2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bahamas

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bahamas, 9 June 2010, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec9120.html [accessed 10 December 2018]
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: 342,000
Capital: Nassau
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Layoffs in the hotel sector continued, and more trade union officials found themselves without a job. The authorities have wide powers to interfere with trade union activities.

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 genuinely 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 of 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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: The economic downturn also hit Bahamas, who ran a relatively large budget deficit in 2009. This prompted the government to cut costs by holding back a salary increase to teachers, doctors and nurses, as well as cancelling a new health insurance benefit which was provided for in the nurses' contract. The moved caused unrest among the nurses, who staged a large protest in the middle of the year in which over 60% of the staff called in sick.

No progress on union organising: In recent years, there have been cases of the government or employers refusing to recognise trade unions as bargaining agents.

Dismissal, harassment and threats common anti-union practices: Harassment and threatening of trade union leaders are commonly used as a ploy for toppling the unions.

Collective bargaining deliberately delayed: In some workplaces, employers deliberately delay collective bargaining with the union for over one year before making use of available legislation to request that the union's recognition be revoked.

Government intervenes and ends strikes: The right to strike is not exercised freely, since the government sometimes intervenes to stop a strike and has a legal right to do so.

Lay-offs continued at resort: Eighty workers, including three union officials who acted as shop stewards, were laid off in September at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort. The union was not given prior notice of the lay-offs. A few weeks prior to the lay-offs, the employees at Sandals had voted in favour of union representation by the Bahamas Hotel Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (BHMAWU), which defeated the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union. The BHMAWU had been prevented from representing its members due to a long legal battle, but was recognised as the bargaining agent for the workers in a poll initially scheduled for 2008. That same year, 150 employees including eight trade union executive members had been made redundant at the Sandals resort (See 2009 issue of the Survey).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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