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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Barbados, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cb022.html [accessed 30 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: 281,968
Capital: Bridgetown
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Although freedom of association is recognised by the law, the law omits to secure trade unions recognition by employers and the right to collective bargaining. The employers continued to use anti-union strategies.

Trade union rights in law

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

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

In addition, 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.

Right to collective bargaining: The law does not explicitly recognise the right to bargain collectively. Barbados has ratified ILO Convention 98 and this right is widely accepted. The Executive Council of the Barbados Workers' Union (BWU) has made repeated calls for the right to bargain collectively to be enshrined in law.

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 2008

Background: Barbados is governed by a parliamentary democracy that held its latest legislative elections in January 2008. The opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won the elections over the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP), ending 13 years of BLP domination. David Thompson was appointed prime minister. A referendum for a new constitution was originally planned but was then postponed. This referendum is aiming to transform Barbados into a republic. Despite a rather stable political environment and calm industrial climate with limited strikes, violent crime linked to narcotics trafficking has emerged as a major problem. Most strikes were related to wage increase demands or to the consequences of the international financial crisis on the national labour market.

Right to organise is still weak: As they are not obliged to do so by law, in certain cases employers refuse to recognise the unions. The Barbados Workers' Union (BWU, an ITUC affiliate) is asking the government to make recognition of trade unions mandatory provided they fulfil the requirements of representativity.

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.

Anti-union discrimination: As there are no laws prohibiting anti-union discrimination, when workers are dismissed for union activities, they are hardly ever reinstated and only receive compensation if they win the court cases. According to the BWU, a law should be adopted to make it an offence punishable by the Courts for employers to deny this human right to associate freely.

Harassment for union activities: In January, employees of the telecommunication company Cable & Wireless (C&W) were threatened not to be able to get work if they go on strike after the breakdowns of talks over wages and working conditions. In addition, the company later announced lay-off plans without, according to the BWU, properly expressing justification and without adequate trade union consultation.

Anti-union tactics: At the beginning of 2008, the Royal Shop, a leading jewellery retailer, resisted to the workers' exercise of their right to freedom of association. The Company moved to beset, harass and frustrate the workplace union leadership, eventually seeking to vary workers' conditions of employment. The outcome was a work stoppage. The matter has, up to the time of writing, not been resolved. The government proposed a mediation panel to bring closure to the dispute. This panel had not met at the end of 2008.

Ten members of the staff of Archer Daniel Midlands (Barbados) Mills were locked out of the plant without industrial relations cause, and the work was given to non-nationals. The Company had previously indicated that it wanted to outsource the work, and the union had indicated that there was no basis on which that could be done. When the union sought to meet to address the matter, officials were denied entry to the plant. The dispute was resolved at the level of the Labour Department and the workers returned to work. The company was made to recognise there had to be discussion and agreement with the workers and their representatives. However, afterwards the company wrote to the union indicating it would not pursue the matter.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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