Jamaica

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form or join independent unions and to bargain collectively. The law does not provide for the right to strike, although the constitution provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Additionally, the law allows all workers to take part, at any appropriate time, in the activities of a trade union of which they are members. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) to reinstate a worker if a dismissal is found to be unjustified. The law makes it a criminal offense to prevent or deter a worker from exercising the right to participate in trade union activities or to dismiss, penalize, or otherwise discriminate against a worker for exercising these rights.

There are aspects of the law that inhibit the ability to organize. The government defines 10 categories of services as “essential.” These include water, electricity, health, hospital, sanitation, transportation, firefighting, corrections, overseas telecommunication, and telephone services. Before workers in these categories can legally strike, they must take disputes to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and allow the ministry to attempt to settle the dispute amicably. The International Labor Organization also raised concerns that this definition of essential services was too broad. Additionally, the government prohibited unionizing in export processing zones, which are industrial areas with special tax and trade incentives to attract foreign investment. This law heavily affected the bauxite industry, which employed thousands of workers.

The law mandates that in the case of any doubt or dispute as to whether workers may exercise bargaining rights, the labor minister must conduct a secret ballot requiring that a majority of workers vote. For unions that represent less than 30 percent of workers eligible to vote, the minister grants joint bargaining rights to two or more unions. The minister of labor may apply through the Supreme Court to curtail an industrial action such as a strike or lockout when the minister deems that industrial action to be harmful to national security or the national economy, or may have the potential to endanger the lives of a substantial number of persons. In such cases the minister refers industrial disputes to compulsory arbitration. The IDT hears cases when management and labor fail to reach agreement, including those involving nonunionized workers.

Although the government generally attempted to enforce the law, firms and other large employers were able to appeal and delay resolution of their cases for years. While cases are, by law, to be resolved within 21 days, the tribunal decided most cases in four to five months. Some took longer to resolve due to the complexity of the dispute or delays requested by involved parties. The IDT decisions are formal and binding unless challenged specifically on a point of law. Parties may apply for judicial review by the Supreme Court. Penalties were marginally sufficient to deter violations, but large firms such as those in the bauxite and construction industry used government influence to shape the court’s decisions.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations operated without interference, although the government maintained the right to monitor their activities. While employers generally respected the law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, some labor unions reported that private-sector workers were fearful of management retaliation against unionization. It was not uncommon for private-sector employers to dismiss union workers and rehire them as contractors.

The law criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. A national task force on trafficking in persons consisting of government entities continued its governmental and public outreach to sensitize citizens to forced labor and trafficking violations. The law also prohibits the trafficking of children and penalizes perpetrators with a fine or imprisonment.

The country is a source and destination for adults and children subjected to forced labor. Foreign citizens were compelled into forced labor aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in the country’s waters. More commonly, foreign women were exploited for commercial sex in nightclubs or trafficked into domestic servitude. The penalty for forced labor is imprisonment, a fine, or both, and it was sufficiently stringent to deter violations. While the government investigated some suspected cases of forced labor, it often did not effectively enforce applicable laws.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides a minimum age of employment in all sectors. There are limitations on working hours. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties only marginally deterred violations.

The minimum age for general employment is 15, with strict prohibitions on employing children under age 13 in any type of work. The law permits children between ages 13 and 15 to engage in “light work.” While the labor ministry does not have an official definition for this status, it maintained a list of prescribed occupations applicable for those ages 13 to 15.

The government estimated that more than 24,400 children ages five to 14 years old were engaged in child labor. Government agencies did not inspect the informal sector, so the number was likely to be underreported. Children continued to work in farming, fishing, and in public markets. Children were employed as domestic servants in homes or for street work, such as peddling goods, services, begging, and garbage salvaging. In the worst forms of child labor, commercial sexual exploitation remained prevalent. Children were also victims of forced labor in domestic work. Violent gangs used children to courier drugs and weapons, as lookouts, and as armed gunmen.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

Laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. There were limited reports of cases filed for discrimination in employment or occupation during the year, but these instances were likely to be underreported. Women’s salaries lagged behind men’s, and persons with disabilities often lacked access to the workplace. Those who were subject to workplace discrimination had little confidence that legal recourse was available to them.

The minimum wage was 7,000 JMD ($53) per week. According to the World Bank, this wage was above the estimate for the poverty income level. Most workers received more than the legal minimum wage, and some minimum-wage earners held two or more jobs.

The law provides for a standard 40-hour workweek and mandates at least one day of rest per week. Employers must compensate work in excess of 40 hours per week at overtime rates, a provision employers generally respected. The law also provides for paid annual holidays. The government did not universally apply the law that restricts workdays to 12 hours or less.

The Industrial Safety Division enforced industrial health and safety standards. It conducted inspections, investigated accidents, warned violators, and gave them a period in which to correct violations. If a violation was not corrected within the given time, the violator was taken to court. The law stipulates penalties and fines, and the minister of labor and social security has the authority to increase any monetary penalty. The government sets occupational safety and health standards, which were appropriate for the main industries in the country.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Insufficient staffing in the Ministries of Labor and Social Security, Finance and Public Service, and National Security contributed to difficulties in enforcing workplace regulations. Legal fines or imprisonment were marginally sufficient to deter violations, and the labor ministry gained compliance in the vast majority of cases by threatening legal action. The ability of defendants to appeal a case repeatedly in the court system mitigated the effectiveness of penalties. The law has no provisions that explicitly give workers the ability to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without jeopardy to employment.

Unofficial sources estimated that up to 40 percent of citizens worked in the informal sector, where the labor law applied. Most violations pertaining to acceptable conditions of work occurred in the informal sector.

Japan

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements and protects their rights to strike and bargain collectively.

The law places limitations on the right of public-sector workers and employees of state-owned enterprises to form and join unions of their choice. Public-sector employees may participate in public-service employee unions, which may negotiate collectively with their employers on wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. Public-sector employees do not have the right to strike; trade union leaders who incite a strike in the public sector may be dismissed and fined or imprisoned. Firefighting personnel and prison officers are prohibited from organizing and collectively bargaining.

Workers in sectors providing essential services, including electric power generation and transmission, transportation and railways, telecommunications, medical care and public health, and the postal service must give 10 days’ advance notice to authorities before organizing a strike. Employees involved in providing essential services do not have the right to collective bargaining.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.

The government effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association, collective bargaining, and legal strikes. Government oversight and penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations. In the case of a violation, a worker or union may lodge an objection with the Labor Committee, which may issue a relief order for action by the employer. A plaintiff may then take the matter to a civil court. If the court upholds the relief order and determines that a violation of that order has occurred, it may impose a fine, imprisonment, or both.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, but increasing use of short-term contracts undermined regular employment and frustrated organizing efforts. Collective bargaining was common in the private sector, although some businesses changed their form of incorporation to a holding company structure, not legally considered an employer, to circumvent employee protections under the law.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor.

Violations persisted and enforcement was lacking in some segments of the labor market, for example, in sectors where foreign workers were employed; however, in general the government effectively enforced the law. Legal penalties for forced labor varied depending on its form, the victim(s), and the law that prosecutors used to prosecute such offenses. Not all forms of forced or compulsory labor were clearly defined by law, nor did they all carry penalties sufficient to deter violations. For example, the law criminalizes forced labor and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, but it also allows for fines in lieu of incarceration. NGOs argued that reliance on multiple and overlapping statutes hindered the government’s ability to identify and prosecute trafficking crimes, especially for cases involving forced labor with elements of psychological coercion.

Reports of forced labor continued in the manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding sectors, largely in small- and medium-size enterprises employing foreign nationals through the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP). This program allows foreign workers to enter the country and work for up to five years in a de facto guest worker program that many observers assessed to be rife with vulnerabilities to trafficking and other labor abuses.

Workers in these jobs experienced restrictions on freedom of movement and communication with persons outside the program, nonpayment of wages, excessive working hours, high debts to brokers in countries of origin, and retention of identity documents. For example, women from Cambodia and China recounted long hours, poor living conditions, restricted freedom of movement, and nonpayment of wages while they were working in a Gifu textile factory. Workers were also sometimes subjected to “forced savings” that they forfeited by leaving early or being forcibly repatriated. For example, some technical interns reportedly paid up to one million yen ($8,900) in their home countries for jobs and were reportedly employed under contracts that mandated forfeiture of those funds to agents in their home country if workers attempted to leave, both of which are illegal under the TITP. In 2017 the government established an oversight body, the Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT), which conducted on-site inspections of TITP workplaces. There is concern that the OTIT is understaffed, insufficiently accessible to persons who do not speak Japanese, and ineffective at prosecuting labor abuse cases.

Workers who entered the country illegally or who overstayed their visas were particularly vulnerable. NGOs maintained government oversight was insufficient.

Despite the prevalence of forced labor within the TITP, no case has ever led to a labor trafficking prosecution.

On December 8, the country enacted legislation that creates new categories of working visas to bring in more skilled and blue-collar workers and upgrades the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau to an agency that will oversee companies that accept foreign workers. NGOs expressed concern that the new law does not adequately safeguard against the potential for continued labor abuses, such as those that have been present in the TITP.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Children ages 15 to 18 may perform any job not designated as dangerous or harmful, such as handling heavy objects or cleaning, inspecting, or repairing machinery while in operation; however, they are prohibited from working late night shifts. Children ages 13 to 15 years may perform “light labor” only, and children younger than age 13 may work only in the entertainment industry.

The government effectively enforced these laws. Penalties for child labor violations included fines and imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations.

Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on religion, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, HIV-positive status, or language.

The law mandates equal pay for men and women; however, the International Labor Organization has noted the law’s protection against such wage discrimination is too limited because it does not capture the concept of “work of equal value.” The June revisions to the Part-timer Labor Law, Labor Contract Law and the Labor Dispatch Law, which passed as part of the “Workstyle Reform Package Bills,” included provisions to obligate employers to treat regular and nonregular workers equally when 1) the job contents are the same and 2) the scope of expected changes to the job content and work location are the same. Enforcement regulations of the equal employment opportunity law also include prohibitions against policies or practices that were adopted not with discriminatory intent but which have a discriminatory effect (called “indirect discrimination” in law) for all workers in recruitment, hiring, promotion, and changes of job type. Enforcement of these provisions was generally weak.

Revisions in 2017 to child-care and nursing-care leave laws offered greater flexibility in taking family-care leave by, for example, allowing employees to divide their permitted leave into three separate instances. The revisions also increased fixed-term contract workers’ eligibility for child-care leave. The revised employment law obligates employers to take measures to prevent what is known as matahara(maternity harassment). The law also allows parents to extend paternity/maternity leave by an additional six months if child-care facilities are not available, enabling parents to take leave for up to two years after a birth. The law requires national and local governments, as well as private-sector companies that employ at least 301 people, to analyze women’s employment in their organizations and release action plans to promote women’s participation and advancement.

The law mandates that both government and private companies hire at or above a designated minimum proportion of persons with disabilities (including mental disabilities). An April revision to the law increased the minimum hiring rate for the government from 2.3 percent to 2.5 percent and for private companies from 2.0 percent to 2.2 percent. The revision also stipulates that the minimum hiring ratio for private companies should be raised further to 2.3 percent before April 2021. By law companies with more than 200 employees that do not comply with requirements to hire minimum proportions of persons with disabilities must pay a fine per vacant position per month. Disability rights advocates claimed that some companies preferred to pay the mandated fine rather than hire persons with disabilities.

In cases of violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare may request the employer report the matter, and the ministry may issue advice, instructions, or corrective guidance. If the employer does not follow the ministry’s guidance, the employer’s name may be publicly disclosed. If the employer fails to report or files a false report, the employer may be subject to a fine. Government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments handled consultations concerning sexual harassment and mediated disputes when possible.

There is no penalty for government entities failing to meet the legal minimum hiring ratio for persons with disabilities. In August a large number of ministries and some regional governments admitted they overstated their ratio of employees with disabilities in fiscal year 2017. According to data released by the MHLW, the overall hiring rate for persons with disabilities in the central government was 2.5 percent and for the prefectural government was 2.65 percent as of June 2017. Many government entities, however, were suspected of overstating the figures. MHLW carried out a nationwide survey of all government entities in September to investigate the matter.

Women continued to express concern about unequal treatment in the workforce. Women’s average monthly wage was approximately 73 percent of that of men in 2017.

Reports of employers forcing pregnant women to leave their jobs continued, although there are no recent data on this problem. In December media reported the case of a Vietnamese technical trainee who was told to have an abortion or quit her job.

The government encouraged private companies to report gender statistics in annual financial reports. The government also continued to increase child-care facilities.

In November 2017 the Japanese Trade Union Confederation released a survey on harassment and violence, which said more than 50 percent of respondents reported they had personally experienced or observed workplace harassment.

The MHLW said in 2017, the latest year for which such data were available, that the number of employers or supervisors who abused persons with disabilities fell 13.4 percent in the Japanese fiscal year ending in March. The decrease was attributed to a wider recognition in workplaces of a law aimed at combating abuse of workers with disabilities and to enforcement efforts by labor standards inspectors.

The minimum wage ranged from 737 to 958 yen ($6.50 to $8.50) per hour, depending on the prefecture. The poverty line was 1.22 million yen ($10,900) per year.

The law provides for a 40-hour workweek for most industries and, with exceptions, limits the number of overtime hours permitted in a fixed period. It mandates premium pay of no less than 25 percent for more than eight hours of work in a day, up to 45 overtime hours per month. For overtime of between 45 and 60 hours per month, the law requires companies to “make efforts” to furnish premium pay greater than 25 percent. It mandates premium pay of at least 50 percent for overtime that exceeds 60 hours a month.

The June Workstyle Reform Package Bills included the first-ever legal cap on overtime work and established penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for violations. These provisions come into force in April 2019 for large companies and in April 2020 for small- and medium-sized companies. In principle, overtime work will be permitted only up to 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year. Even in the case of special and temporary circumstances, it must be limited to less than 720 hours per year and 100 hours per month (including holiday work), and the average hours of overtime work over a period of more than two months must be less than 80 hours (including holiday work). The reform package bills also included provisions to introduce the Highly Professional System (the Japanese version of a white-collar exemption), which would eliminate the requirement to pay any overtime (including premium pay for holiday work or late-night work) for a small number of highly skilled professionals earning an annual salary of more than approximately 10 million yen ($89,400).

The government sets industrial safety and health (ISH) standards. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The MHLW is responsible for enforcing laws and regulations governing wages, hours, and safety and health standards in most industries. The National Personnel Authority covers government officials. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry covers ISH standards for mining, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism is responsible for ISH standards in the maritime industry.

The Minimum Wage Law provides for a fine for employers who fail to pay a minimum wage, regardless of the number of employees involved or the duration of the violation. Other labor laws such as the Industrial Safety and Health Standards Law and the Labor Standards Law also provide for fines for employers who fail to comply with the laws. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. In October 2017 a Tokyo court fined a major advertising agency 500,000 yen ($4,460) for failing to prevent excessive overtime worked by its employees. This court decision followed the Tokyo Labor Bureau’s ruling in 2016 that determined that the 2015 death of a young woman was a case of karoshi (death by overwork), after records showed the employee booked 130 hours of overtime in one month and slept just 10 hours per week. This finding against a major advertising agency brought renewed attention to the severe consequences of overwork and led to legislative changes to limit overtime work. Labor unions continued to criticize the government for failing to enforce the law regarding maximum working hours, and workers, including those in government jobs, routinely exceeded the hours outlined in the law.

