ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182
Employers continue to interfere with legitimate trade union activities and attempt to dismantle unions. The Ministry of Labour may unduly intervene to end a strike.
Trade union rights in law
While basic trade union rights are recognised, some areas of concern exist in the law. Under the 2006 Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act, workers have the right to create and join trade unions. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, and employees may not be dismissed solely for belonging to a trade union. However, while the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed, bargaining is denied if no single union represents at least 40% of the workers, or if the union seeking recognition for collective bargaining does not obtain 50% of the votes of the total number of workers.
The right to strike is not specifically protected in law, but neither is it explicitly prohibited except for workers in essential services. However, the Ministry of Labour has the power to refer an industrial dispute to compulsory arbitration and to terminate any strike if it is "likely to be gravely injurious to the national interest".
Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009
Background: The Jamaican economy was hit hard by the global economic recession, which caused a sharp drop in the demand for bauxite and aluminium and decreased revenues from tourism. The government reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December on a USD 1.3 billion loan to revamp the Jamaican economy. Earlier in the year, the inability of the government to pay teachers' outstanding salaries caused unrest, and the teachers threatened to report the issue to the ILO. Violent crime continued to be a serious concern, and 2009 witnessed an increase in the total number of murders. A vast majority of the cases go unsolved, and killings by the police are not uncommon.
Few unions and de-recognition 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 In some companies where a union already exists, managers have been fighting to get the recognition withdrawn.
Anti-union discrimination: 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: As the law does not recognise the right to strike and allows the authorities to intervene to end strikes, the Ministry of Labour intervenes directly in labour disputes at some workplaces.
Mass lay-offs: At the Iberostar's Rose Hall Beach & Spa Resort, 320 workers were made redundant as the management decided to temporarily close the doors to the resort complex, citing the global economic recession as the basis for its decision. However, the University and Allied Workers' Union claimed that the real reason for the move was an attempt to bust the union.
Union busting attempts: The National Workers Union (NWU) accused the management at the Grand Palladium Resort and Spa of intimidating the workers and employing anti-union tactics to discourage them from voting for union representation. According to the NWU, management tried to sweet talk the employees by offering them improved fringe benefits as well as attractive loans. The union also held that attempts were made to block senior managers from joining the NWU. The union was forced to postpone the ballot due to the interference by the management.
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