Section 7. Worker Rights
The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent labor unions, participate in collective bargaining, and, with some restrictions, conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. It requires employers to recognize a union that represents the majority of workers in a particular business but does not oblige employers to recognize a union formed by their employees if the majority of the workforce does not belong to the union.
While workers in essential services have the right to strike, the labor minister may refer disputes involving essential services to compulsory arbitration. The government’s list of essential services is broad and includes services not regarded as essential by the International Labor Organization. Essential services include employees of the electricity and water companies; public-health and protection sectors, including sanitation, airport, seaport, and dock services (including pilotage); fire departments; air traffic controllers; telephone and telegraph companies; prisons and police staff; and hospital services and nursing.
The government and law enforcement officials respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers generally recognized and bargained with unions even if a majority of the workforce did not belong to a union.
The government generally enforced labor laws. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor organizations continued to seek a change in labor laws to ensure timely resolution of disputes following labor action.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including specifically prohibiting the sale or trafficking of children for exploitive labor. The law establishes penalties of 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 East Caribbean dollars (XCD) ($185,000), or both for forced labor, or one million XCD ($370,000) for child trafficking, including forced child labor. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The government effectively enforced the law. The law does not sufficiently prohibit, however, the trafficking of children, because it requires the use of force, threats, abuse of power, or other forms of coercion to carry out the offense.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The statutory minimum age for employment of children is 16 years. The law permits employment of minors under 18 as long as employers meet certain conditions related to hours, insurance, and working conditions set forth in the labor code. There is no explicit prohibition against children’s involvement in hazardous work. The law allows holiday employment for children under age 16 but does not specify the minimum age, types of work, or number of hours permitted for such work.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforced the minimum age provision in the formal sector through periodic checks. Enforcement in the informal sector was insufficient, particularly for family farms. There was no information on the adequacy of resources, number of inspections, remediation, penalties, or on whether such penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
The law prohibits discrimination in respect to employment or occupation regarding race, color, national extraction, social origin, religion, political opinion, sex, age, or disability. The law does not prohibit discrimination in respect to employment or occupation regarding language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, or gender identity. There is no penalty for violating the law, but authorities stated the country adheres to International Labor Organization guidelines and standards. In general the government effectively enforced the law and regulations.
The law provides for a national minimum wage. The minimum wage for domestic workers, for example, was $4.50 XCD ($1.70) per hour, while that for security guards was $8.00 XCD ($3.00) per hour. The government estimated the poverty income rate at $6,200 XCD ($2,300) per year. According to the 2008 Country Poverty Assessment by the Caribbean Development Bank, 38 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
The government sets health and safety standards. Workers can remove themselves from situations endangering health or safety without jeopardizing their employment if they reasonably believe the situation presents an imminent or serious danger to life or health.
Enforcement, including wages, hours, occupational safety, and other elements, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor. Labor inspectors are responsible for the full range of labor rights inspections, including workplace safety and the right to organize. Labor officers worked with employers in sectors such as energy, agriculture, and construction to promote appropriate clothing, health checks, and pesticide safety. The government effectively enforced minimum wage requirements and reported no violations of the law concerning working hours. The government did not always enforce occupational health and safety regulations.
The government informally encouraged businesses to rectify violations without resorting to formal channels for compliance that included fines and penalties. The government provided no information on the amount the law sets for fines or other penalties.