In general the government effectively enforced applicable ISH law and regulations in all sectors. Penalties for ISH violations included fines and imprisonment and were generally sufficient to deter violations. While inspectors have the authority to suspend unsafe operations immediately in cases of flagrant safety violations, in lesser cases they may provide nonbinding shidou (guidance). MHLW officials frequently stated that their resources were inadequate to oversee more than 4.3 million firms.

Nonregular workers (which include part-time workers, fixed-term contract workers, and dispatch workers) made up approximately 37 percent of the labor force in 2017. They worked for lower wages and often with less job security and fewer benefits than career workers. Some nonregular workers qualified for various benefits, including insurance, pension, and training. Observers reported a rise in four- or five-year contracts and the termination of contracts shortly before the five-year mark, when employees may ask their employer to make them permanent. Workers in academic positions, such as researchers, technical workers, and teachers in universities, were eligible for 10-year contracts.

Reports of abuses in the TITP were common, including injuries due to unsafe equipment and insufficient training, nonpayment of wages and overtime compensation, excessive and often spurious salary deductions, forced repatriation, and substandard living conditions (also see section 7.b.). In addition, observers alleged that a conflict of interest existed, since the inspectors who oversee the TITP working conditions were employed by two ministries that are members of the interagency group administering the TITP. Some inspectors appeared reluctant to conduct investigations that could cast a negative light on a government program that business owners favored.

There were also reports of informal employment of foreign asylum seekers on provisional release from detention who did not have work permits. Such workers were vulnerable to mistreatment and did not have access to standard labor protections or oversight.

Falls, road traffic accidents, and injuries caused by heavy machinery were the most common causes of workplace fatalities. The MHLW also continued to receive applications from family members seeking the ministry’s recognition of a deceased individual as a karoshi victim.

Jordan

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including related regulations and statutes, provides for the right to form and join free trade unions and conduct legal strikes, but with significant restrictions. There is no right to collective bargaining, although the labor code provides for collective agreements. The law identifies specific groups of public- and private-sector workers who may organize and defines 17 industries and professions in which trade unions may be established. The establishment of new unions requires approval from the Ministry of Labor and at least 50 founding members. The law requires that these 17 trade unions belong to the government-linked General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions, the country’s sole trade union federation. The law authorizes additional professions on a case-by-case basis to form professional associations. The law allows foreign workers to join unions, but it does not permit them to form unions or hold union office. Authorities did not permit civil servants to form or join unions, and they cannot engage in collective bargaining. The constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the law protects workers from employer retaliation due to union affiliation or activities. The law does not explicitly provide a worker fired due to antiunion views with the right to reinstatement.

Regulations refer conflicts during negotiations first to informal mediation between the concerned party and the employer. The parties to a conflict proceed in the following sequence until the conflict is resolved: a Ministry of Labor-appointed mediator for 21 days; then the minister of labor; then to a mediation council composed of an employer representative, a labor representative, and a chair appointed by the minister of labor; and finally to a labor court with a panel of ministry-appointed judges for 21 days. There are limits on the right to strike, including a requirement to provide a minimum of 14 days’ notice to the employer. The law prohibits strikes if a labor dispute is under mediation or arbitration. The labor code prevents management from arbitrarily dismissing workers engaged in labor activism or arbitration, but NGOs reported enforcement was inconsistent due to the limited capacity of the 170 labor inspectors.

The government did not fully respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Many worker organizations were not independent of the government, and government influence on union policies and activities continued.

The government subsidized and audited salaries and activities of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions and monitored union elections. The government denied recognition to independent unions organized outside the structure of the government-approved federation. The government did not meet with these unions, and the lack of legal recognition hampered their ability to collect dues, obtain meeting space, and otherwise address members’ workplace concerns. Labor organizations also reported trouble getting government recognition for trade unions in new sectors beyond the 17 established in law.

There were no reports of threats of violence against union heads, although labor activists alleged that the security services pressured union leaders to refrain from activism that challenged government interests. Strikes generally occurred without advance notice or registration.

Labor organizations reported that some management representatives used threats to intimidate striking workers.

Some foreign workers, whose residency permits are tied to work contracts, were vulnerable to retaliation by employers for participating in strikes and sit-ins. Participation in a legally unrecognized strike counted as an unexcused absence under the law. The law allows employers to consider employment contracts void if a worker is absent more than 10 consecutive days, as long as the employer provides written notice. Labor rights organizations reported instances of refusing to renew foreign workers’ contracts due to attempts to organize in the workplace.

Observers noted that the labor code did not explicitly protect nonunionized workers from retaliation. This was particularly the case for foreign workers in all sectors as well as citizens working in the public sector on short-term contracts (day laborers).

Labor NGOs working to promote the rights of workers generally focused on promoting the rights of migrant workers. Labor NGOs did not face additional or different government restrictions than those discussed in section 2.b.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor except in a state of emergency, such as war or natural disaster. The government made substantial efforts to enforce the law through inspections and other means. Labor activists noted that law enforcement and judicial officials did not consistently identify victims or open criminal investigations.

The government inspected garment factories, a major employer of foreign labor, and investigated allegations of forced labor. Forced labor or conditions indicative of forced labor occurred, particularly among migrant workers in the domestic work and agricultural sectors. In October labor inspectors closed at least three dormitories in the Mafraq Qualified Industrial Zone for conditions that inspectors described as “deplorable.” Activists highlighted the vulnerability of agricultural workers due to minimal government oversight. Activists also identified domestic workers, most of whom were foreign workers, as particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to inadequate government oversight, social norms that excused forced labor, and workers’ isolation within individual homes. NGOs reported the Joint Antitrafficking Unit preferred to settle potential cases of domestic servitude through mediation, rather than referring them for criminal prosecution. High turnover at the unit also reportedly made prosecution more difficult. The government issued domestic helper by-laws in 2015 which regulate the hiring contract terms, the employer responsibilities/rights, and the responsibilities of the recruitment office. Recruitment offices were inspected and found to be violating a rule that prohibits the use of pregnancy tests in hiring practices. The government ordered the end of the practice and took steps to ensure compliance, including distributing materials to recruiting offices on the rights of children born to foreign workers. The government continued to monitor the situation.

Government bylaws require recruitment agencies for migrant domestic workers to provide health insurance, workplace accident insurance, and insurance that reimburses the recruitment fees to employers when a worker leaves before fulfilling the contract. If the employer fails to pay the worker’s salary or to return the worker’s passport, then the employer would not be entitled to the insurance payment. The bylaws authorize the Ministry of Labor publicly to classify recruitment agencies based on compliance and to close and withdraw the license of poorly ranked agencies. As of July the ministry issued warnings to 65 recruitment agencies and transferred 74 cases of domestic helper complaints to the Joint Antitrafficking Unit. A closure recommendation is an internal procedure in which inspectors send their recommendation to close certain recruitment offices with many labor violations to the minister of labor. Based on that recommendation, the minister may issue a closure decision.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law forbids employment of children younger than 16 years old, except as apprentices in nonhazardous positions. The law bans those between the ages of 16 and 18 from working in hazardous occupations, limits working hours for such children to six hours per day, mandates one-hour breaks for every four consecutive working hours, and prohibits work after 8 p.m., on national or religious holidays and on weekends.

There were instances of child labor, and many local and international organizations reported it was on the rise, particularly among Syrian refugees. In 2017 approximately 1.9 percent of the estimated four million children of all nationalities between the ages of five and 14 residing in the country were employed.

The Ministry of Labor’s Child Labor Unit was responsible for coordinating government action regarding child labor in collaboration with the National Committee on Child Labor and, with the ministry’s labor inspectors, was responsible for enforcing all aspects of the labor code, including child labor. Authorities referred violators to the magistrate’s penalty court which handles labor cases; according to the Ministry of Justice, child labor cases are never referred to criminal courts. The law provides that employers who hired a child younger than age 16 pay a fine of as much as 500 JD ($700), which doubles for repeat offenses.

Labor inspectors reportedly monitored cases of legally working children between 16 and 18, to issue advice and guidance, providing safe work conditions, and cooperate with employers to permit working children to attend school concurrently. In accordance with the labor code, the Ministry employed a zero-tolerance policy for labor of children below the age of 16 and hazardous work for children under 18 years old.

The government’s capacity to implement and enforce child labor laws was not sufficient to deter violations. The government had limited capacity to monitor children working in the informal work sector, such as children working in family businesses and the agricultural sector.

The Ministries of Labor, Education, and Social Development collaborated with NGOs seeking to withdraw children from the worst forms of labor.

Syrian refugee children worked in the informal sector without legal work permits. They sold goods in the streets, worked in the agricultural sector, and begged in urban areas.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

Labor laws do not prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, national origin, and sexual orientation (see section 6).

Union officials reported that sectors employing predominantly women, such as secretarial work, offered wages below the official minimum wage. Many women also reported traditional social pressures discouraged them from pursuing professional careers, especially after marriage. According to a Department of Statistics’ survey on unemployment, economic participation by women was 15.2 percent, and unemployment among women holding a bachelor’s degree was 77.1 percent compared to the overall unemployment rate of 18.7 percent.

Some persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and access to the workplace despite the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which requires 4 percent of a workplace of more than 50 employees to employ persons with disabilities. Some migrant workers faced discrimination in wages, housing, and working conditions irrespective of the labor law (see section 7.e.).

The law provides for a national minimum wage, which was raised to 220 JD ($310) per month from 190 JD ($268).

The law sets a workweek of 48 hours and requires overtime pay for hours worked in excess of that level. Because there was no limit on mutually agreed overtime, the Ministry of Labor reportedly permitted employees in some industries, such as the garment sector, to work as many as 70 to 75 hours per week, although observers reported many foreign workers requested overtime work.

Employees are entitled to one day off per week. The law provides for 14 days of paid sick leave and 14 days of paid annual leave per year, which increases to 21 days after five years of service with the same firm. Workers also received additional national and religious holidays designated by the government. The law permits compulsory overtime under certain circumstances such as conducting an annual inventory, closing accounts, preparing to sell goods at discounted prices, avoiding loss of goods that would otherwise be exposed to damage, and receiving special deliveries. In such cases actual working hours may not exceed 10 hours per day, the employee must be paid overtime, and the period may not last more than 30 days. There is no cap on the amount of mutually agreed overtime.

Employers are required to abide by all occupational health and safety standards set by the government. The law requires employers to protect workers from hazards caused by the nature of the job or its tools, provide any necessary protective equipment, train workers on hazards and prevention measures, provide first aid as necessitated by the job, and protect employees from explosions or fires by storing flammable materials appropriately.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and acceptable conditions of work. Ministry inspectors enforced the labor code but were unable to assure full compliance in every case due to lack of capacity and resources. Labor inspectors did not regularly investigate reports of labor or other abuses of domestic workers in private homes, and inspectors could not enter a private residence without the owner’s permission except with a court order. Employees may lodge complaints regarding violations of the labor code directly with the Ministry of Labor or through organizations such as their union or the NCHR. The Ministry opened an investigation for each complaint.

Labor standards apply to the informal sector, but the Ministry of Labor lacked the capacity to detect and monitor workplace violations. Authorities struggled to apply consistently all the protections of the labor code to domestic and agricultural workers, due to the migratory nature of workers in these sectors, cultural barriers preventing direct entry into the workplace, and insufficient number of labor inspectors. Labor organizations stated that many freelancing agricultural and domestic workers, cooks, and gardeners, mostly foreign workers, were not enrolled for social benefits from the Social Security Corporation because only salaried employees were automatically enrolled, and optional enrollment was limited to citizens.

The government took action to prevent violations and improve working conditions. As of July, however, the authorities had not closed a workplace for recruiting foreign workers without work permits. The Ministry of Labor placed a special focus on enforcing compliance in the Qualifying Industrial Zones, where most migrant garment workers were employed. The ratio of labor inspectors to workers or places of employment was significantly higher in these zones than for the general population. The government required garment export manufacturers to participate in the Better Work Jordan program, a global program implemented by the International Labor Organization and the International Finance Corporation to improve labor standards. During the year, all 77 foreign exporting factories required by the government to join Better Work Jordan were active members of the program.

Wage, overtime, safety, and other standards often were not upheld in several sectors, including construction, mechanic shops, day labor, and the garment industry. Some foreign workers faced hazardous and exploitative working conditions in a variety of sectors. Authorities did not effectively protect all employees who attempted to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health and safety. Labor organizations reported that female citizen workers were more likely to encounter labor violations, including wages below the minimum wage and harassment in the workplace.

In the garment sector, foreign workers were more susceptible than citizens to dangerous or unfair conditions. In October labor inspectors traveled to the Industrial Zone in Mafraq to close several dormitories run by textile and garment companies, describing the conditions as “deplorable.” Better Work Jordan stated compliance regarding coercion improved. Indebtedness of migrant garment workers to third parties and involuntary or excessive overtime persisted.

Employers subjected some workers in the agricultural sector, the vast majority of whom were Egyptians, to exploitative conditions. According to a domestic NGO, agricultural workers usually received less than the minimum wage. Some employers in the agricultural sector also reportedly confiscated passports. Egyptian migrant workers were also vulnerable to exploitation in the construction industry; employers usually paid them less than the minimum wage, and they lacked basic training and equipment necessary to uphold occupational health and safety standards.

Domestic workers often faced unacceptable working conditions. While domestic workers could file complaints in person with the Ministry of Labor’s Domestic Workers Directorate or the PSD, many domestic workers complained there was no follow-up on their cases. During the year the Antitrafficking Unit at the PSD began operating its hotline 24 hours per day, seven days a week, with operators available in all languages spoken by migrant workers in the country, including Tagalog, Bengali, and Tamil.

In 2015 the prosecutor general charged a Jordanian woman in Irbid with premeditated murder after she allegedly beat an Indonesian domestic worker in her employ to death. The forensic report showed that the worker died due to brain hemorrhage. The court acquitted the Jordanian woman during the year.

Advocates for migrant domestic workers reported that domestic workers who sought government assistance or made allegations against their employers frequently faced counterclaims of criminal behavior from their employers. Employers could file criminal complaints or flight notifications against domestic workers with police stations. Authorities used a general amnesty waiving immigration overstay fines for workers deported for criminal allegations or unrenewed work permits. The previous process had resulted in an entry ban of three consecutive years.

During the year dozens of domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka sought shelter at their countries’ embassies in Amman. Most of the domestic workers reportedly fled conditions indicative of forced labor or abuse, including unpaid wages and, to a lesser extent, sexual or physical abuse. By law, employers are responsible for renewing foreign employees’ residency and work permits but often failed to do so for domestic employees. As a result authorities considered most of the domestic workers sheltered by embassies illegal residents, and many were stranded because they were unable to pay accumulating daily overstay fees to depart the country. The government continued its cooperation with foreign embassies to waive overstay fees for migrant domestic workers who wished to repatriate after a two-year stay in the country, a policy that greatly reduced the number of domestic workers stranded at their embassies’ shelters.

