, indeed, been recognised that there is a responsibility with regard to migrants that cross the border and are exposed to precarious employment, human rights violations and attacks.

Legislation not applied: The labour legislation applies to the country's 63 export processing zones (EPZ) but, in practice, employers constantly prohibit the formation of unions and refuse to recognise them. As a result, there are no unions in the EPZs.

Rights-free zones: Banana production has long been an economic area characterised not only by inhumane and appalling working conditions but also the systematic violation of workers' fundamental rights, such as the right to organise, to strike and to collective bargaining. The same applies to the export processing zones (EPZ), where any attempt to organise is crushed by dismissing the workers trying to do so.

Women deprived of labour rights: Poor application of the labour laws results in Belizean women facing inequalities and discrimination at work. The unemployment rate among women is 18.6%, while the rate for men is 8.4%. Women's pay is only 52% of that received by men, and they tend to be more concentrated in low paid and low skilled jobs.

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