Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 13:56 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Dominican Republic

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 - Dominican Republic, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88954c.html [accessed 24 July 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: 10,000,000
Capital: Santo Domingo

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

Introduction

Basic trade union rights such as freedom of association continued to be restricted in the public sector. Collective bargaining is limited by requirements such as a union having to represent an absolute majority of the workers in an enterprise or branch of activity to be able to bargain collectively. A strike cannot be called until mandatory mediation requirements have been met. Child labour is a serious problem in the Dominican Republic, where many Haitian children are taken in by families that employ them as a apprentices; 18% of children aged between 15 and 17 work, and tens of thousands of boys and girls start work before the age of 14.

Background

The Dominican Republic saw a gradual deterioration in the human rights situation during 2011. Reports by international organisations reveal that the country has one of the worst scores in terms of health, education and competitiveness indicators, whilst ranking high in the list of countries with the worst levels of corruption and violence, lack of transparency and lack of confidence in the State. The latest report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranked it among the four Latin American countries with the worst inequalities.

Hundreds of community protests, general strikes and stoppages were suppressed between February and December 2011. The police used batons and tear gas to disperse the protestors. Journalists faced constant intimidation and the threat of murder, which has succeeded in creating self-censorship among journalist and editors and constitutes a serious attack on freedom of expression.

The year 2011, like 2010, was characterised by the low level of social investment. The government chose to prioritise major works such as flyovers and the metro rather than to build schools and aqueducts.

Trade union rights in law

Basic trade union rights are secured, however there are some problematic areas in the law. The new Constitution that was proclaimed on 26 January 2010 did not improve this situation. Freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution, but is limited for public servants. In order to establish a public servants' union, 40% of the total number of employees in an institution is required. Also, to form a confederation, a federation must obtain a two-thirds majority vote by their members. The law does not establish effective sanctions to protect workers against acts of anti-union discrimination.

While the right to collective bargaining is recognised, a union must represent an absolute majority of the workers in an enterprise or branch of activity to be able to bargain collectively. Furthermore, to call a lawful strike there must have been a prior attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation, and a majority of the employees in the company must vote in favour of the action, regardless of whether they are trade union members.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Child labour law not enforced: Forced or compulsory labour is prohibited and the Minors' Code provides protection and establishes penalties for the commercial or sexual exploitation of children. Child labour is, however, a serious problem in the Dominican Republic. ILO reports indicate that the large numbers of Haitian children adopted by families who employ them as apprentices often become victims of abuse and mistreatment. Poor Haitian and Dominican teenagers work in the sugar cane fields, where children under 12 plant sugar cane for a dollar a day. An estimated 30,000 children are the victims of sexual exploitation, which is most prevalent in tourist areas.

Basic trade union rights restricted:

Basic trade union rights such as freedom of association are guaranteed by the Constitution but continue to be restricted in the public sector. The support of 40% of the total number of employees in a given institution is required in order to establish a public servants' union. Employees of autonomous and municipal bodies governed by the state do not have the right to unionise.

The right to collective bargaining is recognised, but a union must represent an absolute majority of the workers in a company or a branch of activity to be able to bargain collectively. Although bargaining is carried out in some companies, the ILO considers the requirements established for the exercise of collective bargaining rights to be excessive.

To call a lawful strike, a prior attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation must be made, and a majority of the employees in the company must vote in favour of the action, regardless of whether they are trade union members or not.

A two thirds majority of the members' votes must be obtained to be able to form a confederation or a federation. The law does not establish effective penalties to protect workers against acts of anti-union discrimination.

Poor representation of Haitian workers: Employers use threats to curb trade union activity. A number of unions represent a small portion of Haitian workers, but unskilled Haitian labourers working in the sugar and construction industries generally refuse to organise for fear of being deported or losing their jobs.

Violations

Collective bargaining attacked:

The Sindicato Autónomo de Trabajadores y Empleados de la Empresa Gildan Activewear Dominican Republic Textile Company Inc. (SITRAGIL), affiliated to the trade union centre CSASC, won an appeal filed with the Labour Court of the Judicial District of Santo Domingo, ordering the immediate suspension of auditing work to determine union representation for the purposes of collective bargaining with the company, through the removal of Ordinance 115/2011 of 11 October 2011.

This auditing process, backed by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), infringes rights enshrined in the national legislation and international instruments. Through its action, the FLA has undermined the interests of SITRAGIL and its over 600 members, by attacking the credibility of the trade union movement, freedom of association and the free choice of the majority of the workers. The CSACS filed a complaint with the government offices administering the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. The complaint will also be sent to the ILO.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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