As a result of poor working conditions experienced by some of its citizens, Indonesia continued to prohibit its citizens from traveling to Jordan (among 20 other countries in the region) as domestic workers; the policy has been in effect since 2016. Some human rights organizations argued that these bans heightened the vulnerability of foreign domestic workers who engaged unscrupulous recruitment agencies to migrate illegally to the country.

Kazakhstan

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for workers’ right to unionize, but limits workers’ freedom of association. The trade union law amended in July 2017, restricts workers’ freedom of association by requiring existing independent labor unions to affiliate with larger, progovernment unions at the industry, sector, or regional level and by erecting significant barriers to the creation of independent unions.

In January 2017 a southern regional court cancelled the registration of the Confederation of the Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CITUK), ordering its liquidation and removal from the national register. The Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FTUK) is the successor to state-sponsored Soviet-era labor organizations and the largest national trade union association, with approximately 90 percent of union members on its rolls. The government exercised considerable influence on organized labor and favored state-affiliated unions over independent ones. Critics charged that the FTUK was too close to the government to advocate for workers effectively, was biased in favor of large employers and oligarchs, and that the law helped the FTUK in its unfair competition against independent labor unions.

In May the former chair of the Oil Construction Company (OCC) Trade Union, Amin Yeleussinov, who was sentenced to two years in prison in January 2017, was released on parole. Nurbek Kushakbaev, vice-chairperson of CITUK who was sentenced to two and a half years in April 2017, was also released on parole in May. Civil society organizations called for their convictions–as well as that of former chairman of CITUK, Larisa Kharkova–to be vacated. On June 6, the Appeals Court of the Mangystau Region revoked a April 11 ruling of the region’s economic court to close down the OCC Trade Union as illegal and returned the case for further review.

On September 25, police opened a criminal investigation into Yerlan Baltabay, the leader of an independent union of petrochemical workers in Shymkent, following a complaint by a member of his union about financial violations. Police searched Baltabay’s office and interrogated Baltabay without disclosing the nature of the charges against him. On October 18, authorities searched Baltabay’s house and seized documents relating to the union. Human rights observers noted the parallels to the investigation and ultimate conviction of Larisa Kharkova in 2017, and alleged that Baltabay has been targeted for his independent labor union activism.

The law provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and a court may order reinstatement of a worker fired for union activity. Penalties for violations of these provisions included fines and imprisonment of up to 75 days, but these penalties did not deter violations. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, 33.4 percent of working enterprises have collective agreements.

The law provides for the right to strike in principle but imposes onerous restrictions that make strikes unlikely. For example, the right to strike may be granted only after the dispute is brought to a reconciliatory commission for consideration. In addition by law there are a variety of circumstances in which strikes are illegal. A blanket legal restriction bars certain occupations from striking. Military and other security service members, emergency medical, fire, and rescue crews, as well as those who operate “dangerous” production facilities are forbidden to strike. By law such strikes are illegal.

Workers employed in the railway, transport and communications, civil aviation, health-care, and public utilities sectors may strike, but only if they maintain minimum services, do not interrupt nonstop production processes (such as metallurgy), and leave key equipment unaffected. Numerous legal limitations restrict workers’ right to strike in other industries as well. Generally, workers may not strike unless a labor dispute cannot be resolved through compulsory arbitration procedures. Decisions to strike must be taken in a meeting where at least one-half of an enterprise’s workers are present. A written notice announcing a strike must be submitted to the employer at least five days in advance.

Employers may fire striking workers after a court declares a strike illegal. The law also enables the government to target labor organizers whose strikes are deemed illegal, including by imposing criminal charges and up to three years in prison for conviction of participation in strikes declared illegal by the court.

The labor code limits worker rights to make claims on their employers. For example, its Article 12 requires employers to negotiate any labor-related act with official employee representatives. If there are multiple official representatives, they have five days in which to form a unified body to discuss the proposed act. If the group cannot come to consensus, the employer may accept the act without the consent of the employees. Article 52 lists 25 reasons an employer may fire a worker.

Disagreements between unions and their employers may be presented to a tripartite commission composed of representatives of the government, labor unions, and employer associations. State-affiliated and independent labor unions participate in tripartite commissions. The tripartite commission is responsible for developing and signing annual agreements governing most aspects of labor relations.

Foreign workers have the right to join unions, but the law prohibits the operation of foreign unions and the financing of unions by foreign entities, such as foreign citizens, governments, and international organizations. Irregular migrants and self-employed individuals resided in the country were not per se exempt from the law. Approximately two million of the nine million economically active citizens were self-employed in the second quarter of the year.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except when it is a consequence of a court sentencing or a condition of a state of emergency or martial law.

The penal code provides for punishment of convicted traffickers and those who facilitate forced exploitation and trafficking, including labor recruiters who hire workers through deliberately fraudulent or deceptive offers with the intent to subject them to forced labor or employers or labor agents who confiscate passports or travel documents to keep workers in a state of involuntary servitude. Conviction of trafficking in persons for the purpose of labor and sexual exploitation is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Conviction of kidnapping and illegal deprivation of freedom with the purpose of labor or sexual exploitation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison with confiscation of assets; such penalties were sufficient.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for conducting checks of employers to reveal labor law violations, including exploitation of foreign workers. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for identifying victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation and initiating criminal proceedings. The government effectively enforced the law in most cases. Police conducted interagency operations to find victims of forced labor. In 2017 police investigated 101 criminal cases on human trafficking, and courts convicted 29 traffickers, including 20 for sexual exploitation, eight for labor exploitation, and one for another violation.

Migrant workers were considered most at risk for forced or compulsory labor. According to a 2016 IOM report, there were an estimated 950,000 migrants in the country, with the majority of migrant workers coming from Uzbekistan, but there were also lesser numbers from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Migrant workers found employment primarily in agriculture and construction. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for handling issues related to migrant labor. In 2017 the government adopted a new Concept of Migration policy for 2017-2021 and an accompanying implementation plan. Together, these changes addressed both internal and external modern challenges, such as the excess of low-skilled labor due to increased inflow of labor migrants from other Central Asian countries and the deficiency of high-skilled labor in some sectors of the economy due to a low-level of education.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The general minimum age for employment is 16. With parental permission, however, children ages 14 through 16 may perform light work that does not interfere with their health or education. The law prohibits minors from engaging in hazardous work and restricts the length of the workday for employees younger than 18.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws and for administrative offenses punishable by fines. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for investigating criminal offenses and training criminal police in investigating the worst forms of child labor.

The law provides for non-criminal punishments for violations of the law, including written warnings, suspensions, terminations, the withdrawal of licenses for specific types of activities, administrative penalties or fines, and administrative arrest (only by court decision and only up to 15 days for violation of legislation in relation to minors). Such violations include employment of minors without an employment agreement, which is punishable by fine with suspension of the employer’s license. Untimely or incorrect payment of salaries, non-provision of vacation or time off, excessive work hours, and discrimination in the workplace were also punishable by fines.

Prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor include criminal punishment under the penal code. Conviction of violation of minimum age employment in hazardous work is punishable up to five years in prison with or without a three-year ban on specific types of employment and activities. Conviction of engaging minors in pornographic shows or production of materials containing pornographic images of minors is punishable up to 10 years in prison; conviction of coercion of minors into prostitution is punishable up to 12 years in prison; conviction of kidnapping or illegal deprivation of freedom of a minor for the purpose of exploitation and trafficking in minors is punishable up to 15 years in prison, with a lifetime ban on activities and work with children. Such penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

NGOs reported child labor in domestic servitude, markets, construction sites, and activities such as car washes, cultivation of vegetables, and begging. For example, in 2017 seven children were found working in gas stations. Local NGOs indicated that child labor on family farms still exists in the seasonal production of cotton, and at least one child was found working in a cotton field in 2017. Media reported in 2017 a 16-year old boy died in a cotton field due to injuries suffered while loading cotton bales.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

Law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on gender, age, disability, race, ethnicity, language, place of residence, religion, political opinion, affiliation with tribe or class, public associations, or property, social, or official status. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, or having other communicable diseases. The government effectively enforced the law and regulations. Discrimination is an administrative offense punishable by a fine up to 481,000 tenge ($1,332). Some cases like illegal termination of labor contracts due to pregnancy, disability, or minority are considered a criminal offense and are punishable if convicted by fine, detention for up to 50 days’, or deprivation of the right to hold certain posts or engage in certain work-related activities.

Discrimination, however, occurred with respect to employment and occupation for persons with disabilities, orphans, and former convicts. Disability NGOs reported that despite government efforts, obtaining employment was difficult for persons with disabilities. The law does not require equal pay for equal work for women and men. NGOs reported no government body assumed responsibility for implementing antidiscrimination legislation and asserted the law’s definition of gender discrimination does not comply with international standards. More women than men were self-employed or underemployed relative to their education level.

During the year the national monthly minimum wage was comparable to the monthly subsistence income level. As of August 1.3 million citizens of a nine-million person workforce were not registered as either employed or unemployed, meaning that they likely work in the informal economy. These workers are concentrated in the retail trade, transport services, agriculture, real estate, beauty and hair dressing salons, and laundry and dry cleaning businesses. Small entrepreneurs and their employees for the most part work without health, social, or pension benefits.

The law stipulates the normal workweek should not exceed 40 hours and limits heavy manual labor or hazardous work to no more than 36 hours per week. The law limits overtime to two hours per day, or one hour per day for heavy manual labor, and requires overtime to be paid at least at a 50-percent premium. The law prohibits compulsory overtime and overtime for work in hazardous conditions. The law provides that labor agreements may stipulate the length of working time, holidays, and paid annual leave for each worker.

The government sets occupational health and safety standards. The law requires employers to suspend work that could endanger the life or health of workers and to warn workers about any harmful or dangerous work conditions or the possibility of any occupational disease. The law specifically grants workers the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without suffering adverse employment action.

Overtime pay for holiday and after-hours work is equal to 1.5 times regular salary. The decision on pay is made by the employer or in compliance with a collective agreement, and the amount of pay is based on so-called industry-specific wage multipliers, stipulated by the industrial agreements.

On July 18, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of China National Petroleum Corporation-AktobeMunayGas, owned by China National Petroleum Corporation, which in February 2017 reduced the environmental allowance for 403 workers who reside in the ecologically challenging Aral Sea area from 50 percent to 20 percent. The company, supported by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, argued that only workers who both reside and work in the Aral Sea area are entitled to a 50 percent allowance. Those who resided in the Aral Sea area, but worked elsewhere, may claim only the 20 percent allowance.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection enforces the minimum wage, work-hour restrictions, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards. Under the entrepreneur code, labor inspectors have the right to conduct announced and unannounced inspections of workplaces to detect violations. Both types of inspections take place only after written notification. Inspections based on risk assessment reports are announced in writing not less than 30 days prior the beginning of the inspection. There has been a presidential moratorium on announced inspections since 2014. Unplanned inspections are announced not less than one day prior the beginning of the inspection. The resources of labor inspectors are limited. Ministry inspectors conducted random inspections of employers. As of March inspectors conducted 1,364 inspections, detected 2,104 violations of labor law, and levied 365 fines for a total amount of 64.3 million tenge (close to $178,000). In 2017 the ministry had 258 labor inspectors.

The Human Rights Commission reported that the number of inspectors was insufficient. Moreover, the 2015 labor code introduced so-called employer’s declarations. Under this system, labor inspectors may extend a certificate of trust to enterprises that complied with labor legislation requirements. Certified enterprises are exempt from labor inspections for the three-year period. In the opinion of labor rights activists, such a practice may worsen labor conditions and conceal problems. By law any enterprise or company may form a production council to address labor safety issues from representatives of an employer and employees. These councils are eligible to conduct their own inspections of the employees’ work conditions. As of January there were 12,855 production councils operating in the country. Formal training was provided to 10,952 of 17,914 volunteer labor inspectors.

There were reports some employers ignored regulations concerning occupational health and safety. Occupational safety and health conditions in the construction, industrial, and agricultural sectors often were substandard. Workers in factories sometimes lacked quality protective clothing and sometimes worked in conditions of poor visibility and ventilation. As of September the government reported 975 workplace injuries, of which 133 resulted in death. The government attributed many labor-related deaths to antiquated equipment, insufficient detection and prevention of occupational diseases in workers engaged in harmful labor, and disregard for safety regulations. The most dangerous jobs were in mining, construction, and oil and gas, according to an expert analysis of occupations with the highest fatalities. The minister of labor and social protection reported that in 2017, 370,000 workers labored in hazardous conditions.

Some companies tried to avoid payments to injured workers. Critics reported that employers, the FTUK, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection were more concerned with bureaucracy and filling out reports on work-related accidents, than with taking measures to reduce their number. A minimal noncompliance with labor safety requirements may result in a company’s refusal to compensate workers for industrial injuries. In 30 percent of cases, workers themselves were blamed for violating occupational health and safety regulations.

Kenya

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers, including those in export processing zones (EPZs), to form and join unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. For the union to be recognized as a bargaining agent, it needs to represent a simple majority of the employees in a firm eligible to join the union. This provision extends to public and private sector employees. Members of the armed forces, prisons service, and police are not allowed to form or join trade unions.

The law permits the government to deny workers the right to strike under certain conditions. For example, the government prohibits members of the military, police, prison guards, and the National Youth Service from striking. Civil servants are permitted to strike following a seven-day notice period. A bureau of the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Services (Ministry of Labor) then typically referred disputes to mediation, fact-finding, or binding arbitration at the Employment and Labor Relations Court, a body of up to 12 judges which has exclusive jurisdiction to handle employment and labor matters and which operates in urban areas, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Kericho. In 2016 the Judiciary granted High Court status to the Employment and Labor Relations Court. It is illegal for parties involved in mediation to strike. Additionally, the ministry’s referral of a dispute to the conciliation process nullifies the right to strike.

By law workers who provide essential services, interpreted as “a service the interruption of which would probably endanger the life of a person or health of the population,” may not strike. Any trade dispute in a service listed as essential or declared an essential service may be adjudicated by the Employment and Labor Relations Court.

Strikes must concern terms of employment, and sympathy strikes are prohibited.

The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike if they have exhausted formal conciliation procedures and have given seven days’ notice to the government and the employer. Conciliation is not compulsory in individual employment matters. Security forces may not bargain collectively but have an internal board that reviews salaries. Informal workers may establish associations, or even unions, to negotiate wages and conditions matching the government’s minimum wage guidelines as well as to advocate for better working conditions and representation in the Employment and Labor Relations Court. The bill of rights in the constitution allows trade unions to undertake their activities without government interference, and the government generally respected this right.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The Employment and Labor Relations Court can order reinstatement and damages in the form of back pay for employees wrongfully dismissed for union activities. Labor laws apply to all groups of workers.

