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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados

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 - Barbados, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52caa532.html [accessed 29 November 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: 280,900
Capital: Bridgetown
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The employers continued to use anti-union strategies. Digicel tried various methods to avoid recognising a union. Companies use the fact that collective bargaining is not required by law to avoid engaging in it.

Trade union rights in law

The law recognises the right to form unions except for members of the armed forces, who are prohibited from doing so.

Under the law, employers have no legal obligation to recognise unions.

Anti-union activity by employers is not prohibited, but workers who are wrongfully dismissed can apply to the courts; however, this right is very limited, since the judges generally award compensation instead of the reinstatement of the workers who were unfairly dismissed.

The law does not explicitly recognise the right to bargain collectively.

Since 1993 a set of protocols has provided for increases in wages and increases based on productivity. The fifth prices and incomes protocol was signed by government, the private sector and union representatives in 2005.

Right to strike: The law grants private and public sector workers the right to strike, with, however, restrictions for workers providing essential services, who can only exercise the right in certain circumstances and after following the prescribed procedures.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: Barbados is governed by a parliamentary democracy that held its latest elections in 2003 and is now in a pre-electoral period. During 2007 no serious labour disputes were reported, but proceedings were filed against the government for financial corruption, and there were various complaints against police abuse of their authority.

Right to organise is still weak: Some employers choose to recognise unions although they are not obliged to do so by law. However, they only do this where the majority of the workers agree and want to be represented by the union. In certain cases employers refuse to recognise the unions. It is estimated that between 25 and 30 percent of the workforce is unionised.

The government neither supports nor guarantees collective bargaining: Collective bargaining is only practised on a voluntary basis or based on tradition, since there are no legal requirements. Generally the bargaining is restricted to four areas: minimum wages, working hours and standards, recruitment procedures and disciplinary and grievance procedures. Often, despite recognising unions, employers refuse to negotiate a collective agreement.

Harassment and dismissal for union activities are common: Although the right to set up unions exists, trade unionists are harassed and dismissed in order to break up the unions. As there are no laws prohibiting anti-union discrimination, when workers are dismissed for that reason they are hardly ever reinstated and only receive compensation if they win the court cases.

Right to strike hampered by administrative requirements: Both public and private sector workers have the right to strike, but they have to follow long procedures in order to meet the requirements for doing so.

Anti-union strategies of Digicel for avoiding collective bargaining: By setting up a yellow union, the telecommunications company Digicel tried to boycott the process of recognising the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), which had followed the required procedure. The company's actual intention was to avoid the collective bargaining that the union was proposing. To encourage people to leave the union, Digicel offered some individual wage rises before the process of recognising the union had been finalised.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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