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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jamaica

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 - Jamaica, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cae42.html [accessed 23 September 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

Trade union rights are recognised by law, but collective bargaining remains limited and the law allows the Minister of Labour the possibility of intervening to end a strike. Several union busting cases were reported during the year.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Under the 2006 Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA), workers have the right to create and join trade unions.

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

Limitations on collective bargaining: The LRIDA also provides for the right to collective bargaining. However, collective bargaining is denied if no single union represents at least 40% of workers or when the union seeking recognition for collective bargaining does not obtain 50 % of the votes of the total number of workers.

Right to strike: The right to strike is not specifically protected in law, but neither is it explicitly prohibited except for workers in essential services.

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 2008

Background: Despite having a rather stable political situation, Jamaica faces major economical and social problems. Human rights violations including by the police are regularly reported by human rights organisations. In 2008, the country started to face the consequences of the international financial crisis especially in the mining (bauxite) and the sugar cane sectors. Restructuring plans have been announced and some wage agreement negotiation suspended – all this leading to social unrest and strikes.

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, managers have been fighting to get the recognition withdrawn. In the private sector, employers tend to sack 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.

Government intervention in labour disputes: Although the right to strike is not recognised in law, strikes were held during the year. However, those workers who go on strike risk being dismissed. The Ministry of Labour intervened directly in labour disputes at some workplaces, since the law supports it when intervening to end strikes.

Union busting: Several cases of union busting were denounced by trade unions during the year.

In April, 18 former employees of Solo Jamaica and their union, the National Workers Union (NWU), accused the company of union-busting and wrongful termination. Furthermore, the company attempted to bribe them not to join the union. Workers were also forced to sign a temporary contract although they had been without any for several years. The attempts of bribery started when the NWU submitted a claim to represent the workers' interests to the company. The company reported not to have received such a claim. According to the NWU, the layoff was illegal and the NWU was seeking reinstatement for the workers by the Ministry of Labour.

In 2008, two workers, Diego Bencosme and Deon Furtick, were fired from the Jamaica Plain store of Harvest Co-op Markets. According to them, though this is denied by the company, they were fired for supporting a current effort by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to organise at Harvest. Both have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.

Other union busting cases were reported at the Love FM radio and the beverage producers, RST Industries Limited.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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