The government enforced the decisions of the Employment and Labor Relations Court inconsistently. Many employers did not comply with reinstatement orders, and some workers accepted payment in lieu of reinstatement. In several cases, employers successfully appealed the Employment and Labor Relations Court’s decisions to a branch of the High Court. The enforcement mechanisms of the Employment and Labor Relations Court remained weak, and its case backlog raised concerns about the long delays and lack of efficacy of the court.

The Employment and Labor Relations Court received many cases arising from the implementation of new labor laws. The parties filed the majority of cases directly without referral to Ministry of Labor for conciliation. In 2016-17, the number of filed cases increased to 6,082, while the number of cases settled more than doubled to 3,668. As of June 2017, 13,723 cases were pending in up from 11,309 cases at the end of 2015-16. The total Collective Bargaining Agreements registered in 2017 were 411, compared with 268 in 2016. The government established the court to provide for quick resolution of labor disputes, but backlog cases dated to 2007.

The chief justice designated all county courts presided over by senior resident magistrates and higher-ranking judges as special courts to hear employment and labor cases. Providing adequate facilities outside of Nairobi was challenging, but observers cited the ability of workers to submit labor-related cases throughout the country as a positive step. In 2016 the Judiciary finalized the Employment and Labor Relations (Procedure) Rules. The significant changes introduced in the new Court procedure rules provide parties access to file pleadings directly in electronic form, new pretrial procedures, and alternative dispute resolution. The rules also set a 30-day time limit for the court to submit a report on disagreements over Collective Bargaining Agreements filed.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, although enforcement was inconsistent. The government expressed its support for union rights mandated in the constitution.

Migrant workers often lacked formal organization and consequently missed the benefits of collective bargaining. Similarly, domestic workers and others who operated in private settings were vulnerable to exclusion from legal protections, although domestic workers unions exist in the country to protect their interests. The Ministry of East African Community and Northern Corridor claimed all employees are covered by the existing labor laws, and the ministry continued to advise domestic workers on the terms of their contracts, especially when their terms and conditions of work are violated.

In 2016 the government deployed labor attaches to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to regulate and coordinate contracts of Kenyan migrant workers and promote overseas job opportunities. The Ministry of East African Community and Northern Corridor also helped Kenyan domestic workers understand the terms and conditions of their work agreements. The government signed two bilateral agreements for employment opportunities with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the ministry’s negotiations continued with UAE. The ministry also established a directorate to regulate the conduct of labor agents for Kenyan migrant workers, including requiring the posting of a 500,000 shilling ($5,000) performance guarantee bond for each worker.

The survival of trade unions was threatened by the misuse of internships and other forms of transitional employment, with employers often not hiring employees after an internship ends. State agencies increasingly outsourced jobs to the private sector, and in the private sector, casual workers were employed on short-term contracts. This shift contributed to declining numbers in trade unions. NGOs and trade unionists reported replacement of permanent positions by casual or contract labor, especially in the EPZs, the Port of Mombasa, and in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. In some cases cited, employers staffed permanent jobs with rotating contract workers. This practice occurred at the management level as well, where employers hired individuals as management trainees and kept them in these positions for the maximum permitted period of three years. Instead of converting such trainees to permanent staff, employers replaced them with new trainees at the end of the three years.

Workers exercised the right to strike. The health sector witnessed industrial strikes that began in the fourth quarter of 2016 and lasted well into 2017. The doctors’ strike lasted until March 2017, leading to disruption of public health care service delivery and temporary detention of seven union officials. Strikes involving Kenya National Union of Nurses in various counties continued until November 2017. The government agreed to pay withheld back salaries; authorized a collective bargaining agreement; agreed to pay for nurses’ uniforms and to provide a risk allowance; and announced it would drop all pending disciplinary cases against nurses resulting from the strikes. Clinical Officers supporting the health sector also went on a short-lived strike lasting three weeks before a court heard their grievances in October. University lecturers went on strike three times during the academic year, demanding full implementation of the 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was resolved in December 2017.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The country made moderate advances to prevent or eliminate forced labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law and some forced labor occurred. Certain legal provisions, including the penal code and the Public Order Act, impose compulsory prison labor. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate to prevent forced labor, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Violations included debt bondage, trafficking of workers, and compulsion of persons, even family members, to work as domestic servants. The government prosecuted 59 cases of forced labor, primarily in cattle herding, street vending, begging, and agriculture in 2017. Domestic workers from Uganda, herders from Ethiopia, and others from Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi were subjected to forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The minimum age for work (other than apprenticeships) is 16, and the minimum age for hazardous work is 18. These protections, however, only extend to children engaged under formal employment agreements, and do not extend to those children working informally. The ministry, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the international donor community, and NGOs, published a list of specific jobs considered hazardous that would constitute the worst forms of child labor in 2014. This list includes but is not limited to scavenging, carrying stones and rocks, metalwork, working with machinery, mining and stone crushing. The law explicitly prohibits forced labor, trafficking, and other practices similar to slavery; child soldiering; prostitution; the use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; and the use by an adult for illegal activities (such as drug trafficking) of any child up to age 18. The law applies equally to girls and boys.

The law allows children ages 13 to 16 to engage in industrial undertakings when participating in apprenticeships. Industrial undertakings are defined under law to include work in mines, quarries, factories, construction, demolition, and transportation, which the list for children includes as hazardous work.

The law provides for penalties for any person who employs, engages, or uses a child in an industrial undertaking in violation of the law. Fines in the formal sector were generally enough to deter violations. Employment of children in the formal industrial wage sector in violation of the Employment Act was rare. The law does not prohibit child labor for children employed outside the scope of a contractual agreement. Child labor in the informal sector was widespread but difficult to monitor and control.

The Ministry of Labor enforces child labor laws, but enforcement remained inconsistent due to resource constraints. Supplementary programs, such as the ILO-initiated Community Child Labor monitoring program, helped provide additional resources to combat child labor. These programs identified children who were working illegally, removed them from hazardous work conditions, and referred them to appropriate service providers. The government also worked closely with the Central Organization of Trade Unions, and the Federation of Kenyan Employers to eliminate child labor.

In support of child protection, the Ministry of Labor launched a national online database system in May 2017. The Child Protection Information Management System collects, aggregates and reports on child protection data that informs policy decisions and budgeting for orphans and vulnerable children. The web-based system allows for an aggregate format of data to be made available to all the child protection stakeholders. In 2017 two new Child Rescue Centers were established in Siaya and Kakamega counties, bringing the total number of these centers to eight. Child Rescue Centers withdraw and rehabilitate child laborers and provide counseling and life skills training.

The government continued to implement the National Safety Net Program for Results, a project seeking to establish an effective national safety net program for poor and vulnerable households, and the Decent Work Country Program, a project designed to advance economic opportunities. Under these programs, the government pays households sheltering orphans or other vulnerable children to deter the children from dropping out of school and engaging in forced labor. For example, there have been some cases reported in Western Kenya of girls dropping out of secondary school and engaging in sex work in order to afford basic supplies.

According to a 2016 UNICEF study, 26 percent of children between ages 14 and under (almost 5 million children) engaged in child labor. Many children worked on family plots or in family units on tea, coffee, sugar, sisal, tobacco, and rice plantations, as well as in the production of miraa (khat). Children worked in mining, including in abandoned gold mines, small quarries, and sand mines. Children also worked in the fishing industry. In urban areas businesses employed children in hawking, scavenging, carrying loads, fetching and selling water, and selling food. Children often worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes for little or no pay, and there were reports of physical and sexual abuse of child domestic servants. Parents sometimes initiated forced or compulsory child labor, such as in agricultural labor and domestic service, but also including prostitution.

Most of the trafficking of children within the country appeared related to domestic labor, with migrant children trafficked from rural to urban areas.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

The law prohibits discrimination but does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Several regulatory statutes provide a legal framework for a requirement for the public and private sectors to reserve 5 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities; tax relief and incentives for such persons and their organizations; and reserves 30 percent of public procurement tenders for women, youth, and persons with disabilities.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred, although the law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring. The average monthly income of women was approximately two-thirds that of men. Women had difficulty working in nontraditional fields, had slower promotions, and were more likely to be dismissed. According to a World Bank report, both men and women experienced sexual harassment in job recruitment, but women more commonly reported it. Women who tried to establish their own informal businesses were subjected to discrimination and harassment. One study of women street vendors in Nairobi found harassment was the main mode of interaction between street vendors and authorities. The study noted that demands for bribes by police amounting to three to 8 percent of a vendor’s income as well as sexual abuse were common.

In an audit of hiring practices released in 2016, the NCIC accused many county governors of appointing and employing disproportionate numbers of the dominant tribe in their county. According to the commission, 15 of the 47 counties failed to include a single person from a minority tribe either on the county’s public service board or as county executive committee members. For example, all 10 of West Pokot’s committee members were Pokots. These problems were aggravated by the devolution of fiscal and administrative responsibility to county governments. Some counties, for example Nairobi City County, were notable for apportioning roles inclusively. Observers also noted patterns of preferential hiring during police recruitment exercises (see section 1.d.).

In both private business and in the public sector, members of nearly all ethnic groups commonly discriminated in favor of other members of the same group.

Due to societal discrimination, there were limited employment opportunities for persons with albinism. The law provides protection for persons with disabilities against employment discrimination, although in practice many persons with disabilities faced challenges in finding and obtaining employment. There are no legal employment protections for LGBTI persons, who remained vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred.

Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act, and the government established basic minimum wages by occupation and location, setting minimum standards for monthly, daily, and hourly work in each category. The minimum wage for a general laborer was 12,926 shillings ($128) per month. The average minimum wage for skilled workers was 18,274 shillings ($181) per month. The government increased the lowest agricultural minimum wage for unskilled employees to 7,323 shillings ($73) per month, excluding housing allowance. Agricultural workers were underpaid compared with other sectors. Minimum wages exceeded the World Bank poverty rate of $1.90 per day.

The Ministry of Labor implemented various social protection programs under the Social Safety Net Program, such as a cash transfer for orphaned and vulnerable children, a cash transfer program for the elderly, and a cash transfer program for persons with disabilities. These programs reached 874,806 households.

The law limits the normal workweek to 52 hours (60 hours for night workers); some categories of workers had lower limits. It specifically excludes agricultural workers from such limitations. It entitles an employee in the nonagricultural sector to one rest day per week and 21 days of combined annual and sick leave. The law also requires that total hours worked (regular time plus overtime) in any two-week period not exceed 120 hours (144 hours for night workers) and provides premium pay for overtime.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Authorities reported workweek and overtime violations. Workers in some enterprises, particularly in the EPZs and those in road construction, claimed employers forced them to work extra hours without overtime pay to meet production targets. Hotel industry workers were usually paid the minimum statutory wage, but employees worked long hours without compensation. Additionally, employers often did not provide nighttime transport, leaving workers vulnerable to assault, robbery, and sexual harassment.

The law details environmental, health, and safety standards. The Labor Ministry’s Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety Services has the authority to inspect factories and work sites, but employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to conduct regular inspections. Fines generally were insufficient to deter violations.

The directorate’s health and safety inspectors can issue notices against employers for practices or activities that involve a risk of serious personal injury. Employers may appeal such notices to the Factories Appeals Court, a body of four members, one of whom must be a High Court judge. The law stipulates that factories employing 20 or more persons have an internal health and safety committee with representation from workers. According to the government, many of the largest factories had health and safety committees.

The law provides for labor inspections to prevent labor disputes, accidents, and conflicts and to protect workers from occupational hazards and disease by ensuring compliance with labor laws. Low salaries and the lack of vehicles, fuel, and other resources made it very difficult for labor inspectors to do their work effectively and left them vulnerable to bribes and other forms of corruption. Labor inspections include a provision for reporting on persons with disabilities. The Employment Act of 2007 prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of disability.

The law provides social protections for workers employed in the formal and informal sectors. Informal workers organized into associations, cooperatives, and, in some cases, unions. All Kenyan employers, including those in the informal sector, are required to contribute to the National Hospital Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund; these provide health insurance and pensions. According to the 2015-2017 Kenya Economic Survey, the informal sector employed 11.81 million persons in 2016, compared with 2.42 million in the formal sector.

Workers, including foreigners and immigrants, have the legal right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce these regulations, and workers were reluctant to remove themselves from working conditions that endangered their health or safety due to the risk of losing their jobs. The Kenya Federation of Employers provided training and auditing of workplaces for health and safety practices.

Kiribati

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct strikes, and bargain collectively. The government did not control or restrict union activities; however, unions must register with the government. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination at the time of hiring and while employed, but does not specifically provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government effectively enforced the laws. Penalties for violations include fines or imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations. There were no reports of lengthy delays or appeal processes during dispute resolution.

The law allows for compulsory arbitration in a wider range of cases than generally allowed under international standards. Similarly, the definition of “essential services,” in which the right to strike is limited, includes a broader range of sectors than do international standards. The penalty for unlawful strikes in both essential and nonessential sectors includes imprisonment and a fine and were sufficient to deter violations.

The government and the employers in practice respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

In keeping with tradition, negotiations generally were nonconfrontational. There were no known collective bargaining agreements in the year to October and no instances reported of denial of the right to strike. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination.

The constitution and laws prohibit most forms of forced or compulsory labor, with some exceptions regarding times of emergency or “calamity.” The law prescribes penalties of fines and imprisonment that were considered sufficient to deter violations. There were no reports forced labor occurred.

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 14 except in light work, and of children 14-18 in hazardous work. The law does not, however, specify what constitutes either light or hazardous work. Although employment in the worst forms of child labor is prohibited–including the sale or trafficking of children; compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; use, procuring, or offering for prostitution; use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities; and use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production or trafficking of illegal drugs–gaps exist within Kiribati’s legal framework; for example, the law does not specifically prohibit domestic trafficking of children.

The Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development conducted enforcement outreach efforts and established a mechanism for labor complaints, including child labor complaints.

Child labor existed primarily in the informal economy. Although research was limited, there was still evidence that children perform dangerous tasks in construction and street vending. There were allegations of minors involved in sexual activity with foreign fishing crews, receiving cash, alcohol, food, or goods (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

The law prohibits discrimination in employment, and there were no formal reports of discrimination in employment and wages. Cultural barriers, however, sometimes impeded women from playing a more active role in the economy. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to worksites.

The national minimum wage for local businesses and companies was AUD 1.30 ($0.94) per hour, while for overseas-funded projects, the minimum wage was AUD 3.00 ($2.16) per hour. This wage was greater than the poverty income level, but most of the working population worked in the informal subsistence economy. The Public Service Office sets wages in the public sector, which makes up approximately half the employment in the formal economy.

The law sets the workweek at 40 hours. The law provides for the possibility of paid annual holidays for all employees except casual workers and 12 weeks for maternity leave, but it leaves the determination up to individual employment contracts, which are then submitted to the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development for documentation. Workers in the public sector worked 36.25 hours per week, with required overtime pay for additional hours. No law or regulation governs the amount of overtime an employee may work.

The Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development is responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health standards. Employers are liable for the expenses of workers injured on the job. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without threat to their employment.

A lack of qualified personnel hampered the government’s ability to enforce employment laws. The ministry conducted labor inspections and did not receive any work-related injury complaints in the year to October. The government did not provide any information on penalties for noncompliance. Anecdotal information suggested that workers in the service and hospitality sector worked excessive hours.

