2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Bahamas
|Publisher||International Trade Union Confederation|
|Publication Date||6 June 2012|
|Cite as||International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Bahamas, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd889663c.html [accessed 30 August 2015]|
ILO Core Conventions Ratified:
29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))
Reported Violations – 2012
Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported
Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher
The year 2011 saw serious violations of freedom of association both in the public and private sectors, with opposition to the right to unionise and collective bargaining, and government intervention to end strikes.
The Bahamas saw a slight upturn in the economy in 2010 with growth of 0.9%, following a fall of 5.4% in 2009. The economy benefited from an upturn in tourism thanks to the recovery in the United States, its main market. This trend continued in 2011, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Although there are no official unemployment figures, the ECLAC indicates that employment is expected to pick up, especially in the tourism sector.
Trade union rights in law
While basic trade union rights are guaranteed, they are subject to many excessive restrictions. Private sector and most public sector workers have the right to form and join trade unions. However, the authorities have real discretionary powers to refuse to register a union, and to deny the required licence unions need to affiliate with any body outside Bahamas. The authorities also interfere with internal trade union matters, as the Registrar must supervise the secret ballot to amend a union constitution. The law stipulates that union representatives should be elected at intervals not exceeding three years.
Furthermore, the right to collective bargaining is recognised, but a union must represent 50% plus one of the employees to be recognised as a bargaining agent. Also, if the employer and the union fail to reach an agreement after 12 months, the employer can apply to have the union's recognition revoked.
In order to call a strike, the Ministry of Labour must approve the strike ballot, and can refer a dispute to the Tribunal if the parties fail to reach a settlement, during which time strike action is prohibited. The authorities also have the right to intervene in strikes to ensure the delivery of basic services and to uphold the "national interest". The law restricts the permissible targets for strikes and appears to prohibit protest and sympathy strikes, and workers who participate in unlawful strikes face excessive sanctions including imprisonment for up to two years.
Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here
Dismissal, harassment and threats are common anti-union practices: Harassment and threats are practices widely used to quash trade union activity.
Collective bargaining deliberately delayed: In some workplaces, employers deliberately delay collective bargaining with the union for around a year before making use of the legislation available to request that the union's recognition be revoked.
Government intervention in strikes: The right to strike is not exercised freely as the government intervenes in some instances, using the power conferred on it by law to stop strike action.
Refusal to negotiate and fulfil collective agreement at Sandals Royal Bahamian hotel: In February 2011, the Industrial Tribunal overturned a Court of Appeal decision denying the Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers' Union (BHMAWU) the possibility of representing workers in collective bargaining negotiations at the Sandals Royal Bahamian hotel. At the end of the year, the company was still refusing to accept the ruling and to initiate negotiations regarding the 12 trade union leaders dismissed in 2008, as well as to honour the labour agreement signed in 2009.
Protest over annihilation of union at BTC: In March and April 2011, various trade unions and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Trade Union Congress demonstrated in protest at the sale of 51% of the state-owned company Bahamas Telecom (BTC) to the private UK firm Cable & Wireless; the sales agreement involved a 30% cut in jobs. According to the union at the company, this move will lead to the organisation's almost complete annihilation.