Kosovo

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and the violation of any individual’s labor rights due to his or her union activities. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, including in essential services. The law applies equally to all individuals working in the public and private sectors, including documented migrants and domestic servants.

Authorities did not effectively enforce the labor law, which includes regulations and administrative instructions that govern employment relations, including rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. According to the Association of Independent Labor Unions in Kosovo (BSPK), resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, and penalties insufficient. As of May, the Ministry of Labor and Social Work’s Labor Inspectorate had issued 111 fines during the year. The BSPK described the fines as insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were circuitous and subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

According to the BSPK, the government and private employers generally respected the right to form and join unions in both the public and private sectors. Political party interference in trade union organizations and individual worker rights remained a problem. According to union officials, workers in the public sector commonly faced mistreatment, including sexual harassment and the loss of employment, based on their political party affiliation. Employers did not always respect the rights of worker organizations to bargain collectively, particularly in the private sector. The BSPK reported that many private sector employers essentially ignored labor laws. The BSPK reported continued difficulty in establishing unions due to employer interference in workers’ associations and unions, particularly in the banking, construction, and hotel sectors. Representatives from these sectors told the BSPK anonymously that employers used intimidation to prevent the establishment of unions. The Labor Inspectorate reported receiving no formal complaints of discrimination against employees who tried to join unions during the year. The inspectorate was not fully functional due to budgetary and staffing shortfalls.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but forced child labor occurred during the year (see section 7.c.).

Government resources, including remediation, were insufficient to bring about compliance, identify and protect victims, and investigate claims of forced or compulsory labor. There were limited investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of forced labor due, according to the Labor Inspectorate, to inadequate resources. Penalties, although stringent compared with those for other serious crimes, were not sufficient to prevent forced labor. As of July, authorities had not removed any victims from forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The minimum age for contractual employment is 15, provided the employment is not harmful or prejudicial to school attendance. If the work is likely to jeopardize the health, safety, or morals of a young person, the legal minimum age is 18. Regulations forbid exploitation of children in the workplace, including forced or compulsory labor. The government maintained a National Authority Against Trafficking in Persons that investigated cases of children trafficked for labor.

Inspectors immediately notified employers when minors were found working in hazardous conditions. As of May, the municipal Centers for Social Work (CWS) reported 52 cases of minors working in hazardous conditions to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW). Of these, 38 were children engaged in begging, 11 in street work, and three in mining. Of these 38, all were removed from child labor activities. The MLSW noted that the CSW often misreported cases of minors working in hazardous conditions to the ministry due to poor understanding of a reporting tool allowing for simultaneous reporting to the MLSW and the CSW.

The law provides additional penalties for employers of children in illegal labor practices and families whose failure to meet their parental obligations results in the illegal employment of a minor. The law permits authorities to remove a child from the home if that is determined to be in the best interests of a child.

The Coalition of NGOs for Protection of Children (KOMF) reported that children working in the farming and mining sectors encountered hazards associated with operating farm equipment and extracting ore from hard-to-reach areas underground. KOMF reported that child labor in farming persisted as a traditional activity. Government-run social work centers reported that children engaged in farming were not prevented from attending school. KOMF also reported that the total number of child beggars remained unknown. While children were rarely their families’ main wage earners, child labor contributed substantially to some family incomes.

Young children in rural areas often assisted their families in agricultural labor, typically including work during school hours. Urban children often worked in a variety of unofficial construction and retail jobs, such as selling newspapers, cigarettes, food, and telephone cards on the street. Some children also engaged in physical labor, such as transportation of goods.

See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred across sectors with respect to sex, gender identity, disability, religion, political affiliation and minority status (see section 6). During the year the BSPK received reports from labor unions and individuals also claiming discrimination based on union membership, age, and family status. The BSPK and union officials noted that employment, particularly in the public sector, often depended on the employee’s political status and affiliation. Union officials reported other mistreatment, including sexual harassment, based on political party affiliation. The BSPK also reported instances of employers discriminating against female candidates in employment interviews and illegally firing women for being pregnant or requesting maternity leave.

International observers reported discrimination in university employment against individuals wearing hijabs or other symbols of Islam. Universities sometimes rejected candidates on this basis, justifying the practice as a counter-radicalization effort.

The government-set minimum wage was higher than the official poverty income line. The law provides monthly benefits of up to 120 euros ($138) for families eligible for social assistance and up to 40 euros ($46) monthly for individuals. Families and individuals could also receive discounts on up to 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity and free health care.

The law provides for a standard 40-hour workweek, requires rest periods, limits the number of regular hours worked to 12 per day, limits overtime to 20 hours per week and 40 hours per month, requires payment of a premium for overtime work, and prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. The law provides for 20 days’ paid leave per year for employees and 12 months of partially paid maternity leave. The labor law sets appropriate health and safety standards for workplaces and governs all industries in the country.

Ministry of Labor inspectors were responsible for enforcing all labor standards, including those pertaining to wages, hours, and occupational safety and health. Unions and the labor inspectorate considered the fines sufficient, but said the number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor the formal and informal sectors effectively.

According to the Labor Inspectorate and the BSPK, the labor code is comprehensive and its provisions on work hours are adequate for the equal protection of public and private sector workers. According to the BSPK, the government’s lack of enforcement stemmed from a lack of unionized workers as well as resource and capacity limitations of the Labor Inspectorate.

According to the BSPK, employers failed to abide by official labor standards that provided equal standards of protection to public and private sector workers. The BSPK reported a lack of government oversight and enforcement, particularly of the standard workweek and compulsory and unpaid overtime. Many individuals worked long hours in the private sector as “at-will” employees, without employment contracts, regular pay, or contributions to their pensions. The BSPK reported that employers fired workers without cause in violation of the law and refused to respect worker holidays. As of May, the Labor Inspectorate received 515 formal complaints of violations of workers’ rights in the public and private sectors. Women’s rights organizations reported that sexual abuse and harassment occurred on the job but went unreported due to fear of dismissal or retaliation.

While the law provides for the protection of employees’ health and working conditions, private and public institutions failed at times to comply. The Labor Inspectorate and BSPK officials reported difficulties in obtaining accurate information about compliance, because workers rarely disclosed the problems due to fear of losing their jobs. The Labor Inspectorate reported eight private and public sector workplace fatalities as of May.

No law specifically permits employees to remove themselves from a dangerous work situation, but the law requires every employer to provide adequate work conditions for all employees based upon job requirements. According to the Labor Ministry, informal employer-employee arrangements may address when and whether employees may remove themselves from work due to dangerous work situations. The country’s institutions did not track these arrangements. According to experts, violations of wage, overtime, and occupational health and safety standards were common for men and women, as well as foreign migrant workers, particularly those who faced hazardous or exploitative working conditions.

Kuwait

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law protects the right of Kuwaiti workers to form and join trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The government, however, did not always respect these rights.

The law does not apply to public-sector employees, domestic workers, or maritime employees. Discrete labor laws set work conditions in the public and private sectors, with the oil industry treated separately. The law permits limited trade union pluralism at the local level, but the government authorized only one federation, the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF). The law also stipulates any new union must include at least 100 workers and that at least 15 must be citizens.

The law provides workers, except for domestic workers, maritime workers, and civil servants, a limited right to collective bargaining. There is no minimum number of workers needed to conclude such agreements.

Public-sector workers do not have the right to strike. Citizens in the private sector have the right to strike, although cumbersome provisions calling for compulsory negotiation and arbitration in the case of disputes limit that right. The law does not prohibit retaliation against striking workers or prevent the government from interfering in union activities, including the right to strike.

According to the PAM, there were 2.75 million workers in the country. Only 17.7 percent of the total workforce were citizens. Most citizens (78 percent) worked in the public sector, in part because the government provided lucrative benefits to citizens, including generous retirement funding.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference with union functions. It provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Nevertheless, the law empowers the courts to dissolve any union for violating labor laws or for threatening “public order and morals,” although a union can appeal such a court decision. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor can request the Court of First Instance to dissolve a union. Additionally, the emir may dissolve a union by decree.

Foreign workers, who constituted more than 80 percent of the workforce, may join unions only as nonvoting members after five years of work in the particular sector the union represents, provided they obtain a certificate of good conduct and moral standing from the government. They cannot run for seats or vote in board elections. Both the International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation criticized the citizenship requirement for discouraging unions in sectors that employ few citizens, including much of private-sector employment, such as construction.

The government enforced applicable laws, with some exceptions, and procedures were generally not subjected to lengthy delay or appeals.

The government treated worker actions by citizens and noncitizens differently. While citizens and public sector union leaders and workers faced no government repercussions for their roles in union or strike activities, companies directly threatened noncitizen workers calling for strikes with termination and deportation.

The law prohibits and criminally sanctions forced or compulsory labor “except in cases specified by law for national emergency and with just remuneration.” Although the law prohibits withholding of workers’ passports, the practice remained common among sponsors and employers of foreign workers and the government demonstrated no consistent efforts to enforce this prohibition. Employers confined some domestic and agricultural workers to their workspaces by retaining their passport and, in the case of some domestic workers, locked them in their work locations. Workers who fled abusive employers had difficulty retrieving their passports, and authorities deported them in almost all cases. The government usually limited punishment to assessing fines, shutting employment firms, issuing orders for employers to return withheld passports, or requiring employers to pay back wages.

Over the last year, 3,600 Indian workers were stranded in the country when the Kharafi National Company declared bankruptcy on one of its largest projects and stopped paying workers. In July more than 700 of the Indian workers were forced to leave the country without their earned salaries after the Indian government negotiated with the PAM a 250 dinars ($825) relief amount to purchase air tickets for repatriation to India and have their travel bans lifted. According to officials the PAM selected the 700 workers that received the relief stipend based on their sponsorship status with Kharafi National Company, complaints lodged with the PAM, and willingness to leave the country between November and April without the payment of earned salaries. Some of the workers who remained in the country were able to find new sponsors and take on new work.

As of April, PAM inspectors in collaboration with residency affairs detectives raided 206 fake and inactive companies that had approximately 4,000 workers under their sponsorship. These companies were found to be in violation of residency laws. The owners of fake companies were referred to the public prosecution, and the courts fined them more than one million dinars ($3.3 million) in penalties.

In July the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor indicated that approximately 7,200 court rulings were issued against fake companies involved in visa trafficking since 2014. The total amount of fines collected from those companies exceeded 12 million dinars ($40 million), an average of 1,700 dinars (approximately $5,600) per company. In August the PAM reported it had won more than 500 cases against visa traffickers. These companies were founded solely to sell visas to foreign workers; once the workers were registered to the fake companies, they become unemployed, worked as marginal workers, or were trafficked.

Some incidents of forced labor and conditions indicative of forced labor occurred, especially among foreign domestic and agricultural workers. Such practices were usually a result of employer abuse of the sponsorship system (kafala) for noncitizen workers. Employers frequently illegally withheld salaries from domestic workers and minimum-wage laborers.

Domestic servitude was the most common type of forced labor, principally involving foreign domestic workers employed under the sponsorship system, but reports of forced labor in the construction and sanitation sectors also existed. Forced labor conditions for migrant workers included nonpayment of wages, long working hours, deprivation of food, threats, physical and sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as withholding passports or confinement to the workplace. As of July employers filed 4,500 “absconding” reports against private sector employees. Domestic workers have filed approximately 240 complaints against their employers in accordance with the domestic labor law. Numerous domestic workers who escaped from abusive employers reported waiting several months to regain passports, which employers illegally confiscated when they began their employment.

The PAM operated a shelter for abused domestic workers. As of October, according to a government source, the shelter had a capacity of 500 victims. It housed as many as 450 residents in April before the residency amnesty that removed travel bans from workers seeking to return home. According to the latest report, 145 workers were resident at the shelter.

A government owned company for recruiting domestic workers officially launched its services in 2017 and initially planned to bring 120 domestic workers a month from the Philippines and approximately 100 male workers from India. In November the government-owned company, which is mandated to provide training for domestic workers and cut out middlemen to lower recruitment fees for employers, announced new agreements with India and the Philippines to start bringing workers. The target recruitment fee is between 350 and 895 dinars (approximately $1,150 and $3,000) per worker, depending on experience and skillset. The government regularly conducted information awareness campaigns via media outlets and public events and otherwise informed employers to encourage compliance by the public and private recruiting companies with the new law.

There were numerous media reports throughout the year of sponsors abusing domestic workers or significantly injuring them when they tried to escape; some reports alleged that abuse resulted in workers’ deaths. Female domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Police and courts were reluctant to prosecute citizens for abuse in private residences but prosecuted serious cases of abuse when reported. According to a high-level government official, authorities prosecuted several cases of domestic worker abuse. In November a local woman was charged with premeditated murder and trafficking in persons for beating her domestic worker to death.

In February the case of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina domestic worker killed and left in an apartment freezer by her Syrian and Lebanese employers highlighted the plight of domestic workers in the country. The employers of the Filipina domestic worker, who had fled the country, were arrested in February in Syria and Lebanon following an Interpol manhunt and faced extradition to Kuwait. The Criminal Court sentenced the pair in their absence to death by hanging.

Numerous media reports highlighted the problem of visa trading, where companies and recruitment agencies work together to “sell” visas to prospective workers. Often the jobs and companies attached to these visas do not exist, and the workers were left to be exploited and find work in the black market to earn a living and pay the cost of the residency visa. Arrests of visa traffickers and illegal labor rings occurred almost weekly. Since workers cannot freely change jobs, they were sometimes willing to leave their initial job due to low wages or unacceptable working conditions and enter into an illegal residency status with the hope of improved working conditions at another job.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits child labor. The legal minimum age for employment is 18, although employers may obtain permits from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to employ juveniles between 15 and 18 in some nonhazardous trades. Juveniles may work a maximum of six hours a day with no more than four consecutive hours followed by a one-hour rest period. Juveniles cannot work overtime or between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Although not extensive, there were credible reports that children of South Asian origin worked as domestic laborers. Some underage workers entered the country on travel documents with falsified birth dates.

The government made efforts to enforce laws regulating child labor. Approximately 450 PAM labor and occupational safety inspectors routinely monitored private firms for labor law compliance, including laws against child labor. Noncompliant employers faced fines or a forced suspension of their company operations. Nevertheless, the government did not consistently enforce child labor laws in the informal sector, such as in street vending.

The law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, sex, gender, and disability. The government immediately deports HIV-positive foreign workers, and there is no protection for workers based on sexual orientation. No laws prohibit labor discrimination based on non-HIV communicable diseases, or social status, but there were no reported cases of discrimination in these areas. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to both citizen and noncitizen women. Female domestic workers were at particular risk of discrimination or abuse due to the isolated home environment in which they worked.

Shia continued to report government discrimination based on religion. For example, Shia were represented in police force and military/security apparatus, although not in all branches and often not in leadership positions. Some Shia continued to allege that a glass ceiling of discrimination prevented them from obtaining leadership positions in public-sector organizations, including the security services. In the private sector, Shia were generally represented at all levels in proportion to their percentage of the population.

The law states that a woman should receive “remuneration equal to that of a man provided she does the same work,” although it prohibits women from working in “dangerous industries” and in trades “harmful” to health. Educated women contended the conservative nature of society restricted career opportunities, although there were limited improvements. Media reported that the gender pay gap between male and female workers in the public sector was 28.7 percent for citizens and 7.9 percent for non-Kuwaitis. While more than 70 percent of college graduates from Kuwait University were women, they were underrepresented among the number of students sent to study internationally, likely due to societal concerns about permitting young women to study away from their families. According to government statistics, women represented 51 percent of the population but had a total female workforce participation rate of 56 percent.

The law sets the national minimum wage in the oil and private sector at 75 dinars (approximately $250) per month. The minimum wage for domestic workers was 60 dinars (approximately $200) per month. Most low-wage employees lived and worked in the country without their families, and employers generally provided at least some form of housing.

The law limits the standard workweek to 48 hours (40 hours for the petroleum industry), and gives private-sector workers 30 days of annual leave. The law also forbids requiring employees to work more than 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. The law provides for 13 designated national holidays annually. Workers are entitled to 125 percent of base pay for working overtime and 150 percent of base pay for working on their designated weekly day off.

The government issued occupational health and safety standards that were current and appropriate for the main industries. For example, the law provides that all outdoor work stop between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during June, July, and August, or when the temperature rises to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. A worker could file a complaint against an employer with the PAM if the worker believed his safety and health were at risk.

The law and regulations governing acceptable conditions of work do not apply to domestic workers. The Ministry of Interior has jurisdiction over domestic worker matters and enforces domestic labor working standards.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for enforcement of wages, hours, overtime, and occupational safety and health regulations of nondomestic workers. Enforcement by the ministry was generally good, but there were gaps in enforcement with respect to unskilled foreign laborers. Several ministry officials cited inadequate numbers of inspectors as the main reason for their inability to enforce the laws to the best of their abilities.

Approximately 460 labor and occupational safety inspectors monitored private firms. The government periodically inspected enterprises to raise awareness among workers and employers and to assure that they abided by existing safety rules, controlled pollution in certain industries, trained workers to use machines, and reported violations.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor monitored work sites to inspect for compliance with rules banning summer work and recorded hundreds of violations during the year. Workers could also report these violations to their embassies, the KTUF, or the Labor Disputes Department. Noncompliant employers faced warnings, fines, or forced suspensions of company operations, but these were not sufficient to deter violators.

In the first 10 months of the year, the Labor Disputes Department received approximately 15,150 complaints from workers of which approximately 5,800 were referred to the courts; these complaints were either about contract issues, such as nonpayment of wages, or about difficulties transferring work visas to new companies. Most of the complaints were resolved in arbitration, with the remaining cases referred to the courts for resolution. In July the Court of Appeals ordered Al-Kharafi & Sons to pay heirs of a deceased Egyptian foreign resident (former employee of the company) 30,000 dinars ($99,000) in consequence of the company’s negligence and noncompliance to safety and security regulations. The lawsuit indicated employees of the company caused the unintentional death of the victim due to negligence by tasking the employee to clean a six-meter-deep manhole without proper gear and without checking for poisonous gases.

At times the PAM intervened to resolve labor disputes between foreign workers and their employers. The authority’s labor arbitration panel sometimes ruled in favor of foreign laborers who claimed violations of work contracts by their employers. The government was more effective in resolving unpaid salary disputes involving private sector laborers than those involving domestic workers. Media reports indicated that the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor won 58 court cases against visa traders by October.

Foreign workers were vulnerable to unacceptable conditions of work. Domestic workers and other unskilled foreign workers in the private sector frequently worked substantially in excess of 48 hours a week, with no day of rest.

Domestic workers had little recourse when employers violated their rights except to seek admittance to the domestic workers shelter where the government mediated between sponsors and workers either to assist the worker in finding an alternate sponsor or to assist in voluntary repatriation. There were no inspections of private residences, the workplace of the majority of the country’s domestic workers. Reports indicated employers forced domestic workers to work overtime without additional compensation.

Some domestic workers did not have the ability to remove themselves from an unhealthy or unsafe situation without endangering their employment. There were reports of domestic workers’ committing or attempting to commit suicide due to desperation over abuse, including sexual violence or poor working conditions. In 2016 the government implemented the domestic labor law that provides legal protections for domestic workers. The law established a formal grievance process and identified the Domestic Labor Department at the Ministry of Interior as the sole arbitration entity for domestic worker labor disputes. A worker not satisfied with the department’s arbitration decision has the right to file a legal case via the labor court. As of September the department conducted more than 2,400 inspections of domestic worker recruiting agencies, shut 15 fake agencies, and closed 30 for failing to meet the requirements of the law,

Several embassies with large domestic worker populations in the country met with varying degrees of success in pressing the government to prosecute serious cases of domestic worker abuse. Severe cases included those where there were significant, life-threatening injuries.

Kyrgyz Republic

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers the right to form and join trade unions. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides them the right to organize and bargain collectively. Workers may strike, but the requirement to receive formal approval made striking difficult and complicated. The law on government service prohibits government employees from striking, but the prohibition does not apply to teachers or medical professionals. The law does not prohibit retaliation against striking workers.

Many unions reportedly operated as quasi-official institutions that took state interests into consideration rather than representing workers’ interests exclusively. The Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) remained the only umbrella trade union in the country. Unions were not required to belong to the FTU, and there were several smaller unaffiliated unions.

The government effectively enforced these rights. Workers exercised their right to join and form unions, and unions exercised the right to organize and bargain collectively. Union leaders, however, generally cooperated with the government, and international observers judged that unions represented the interests of their members poorly. In past years some unions alleged unfair dismissals of union leaders and the formation of single-company unions.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law specifically prohibits the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation and prescribes penalties that were sufficient to deter violations. Forced labor is also prohibited by the labor code and the code on children. The government did not fully implement legal prohibitions, and victim identification remained a concern.

There were some cases of forced labor, mostly involving children in the agricultural sector (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law sets the minimum legal age for basic employment at 16, except for work performed without a signed employment contract or work considered to be “light,” such as selling newspapers, in which children as young as 14 may work with the permission of a parent or guardian. The law prohibits employment of persons under age 18 at night, underground, or in difficult or dangerous conditions, including in the metal, oil, and gas industries; mining and prospecting; the food industry; entertainment; and machine building. Children ages 14 or 15 may work up to five hours a day, not to exceed 24 hours a week; children ages 16 to 18 may work up to seven hours a day, not exceeding 36 hours a week. These laws also apply to children with disabilities. Violation of the law incurs penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment of up to 10 years, depending on the nature and severity of the offense. Weak enforcement and a lack of prosecution of violations continued to pose challenges to deterrence. Almost all child labor was in agriculture based on the 2014-2015 National Child Labor Survey.

Despite some advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, it remained a problem. According to recent reports, children continued to be engaged in agricultural work in cotton cultivation as well as in selling and transporting goods at bazaars.

The PGO and the State Labor Inspectorate (Inspectorate) are responsible for enforcing employers’ compliance with the labor code. According to the Inspectorate, inspectors conducted infrequent and ineffective child labor inspections to ensure appropriate enforcement of the labor laws. Since many children worked for their families or were self-employed, it was difficult for the government to determine whether work complied with the labor code.

See also the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, language, origin, property, official status, age, place of residence, religion, and political convictions, membership in public organizations, or other circumstances irrelevant to professional capacities. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and the nature of penalties was insufficient to deter violations. Uzbeks in the south also complained it was hard to start a small business due to discriminatory practices in licensing and registering a business with the local authorities.

Average wages for women were substantially less than for men. Women made up the majority of pensioners, a group particularly vulnerable to deteriorating economic conditions. In rural areas, traditional attitudes toward women limited them to the roles of wife and mother and curtailed educational opportunities. Members of the LGBTI community reported discrimination in the work place when they were open about their sexual orientation. Persons with HIV-positive status faced discrimination regarding hiring and security of employment. Persons with disabilities were subjected to discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

The law provides for a national minimum wage. The minimum wage was less than the official government’s 2015 poverty line of 32,093 som ($471) per year. The official national minimum monthly wage established for 2018 was 1,300 som ($19). The law on minimum wage states it should rise gradually to meet the cost of living.

The standard workweek is 40 hours, usually with a five-day week. For state-owned industries, there is a mandated 24-hour rest period in a seven-day workweek. According to the labor code, overtime work cannot exceed four hours per day or 20 hours per week, and workers must receive compensatory leave or premium pay of between 150 and 200 percent of the hourly wage. These provisions were mainly enforced at large companies and organizations with strong trade unions. Employees of small and informal firms fall under the law but generally had no union representation.

The National Statistics Committee defined informal economic activity as household units that produce goods and services primarily to provide jobs and income to their members. In 2017 the government estimated that only 28.8 percent of the population worked in the formal sector of the economy, while the rest worked in the informal economy.

Safety and health conditions in factories were poor. The law establishes occupational health and safety standards that were appropriate to main industries, but the government generally did not enforce them. Penalties for violation of the law range from community service to fines and were insufficient to deter violations. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. The State Labor Inspectorate is responsible for protecting workers and carrying out inspections for all types of labor problems. Labor inspectors’ activities were limited and insufficient to enforce compliance. The law does not provide for occupational health and safety standards for workers in the informal economy.

Government licensing rules placed strict requirements on companies recruiting citizens to work abroad, and the Ministry of Labor, Migration, and Youth licensed such companies. The government regularly published a list of licensed and vetted firms. Recruiters were required to monitor employer compliance with employment terms and the working conditions of labor migrants while under contract abroad. Recruiters were also required to provide workers with their employment contract prior to their departure.

Laos

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join worker organizations independent of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), an organ of the LPRP. The law defines collective bargaining but does not set out conditions, and it requires the examination of all collective bargaining agreements by the Labor Administration Agency (LAA). The law provides for the right to strike, subject to certain limitations. The law does not permit police, civil servants, foreigners, and members of the armed forces to form and join unions. There is a general prohibition against discrimination against employees for reasons unrelated to performance, although there is no explicit prohibition against antiunion discrimination. There is no explicit requirement for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The law requires a workforce of 10 or more workers to elect one or more employee representatives. Where a trade union exists, the head of the union is by default the employee representative. Both representatives and trade union heads may bargain collectively with employers on matters including working conditions or recruitment, wages, welfare, and other benefits.

November 2017 amendments to the Trade Union Law do not provide for independent labor unions or worker associations not affiliated with the LFTU, but they do provide for the ability of workers in the informal economy, including workers outside of labor units or who were self-employed, to join LFTU-affiliated unions. It also establishes rights and responsibilities for “laborer representatives,” which the law defines as “an individual or legal entity selected by the workers and laborers in labor units to be a representative to protect their legitimate rights and interest….”

There was no information on the resources dedicated to enforcement of freedom of association provisions of the labor laws. Penalties under law for infringing on workers’ freedom of association include fines, incarcerations, and/or business license revocation, and they were not considered sufficient to deter violations.

Unions were not independent of the government or its political party and operated within the framework of the LFTU. The government reported the law permits affiliation between independent unions of separate branches of a company but stated the law does not explicitly allow or disallow affiliation at the industry, provincial, or national levels. There were reports unions not affiliated with the LFTU existed in industries, including the garment industry, light manufacturing, and agriculture processing.

Labor disputes reportedly were infrequent, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare generally did not enforce the dispute resolution section of the labor law, especially in dealings with joint ventures in the private sector. Employee representatives and ad hoc workers’ groups tried to resolve complaints, as did, according to some reports, representatives of the LWU and local community leaders. There was little information available on the effectiveness of employee representatives, although anecdotal evidence suggested some had successfully negotiated for higher wages and better benefits.

The law provides for imprisonment penalties for those who join an organization that encourages protests, demonstrations, and other actions that might cause “turmoil or social instability.” The government’s overall prohibition of activities it considered subversive or demonstrations it considered destabilizing, lack of familiarity with the provisions of the amended labor law, and a general aversion to open confrontation continued to make workers extremely unlikely to exercise their right to strike.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law prohibits private employers from using forced labor, and the penalties for perpetrating forced labor can include fines, suspension from work, revocation of business license, and prosecution. There may be civil or criminal prosecutions for forced labor violations. Penalties for trafficking in persons, which includes forced labor, consist of imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of assets. Such penalties were sufficiently stringent to deter violations. Due to limited numbers of inspectors, among other factors, the government did not effectively enforce the law.

According to civil society organizations, the establishment of large-scale, foreign-invested agricultural plantations led to displacement of local farmers, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Unable to continue traditional practices of subsistence agriculture, many farmers sought employment as day laborers through local brokers.

Also, see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law establishes 14 years as the minimum age for employment. The law allows children from ages 14 to 18 to work a maximum of eight hours per day, provided such work is not dangerous or difficult. Employers may, however, employ children from ages 12 to 14 to perform light work. The law applies only to work undertaken in a formal labor relationship, not to self-employment or informal work. The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims (60 percent) were girls between ages 12 and 18, and most victims (35 percent) ended up in forced prostitution.

The Ministry of Public Security and Justice, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, including in the informal economy, but enforcement was ineffective due to the lack of inspectors. The law prescribes penalties of imprisonment and fines, which were not sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare conducted public awareness campaigns, organized workshops with the National Commission for Mothers and Children in the northern and southern provinces, and collected data on child labor as part of its effort to implement the National Plan of Action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.

According to the government’s Child Labor Survey report, released in 2013 and based on 2010 data, the latest such data available, approximately 90 percent of child labor occurred in the agricultural, fishing, or forestry sectors, and more than two-thirds of child laborers were involved in work defined as hazardous according to international standards. Many children helped on family farms or in shops and other family businesses, but child labor was rare in industrial (e.g., manufacturing) enterprises. There were reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children (see section 6, Children).

The law prohibits direct or indirect discrimination by employers against employees and prohibits all action by the employer that hinders, is biased, or limits opportunities for promotion and confidence on the part of the employee. The law, however, does not explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on race, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases.

The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination in hiring based on a female employees’ marital status or pregnancy, and it protects against dismissal on these grounds. The government enforced prohibitions against employment discrimination or requirements for equal pay; penalties under law included fines but were insufficient to deter violations.

Women faced obstacles in equal access to employment.

In May the government raised the monthly minimum wage for all private-sector workers to 1.1 million kip ($130) per month. The minimum wage for civil servants and state enterprise employees was 1.4 million kip ($165) per month. The government estimated the national poverty line at an average income of 10,000 kip ($1.17) per person per day.

The law provides for a workweek limited to 48 hours (36 hours for employment in dangerous activities). Overtime may not exceed 45 hours per month, and each period of overtime may not exceed three hours. Employers may apply to the government for an exception, which the law stipulates workers or their representatives must also approve.

The law provides for safe working conditions and higher compensation for dangerous work, but it does not explicitly protect the right of workers to remove themselves from a hazardous situation. In case of injury or death on the job, employers are responsible to compensate a worker or the worker’s family. The law requires employers to report to the LAA accidents causing major injury to or death of an employee or requiring an employee to take a minimum of four days off work. The law also mandates extensive employer responsibility for workers who became disabled while at work.

The law also prohibits the employment of pregnant women and new mothers in occupations deemed hazardous to women’s reproductive health. The law requires the transfer of women working in such jobs to less demanding positions, and they are entitled to maintain the same salary or wage.

The Department of Labor Management within the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for workplace inspections. The government did not always effectively enforce the law. There was an insufficient number of inspectors to enforce compliance because they were only able to inspect a limited number of entities under their purview. The government did not always pay some civil servants on time and delayed salary payments for as long as three months. Some piecework employees, especially on construction sites, earned less than the minimum wage. The overtime or wage law was not effectively enforced. The law does not specify penalties for noncompliance with occupational safety and health provisions, but they could include warnings, fines, “re-education,” or suspension of business license.

There were a number of undocumented migrants in the country, particularly from Vietnam and Burma, who were vulnerable to exploitation by employers in the logging, mining, and agricultural sectors. Migrants from China and Vietnam also worked in construction, plantations, casinos, and informal service industries, sectors where wage and occupational safety and health violations were more common. The International Organization for Migration reported undocumented migrants often preferred not to seek medical help due to language barriers and mistrust of local medical services.

Latvia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The International Trade Union Confederation criticized as excessive the requirement that a union may not have fewer than 15 members or less than 25 percent of the total number of employees in the company (which cannot be fewer than five). The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides reinstatement for unlawful dismissal, including dismissal for union activity.

There were several limitations on these rights. Uniformed members of the military, members of the State Security Services, and border guards may not form or join unions. While the law provides for the right to strike, it requires a strike vote by a three-fourths majority at a meeting attended by at least three-fourths of the union’s members. It prohibits strikes in sectors related to public safety and by personnel classified as essential, including judges, prosecutors, police, firefighters, border guards, employees of state security institutions, prison guards, and military personnel. The law prohibits “solidarity” strikes by workers who are not directly involved in a specific labor agreement between strikers and their employers, a restriction criticized by local labor groups. The law provides arbitration mechanisms for essential personnel not permitted to strike.

The government generally enforced applicable labor laws; however, such laws are weak and often ineffectual. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate under the law. Penalties for violations ranged from a few hundred to several thousand euros and were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor rights organizations expressed concern about employer discrimination against union members.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. Some worker organizations were independent of, and others dependent on, the government or political parties, employers, or employers’ associations. One of the largest worker unions in the country, LABA, was controlled by the Riga City Council.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law, although staffing problems hindered more effective enforcement. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment and were generally sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Welfare’s State Labor Inspectorate, the agency responsible for enforcing labor laws, conducted regular inspections of workplaces and reported no incidents of forced labor. A 2016 study, however, uncovered consistent underreporting of forced labor and suggested the inspectorate lacked the resources necessary to carry out more extensive investigations. The inspectorate reported a high employee turnover, with approximately 15 percent of positions unfilled, a situation exacerbated by perennial wage issues.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.

The government effectively enforced child labor and minimum age laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The statutory minimum age for employment is 15. Children who are 13 or older may work in certain jobs outside of school hours with written permission from a parent. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from performing nighttime or overtime work. According to the law, children may not work in jobs that pose a risk to their physical safety, health, or development. There were no reports of labor abuses involving children. The State Labor Inspectorate conducted inspections throughout the year and reported seven cases of unregistered employment of youth who were 16 or 17, as well as one case of permanent employment of a child.

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination, but employment discrimination on the basis of citizenship is not prohibited. Following Soviet-era russification and relocation programs and the creation of a sizeable Russian-speaking minority, the government requires the use of Latvian as the officially recognized language where employment activities “affect the lawful interests of the public.” Citing the continuing political and economic threat posed by Russia to Latvia, the government restricted some sensitive civil service positions for candidates who previously worked for the former Soviet intelligence apparatus.

There were instances of hiring and pay discrimination against women, particularly in the private sector. Because this type of discrimination was underreported, during the first eight months of the year the ombudsman did not open any cases of employment discrimination.

Employment discrimination also occurred with respect to sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity. Persons with disabilities experienced limited access to work due to a lack of personal assistants, poor infrastructure, and absence of specialized programs. The Romani community faced discrimination and high levels of unemployment.

The law sets a monthly minimum wage of 430 euros ($495), which exceeds the official estimate of the poverty income level of 330 euros ($380). The government enforced its wage laws effectively.

The law provides for a maximum workweek of 40 hours. The maximum permitted overtime is 144 hours in a four-month period. The law requires a minimum of 100 percent premium pay in compensation for overtime, unless the parties agree to other forms of compensation in a contract; however, this was rarely enforced. The law specifies the maximum amount of overtime and prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime.

The law establishes minimum occupational health and safety standards for the workplace, which are current and appropriate for the main industries. While the law allows workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, these regulations were not always followed. Workers may complain to the State Labor Inspectorate when they believe their rights are violated.

The State Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing minimum wage regulations, restrictions on hours of work, and occupational health and safety standards. These standards were not always enforced in the informal economy. Penalties for violations are monetary and vary widely, depending on the severity and frequency of the violation, but they were generally sufficient to deter violations. The inspectorate had adequate resources to inspect and remediate labor standards problems and effectively enforced labor laws.

Through July the State Labor Inspectorate reported 31 workplace fatalities, the majority of which were classified as due to natural causes, and 53 serious workplace injuries. The State Labor Inspectorate commented that most of the injuries were not severe. The majority of workplace injuries and fatalities were in the construction, wood-processing, and lumber industries.

Real wage estimates were difficult to calculate in the sizeable informal economy, which, according to some estimates, accounted for approximately 22 percent of gross domestic product. Workers in low-skilled manufacturing and retail jobs as well as some public-sector employees, such as firefighters, were reportedly most vulnerable to poor working conditions, including long work hours, lack of overtime pay, and arbitrary remuneration.

Lebanon

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join trade unions, bargain collectively, and strike but places a number of restrictions on these rights. The Ministry of Labor must approve the formation of unions, and it controlled the conduct of all trade union elections, including election dates, procedures, and ratification of results. The law permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions and bars trade unions from political activity. Unions have the right to strike after providing advance notice to and receiving approval from the Ministry of Interior. Organizers of a strike (at least three of whom must be identified by name) must notify the ministry of the number of participants in advance and the intended location of the strike, and 5 percent of a union’s members must take responsibility for maintaining order during the strike.

There are significant restrictions on the right to strike. The labor law excludes public-sector employees, domestic workers, and agricultural workers. Therefore, they have neither the right to strike nor to join and establish unions. The law prohibits public-sector employees from any kind of union activity, including striking, organizing collective petitions, or joining professional organizations. Despite this prohibition public-sector employees succeeded in forming leagues of public school teachers and civil servants that created the Union of Coordination Committees (UCC), which along with private school teachers, demanded better pay and working conditions.

The law protects the right of workers to bargain collectively, but a minimum of 60 percent of workers must agree on the goals beforehand. Two-thirds of union members at a general assembly must ratify collective bargaining agreements. Collective agreements for the Port of Beirut and the American University of Beirut Medical Center employees have been renewed, as well as for the Hotel Dieu de France hospital.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Under the law when employers misuse or abuse their right to terminate a union member’s contract, including for union activity, the worker is entitled to compensation and legal indemnity and may institute proceedings before a conciliation board. The board adjudicates the case, after which an employer may be compelled to reinstate the worker, although this protection was available only to the elected members of a union’s board. Anecdotal evidence showed widespread antiunion discrimination, although this issue did not receive significant media coverage. The most flagrant abuses occurred in banking, private schools, retail businesses, daily and occasional workers, and the civil service. The government and ruling political parties interfered in the elections of the teachers and civil servants’ leagues, succeeding in removing an active UCC leadership that aimed to transform itself into a genuine trade union structure. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that private schools fired approximately 500 teachers to pressure their union to back off demands for higher pay under a new salary scale. The founding members of the domestic workers’ union were under scrutiny within the country. For example, the DGS detained Sujana Rana and deported her in 2016. The government continued its restriction against the unionization of domestic workers; however, it generally did not interfere with a June 24 demonstration of domestic workers and supporting organizations in Beirut demanding reform of laws covering the rights of domestic workers.

By law foreigners with legal resident status may join trade unions. The migrant law permits migrant workers to join existing unions (regardless of nationality and reciprocity agreements) but denies them the right to form their own unions. They do not enjoy full membership as they may neither vote in trade union elections nor run for union office. Certain sectors of migrant workers, such as migrant domestic workers, challenged the binding laws supported by some unions by forming their own autonomous structures that acted as unions, although the Ministry of Labor had not approved them.

Palestinian refugees generally may organize their own unions on an individual basis. Because of restrictions on their right to work, few refugees participated actively in trade unions. While some unions required citizenship, others were open to foreign nationals whose home countries had reciprocity agreements with Lebanon.

The government’s enforcement of applicable laws was weak, including with regard to prohibitions on antiunion discrimination.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not always respected. The government and other political actors interfered with the functioning of worker organizations, particularly the main federation, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (CGTL). The CGTL is the only national confederation recognized by the government, although several unions boycotted and unofficially or officially broke from the CGTL and no longer recognized it as an independent and nonpartisan representative of workers. The National Federation of Workers and Employees in Lebanon emerged as another alternative to represent the independent trade union movement. Since 2012 the UCC played a major role in pushing the government to pass a promised revised salary scale, largely overshadowing the CGTL. In July 2017 parliament passed the salary scale law for public-sector employees. The UCC’s prominence declined considerably following the election of a new board in 2015, while the CGTL was increasingly active following the election of a new board in March 2017. Antiunion discrimination and other instances of employer interference in union functions occurred. Some employers fired workers in the process of forming a union before the union could be formally established and published in the official gazette.

There was no progress on enacting a draft labor law, under discussion since 2008.

There was widespread anecdotal evidence of arbitrary dismissals of Lebanese, and their replacement by non-Lebanese, across economic and productive sectors. This action was mainly in the form of Syrian refugees allegedly replacing Lebanese in some sectors. There were no official statistics to quantify the scale of these dismissals.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, but there is no legislative provision that provides criminal penalties for the exaction of forced labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law, although the government made some efforts to prevent or eliminate it. The law does not criminally prohibit debt bondage.

Children, foreign workers employed as domestic workers, and other foreign workers sometimes worked under forced labor conditions. The law provides protection for domestic workers against forced labor, but domestic work is excluded from protections under the labor law and vulnerable to exploitation. In violation of the law, employment agencies and employers routinely withheld foreign workers’ passports, especially in the case of domestic workers, sometimes for years. According to NGOs assisting migrant workers, some employers withheld salaries for the duration of the contract, which was usually two years.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Child labor occurred, including in its worst forms. While up-to-date statistics on child labor were unavailable, anecdotal evidence suggested the number of child workers rose during the year and that more children worked in the informal sector, as well as commercial sexual exploitation, as UNHCR noted.

The minimum age for employment is 14, and the law prescribes the occupations that are legal for juveniles, defined as children between ages 14 and 18. The law requires juveniles to undergo a medical exam by a doctor certified by the Ministry of Public Health to assure they are physically fit for the type of work employers ask them to perform. The law prohibits employment of juveniles for more than seven hours per day or from working between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., and it requires one hour of rest for work lasting more than four hours. The law, updated by a decree on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, prohibits specific types of labor for juveniles, including informal “street labor.” It also lists types of labor that, by their nature or the circumstances in which they are carried out, are likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children younger than 16, as well as types of labor that are allowed for children older than 16, provided they are offered full protection and adequate training.

Overall, the government did not enforce child labor laws effectively, in part due to inadequate resources. The penal code calls for penalties for those who violate laws on the worst forms of child labor ranging from a fine of LL 250,500 ($167) and one to three months’ imprisonment up to the closure of the offending establishment. Advocacy groups did not consider these punishments sufficient deterrents.

Child labor, including among refugee children, was predominantly concentrated in the informal sector, including in small family enterprises, mechanical workshops, carpentry, construction, manufacturing, industrial sites, welding, agriculture (including in the production of tobacco), and fisheries. According to the ILO, child labor rates have at least doubled since the Syrian refugee influx. The ILO reported that instances of child labor strongly correlate with a Syrian refugee presence. The ILO equally highlighted that the majority of Syrian children involved in the worst forms of child labor–especially forced labor–worked primarily in agriculture in the Bekaa and Akkar regions and on the streets of major urban areas (Beirut and Tripoli). Anecdotal evidence also indicated that child labor was prevalent within Palestinian refugee camps.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor requirements through its Child Labor Unit. Additionally, the law charges the Ministry of Justice, the ISF, and the Higher Council for Childhood (HCC) with enforcing laws related to child trafficking, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and the use of children in illicit activities. The HCC is also responsible for referring children held in protective custody to appropriate NGOs to find safe living arrangements. The Ministry of Labor employed approximately 90 inspectors and assistant inspectors, as well as administrators and technicians. This team conducts all inspections of potential labor violations for the ministry, including for child labor issues whenever a specific complaint is reported or found in the course of their other inspections.

The government made efforts to prevent child labor and remove children from such labor during the year. The Ministry of Labor’s Child Labor Unit acts as the government’s focal point for child labor issues, and it oversees and implements the ministry’s national strategy to tackle child labor. The National Steering Committee on Child Labor is the main interministerial body coordinating on child labor across the government. In collaboration with the ILO, the ministry established three new coordinating committees against child labor in 2016, in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Mount Lebanon, and in the Bekaa region.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law provides for equality among all citizens and prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The law does not specifically provide for protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, or other communicable diseases.

Although the government generally respected these provisions, they were not enforced in some areas, especially in economic matters, and aspects of the law and traditional beliefs discriminated against women. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, persons with disabilities, foreign domestic workers, and LGBTI and HIV-positive persons (see section 6).

The law does not distinguish between women and men in employment, and it provides for equal pay for men and women. On wage equality for similar work, the report also indicates a considerable difference between wages for women and men in the workplace.

Although prohibited by law, discrimination against persons with disabilities continued. Employment law defines a “disability” as a physical, sight, hearing, or mental disability. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities fill at least 3 percent of all government and private sector positions, provided such persons fulfill the qualifications for the position; however, no evidence indicated that the government enforced the law.

Migrant workers and domestic workers faced employment hurdles that amounted to discrimination (see section 7.e.).

The legal minimum wage was last raised in 2012. There was no official minimum wage for domestic workers. Observers concluded that the minimum wage is lower than unofficial estimates of the poverty income level. Official contracts stipulated a wage ranging from LL 225,000 to LL 450,000 ($150 to $300) per month for domestic workers, depending on the nationality of the worker. A unified standard contract, which was registered with the DGS for the worker to obtain residency, granted migrant domestic workers some labor protections. The standard contract covered uniform terms and conditions of employment, but not wages.

The law prescribes a standard 48-hour workweek with a weekly rest period that must not be less than 36 consecutive hours. The law stipulates 48 hours work as the maximum per week in most corporations except agricultural enterprises. The law permits a 12-hour day under certain conditions, including a stipulation that overtime pay is 50 percent higher than pay for normal hours. The law does not set limits on compulsory overtime. The law includes specific occupational health and safety regulations and requires employers to take adequate precautions for employee safety.

Domestic workers are not covered under the labor law or other laws related to acceptable conditions of work. Such laws also do not apply to those involved in work within the context of a family, day laborers, temporary workers in the public sector, or workers in the agricultural sector.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing regulations related to acceptable conditions of work but did so unevenly. The ministry employed approximately 90 enforcement officials composed of both inspectors and assistant inspectors, as well as administrators and technicians, who handled all inspections of potential labor violations. The number of inspectors, available resources, and legal provisions were not sufficient to deter violations, nor was there political will for proper inspections in other cases. Interference with inspectors affected the quality of inspections and issuance of fines for violators was common. The law stipulates that workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, although government officials did not protect employees who exercised this right.

Workers in the industrial sector worked an average of 35 hours per week, while workers in other sectors worked an average of 32 hours per week. Some private-sector employers failed to provide employees with family and transportation allowances as stipulated under the law and did not register them with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Some companies did not respect legal provisions governing occupational health and safety in specific sectors, such as the construction industry. Workers could report violations to the CGTL, Ministry of Labor, NSSF, or through their respective unions. In most cases they preferred to remain silent due to fear of dismissal.

Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational health and safety standards were most common in the construction industry and among migrant workers, particularly with foreign domestic workers.

Foreign migrant workers arrived in the country through local recruitment agencies and source-country recruitment agencies. Although the law requires recruitment agencies to have a license from the Ministry of Labor, the government did not adequately monitor their activities. A sponsorship system tied foreign workers’ legal residency to a specific employer, making it difficult for foreign workers to change employers. If employment was terminated, a worker lost residency. This circumstance made many foreign migrant workers reluctant to file complaints to avoid losing their legal status.

Some employers mistreated, abused, and raped foreign domestic workers, who were mostly of Asian and African origin. Domestic workers often worked long hours and, in many cases, did not receive vacations or holidays. Victims of abuse may file civil suits or seek other legal action, often with the assistance of NGOs, but most victims, counseled by their embassies or consulates, settled for an administrative solution that usually included monetary compensation and repatriation. In a typical example, one victim explained that, when she escaped from an employer who was withholding her wages, an NGO helped her file charges against her employer. Authorities reached an administrative settlement with her employer to pay back wages and finance return to her home country, but did not seek criminal prosecution of her employer.

Authorities did not prosecute perpetrators of abuses against foreign domestic workers for a number of reasons, including the victims’ refusal to press charges and lack of evidence. Authorities settled an unknown number of other cases of nonpayment of wages through negotiation. According to source-country embassies and consulates, many workers did not report violations of their labor contracts until after they returned to their home countries, since they preferred not to stay in the country for a lengthy judicial process.

While licensed businesses and factories strove to meet international standards for working conditions with respect to occupational safety and health, conditions in informal factories and businesses were poorly regulated and often did not meet these standards. The Ministry of Industry is responsible for enforcing regulations to improve safety in the workplace. The regulations require industries to have three types of insurance (fire, third party, and workers’ policies) and to implement proper safety measures. The ministry has the authority to revoke a company’s license if its inspectors find a company noncompliant, but there was no evidence this occurred.

The law requires businesses to adhere to safety standards, but authorities poorly enforced the law, and it did not explicitly permit workers to remove themselves from dangerous conditions without jeopardy to their continued employment. Workers may ask to change their job or be removed from an unsafe job without being affected, as per the labor code. The government only weakly implemented the law due to lack of governance, the weak role of the trade union movement, corruption, and lack of trade union rights.

Lesotho

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

By law workers in the private sector have the right to join and form trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization or excessive bureaucratic requirements. The law prohibits civil servants and police from joining or forming unions but allows them to form staff associations for collective bargaining and promoting ethical conduct of their members. All trade unions must register with the Registrar of Trade Unions. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference.

The law provides for a limited right to strike. In the private sector, the law requires workers and employers to follow a series of procedures designed to resolve disputes before the DDPR, an independent government body, authorizes a strike. A registered union with a 51-percent majority of staff may call a strike on a “dispute of interest” (a demand that goes beyond labor code stipulations). If mandatory negotiations before a conciliator between the employer and employees reach a deadlock and the employer and employees agree on the strike rules and its duration, a union may file to embark on a strike. Employers may also invoke a lockout clause. The law does not permit civil servants to strike.

The law protects collective bargaining and places no restrictions on it. Government approval is not required for collective agreements to be valid. By law the Public Service Joint Advisory Council provides for due process and protects civil servants’ rights. The council consists of an equal number of members appointed by the minister of public service and members of any association representing at least 50 percent of civil servants. The council concludes and enforces collective bargaining agreements, prevents and resolves disputes, and provides procedures for dealing with general grievances. Furthermore, the Public Service Tribunal handles appeals brought by civil servants or their associations.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and other employer interference in union functions. The law provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law does not exclude particular groups of workers from relevant legal protections.

The government enforces applicable laws with cases typically resolved within one or two months at the DDPR. Penalties are sufficient to deter violations. A minority of cases filed with the Department of Labor, a part of the Ministry of Labor and Employment, took up to six months to be resolved. The Labor Court’s independence remained questionable because it is under the authority of the Ministry of Labor and Employment, despite a 2011 law transferring it to the judiciary. It was rare for a case to take longer than nine months. In April the Judicial Service Commission appointed two additional judges to reduce a backlog of outstanding Labor Court cases. The DDPR had nine arbitrators nationwide and had no case backlog.

The government and employers generally supported freedom of association and collective bargaining. Although factory workers have bargaining power, only some workers exercised the right to bargain collectively. This was because the law requires any union entering into negotiations with management to represent 50 percent of workers, and only a few factories met that condition. In 2015 the Factory Workers Union (FAWU), the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union, and the National Union of Textile Workers merged to form the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho to strengthen their bargaining power. The National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), which separated from FAWU, was active. On August 9, police arrested and charged NACTWU deputy secretary general, Tsepang Makakole, with inciting violence during a workers’ strike at Maputsoe. All worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties except the Lesotho Workers Party-affiliated Factory Workers Union. Most unions focused on organizing apparel workers.

Factory owners in the apparel industry were generally willing to bargain collectively on wages and working conditions but only with trade unions that represented at least 50 percent of workers. Factory decisions concerning labor disputes are determined by companies’ headquarters, which are usually located overseas. In the retail sector, employers generally respected freedom to associate and the right to bargain collectively, although retail unions complained employers commonly appealed Labor Court rulings to delay implementation of the rulings.

Workers exercised their right to strike. Factory workers embarked on violent illegal strikes on August 9, 15, and 21, demanding a minimum wage of 2,000 maloti ($154). At the time the minimum wage was 1,237 maloti ($95). Following negotiations with workers’ unions, the government decided on a minimum wage of 1,696 maloti ($130) for a trainee textile machine operator and 2,000 maloti ($154) for trained machine operators. The latter constitutes approximately 80 percent of the more than 40,000 members of the factory workforce. The agreement did not address what some labor experts noted as the practice of issuing repeated short-term contracts to the same workers as a method of keeping them at the minimum wage.

Staff at the Avani Lesotho Hotel (Lesotho Sun at the beginning of the strike) were on strike from December 2014 to the end of 2015 regarding demands for a 14 percent salary increase. Following the strike, employees filed a court case against their employer after they failed to reach a mutual agreement on salaries and working conditions. In May the management reinstated 81 employees and offered them 20,000 maloti ($1,538) compensation each for unpaid loans and insurance policies. On September 6, the Labor Court overturned the DDPR’s ruling barring teachers from engaging in a strike regarding pay and working conditions. The court instructed the DDPR to award teachers unions an industrial action protection certificate to enable their members to go on a legal strike. The teachers suspended the strike following negotiations with the government.

In the public sector, while both police and civil servants had associations, no single association represented at least 50 percent of civil servants. According to the Lesotho Public Servants Staff Association (LEPSSA), approximately 34 percent of civil servants belonged to the association. LEPSSA reported most civil servants did not register for the association because they were unaware of it. This low rate of participation made it difficult for LEPSSA to engage with the government on workers’ rights problems.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the applicable law. Police reported that inadequate resources hampered their investigations and remediation efforts, although penalties for conviction of violations, including two million maloti ($153,848) or 25 years’ imprisonment, would be sufficient to deter violations if applied.

The CGPU conducted community outreach on forced labor through community gatherings, lectures, workshops, and radio programs. The police Human Trafficking Unit targeted high schools to raise awareness of human trafficking and other forms of forced labor.

Individual farmers may have been involved in forced labor practices in the agricultural sector. The government did not inspect the informal sector nor prosecute such cases so the extent of the problem remains obscured.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law defines the legal minimum age for employment as 15, or 18 for hazardous employment. Hazardous work includes mining and quarrying; carrying heavy loads; manufacturing where chemicals are produced or used; working in places where machines are used, or in places such as bars, hotels, and places of entertainment where a person may be exposed to immoral behavior; herding; and producing or distributing tobacco. The law provides for completion of free and compulsory primary school at age 13, two years before the legal age of employment, rendering children ages 13-15 particularly vulnerable to forced labor. The law prohibits illicit activities including drug trafficking, hawking, gambling, or other illegal activities detrimental to the health, welfare, and educational advancement of the child. The law also states a child has a right to be protected from the use of hallucinogens, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco products, psychotropic drugs, and any other substances declared harmful, and from being involved in their production, trafficking, or distribution. Additionally, the law prohibits the use of children for commercial sexual exploitation. While the law applies to children working in the informal economy, it excludes self-employed children from relevant legal protections.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum age laws for employment outside the formal economy, since scarce resources hindered labor inspections. The Ministry of Labor and Employment and the CGPU investigated cases of working children. The ministry had only two child labor inspectors. Police reported six pending child-labor court cases. Victims herded livestock and worked in farming instead of attending school.

The NGO Beautiful Dream Society reported no cases of child labor, sex trafficking, or cases of boys being forced to leave school to work as herdboys.

In 2015 the government approved the guidelines for herdboys, which make a distinction between the concepts of “child work” (work that is not harmful and is acceptable as part of socialization) and “child labor” (those forms of work that are hazardous and exploitative). The guidelines apply to children under age 18 and strictly prohibit the engagement of children at a cattle post, the huts where herders stay when in remote mountain rangelands. Herding is considered illegal child labor only if herding deprives herdboys of the opportunity to attend school, obliges them to leave school prematurely, or requires them to combine school attendance with excessively long hours and difficult working conditions. The highest estimated percentage of working children was in herding.

The most recent data available from the Bureau of Statistics, the 2011 Household Budget Survey, reported 3.5 percent of children ages six to 14 participated in economic activities; this statistic did not include children aiding their families or others without compensation. In its most recent report in 2014, UNICEF estimated 23 percent of children between ages five and 14 were working. Two-thirds of these children were engaged in subsistence farming, while the rest were engaged mainly in domestic service. Child labor was higher among boys (86.6 percent of child workers) than among girls (13.4 percent). The report was based on 2004 data provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment.

See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

The labor code prohibits discrimination, but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on disability. There is no provision for equal pay for equal work.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred. According to the NGO Women and Law in Southern Africa, there was no legal basis for discrimination against women in employment, business, and access to credit, although social barriers to equality remained. Both men and women reported that hiring practices often aligned with gender, with men preferentially selected for certain positions (such as mechanics) and women preferentially selected for other positions (such as sewing machine operators).

The Ministry of Labor and Employment did not report any cases during the year of discrimination against those who were HIV-positive. The law prohibits such discrimination.

Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

There is a sector-specific minimum wage and a general minimum wage. The general minimum monthly wage varied from 1,500 maloti ($115) to 1,637 maloti ($126). The Lesotho Bureau of Statistics official estimate for the poverty income level was 246.60 maloti ($18.97) per month. Minimum wage provisions do not cover significant portions of the workforce. Labor laws do not apply to workers in agriculture or other informal sectors.

The law stipulates standards for hours of work, including a maximum 45-hour workweek, a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, a daily minimum rest period of one hour, at least 12 days of paid leave per year, paid sick leave, and public holidays. Required overtime is legal as long as overtime wages for work in excess of the standard 45-hour workweek are paid. The maximum overtime allowed is 11 hours per week; however, there are exemptions under special circumstances. The law requires the premium pay for overtime be at a rate not less than 25 percent more than the employee’s normal hourly wage rate; any employer who requires excessive compulsory overtime is liable to a fine, imprisonment, or both.

The law empowers the Ministry of Labor and Employment to issue regulations on occupational health and safety standards, and the commissioner of labor is responsible for investigating allegations of labor law violations.

The law requires employers to provide adequate light, ventilation, and sanitary facilities for employees and to install and maintain machinery in a manner that minimizes injury. It also requires each employer to have a registered health and safety officer. Employers must provide first aid kits, safety equipment, and protective clothing. The law also provides for a compensation system for industrial injuries and diseases related to employment. Penalties for violations were insufficient to deter violations.

Labor inspectors worked in all districts and generally conducted unannounced inspections of a random sample of workplaces on a weekly basis. Legislation would be required to make the informal sector subject to for inspection. The Ministry of Labor and Employment’s inspectorate reported employers, particularly in the security, transport, and construction sectors, did not always observe the minimum wage and hours of work laws. Many locally owned businesses did not keep employees’ records to facilitate labor inspections as required by law. Smaller employers failed to establish safety committees, did not have complete first aid kits, and did not provide protective clothing. With the exception of the mining industry, employers’ compliance with health and safety regulations generally was low. According to the ministry, there was noncompliance with the health and safety regulations, especially in construction. Employers took advantage of the fact that the ministry failed to prosecute perpetrators.

Trade union representatives described textile-sector working conditions as poor or even harsh but not dangerous. Union officials stated most textile factories were in prefabricated metal buildings. Unions reported few examples of dangerous health hazards but noted that in government-constructed factories there was usually improper ventilation due to poor planning and design. Employers, who leased factories from the government, were not allowed to change the design of government factory buildings to install ventilation systems. Third-party auditors hired by foreign textile buyers conducted spot checks on many exporting factories, customarily sought labor’s input, and briefed the unions on their findings. Unions believed the third-party auditors kept factory owners in line with health and safety regulations.

Many workplace policies covered employees with HIV/AIDS. Some of the larger factories maintained health services at the workplace. Where factories did not provide health care, workers had the right to access services at public health centers. Employers provided space for employee examinations and time off for employees to see doctors, receive counseling, and participate in educational and antistigma programs.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment is responsible for enforcing these laws and standards, but limited budget resources constrained enforcement efforts. A recent study on the rural and informal economy estimated that 47.8 percent of workers worked in the informal economy. The ministry’s inspectorate noted penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment did not compile any reports on workplace fatalities and accidents during the year.

Working conditions for foreign or migrant workers were similar to those of residents.

The law does not explicitly provide that workers may remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Nevertheless, sections of the code on safety in the workplace and dismissal imply such a dismissal would be illegal. Authorities protected employees when violations of the law were reported.

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