Saint Kitts and Nevis
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judicial system, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority.
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Civil servants are restricted from participating in protests.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
Access to Asylum: While the law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no requests for asylum reported during the year.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
Labor laws and procedures are the same in both St. Kitts and Nevis.
The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions or staff associations. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected in practice. The law permits the police, civil service, hotels, construction workers, and small businesses to organize staff associations. Staff associations do not have bargaining powers but are used to network and develop professional standards. A union representing more than 50 percent of the employees at a company may apply for the company to recognize the union for collective bargaining. Companies generally recognized the establishment of a union if a majority of its workers voted in favor of organizing the union, but the companies are not legally obliged to do so.
In practice, but not by law, there were restrictions on strikes by workers who provide essential services, such as the police and civil servants. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not require employers found guilty of such discrimination to rehire employees fired for union activities. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts reported in 2015 that workers are not protected against antiunion discrimination during recruitment or on the job. The ILO provided technical assistance to the government in labor law reform, labor administration, employment services, labor inspection, and occupational safety and health.
The law does not prescribe remedies for labor law violations, and the Ministry of Labour did not provide information on the adequacy of resources, inspections, and penalties for violations. Penalties were outdated and fines were insufficient to deter violations. The Department of Labour provided employers with training on their rights and responsibilities.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The constitution prohibits slavery, servitude, and forced labor. There were no reported cases of involuntary servitude.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and a Special Victims Unit, led by the police and Child Protection Services, investigated violations. The law sets the minimum age for work at 16. Prohibitions do not apply to family businesses. Children ages 16 and 17 have the same legal protections from dangerous work conditions as all workers. The law permits children between the ages of 16 and 18 to work regular hours. Employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 in certain industries related to the hotel and entertainment sectors is restricted. The government reported there were no child labor violations resulting in arrests or prosecutions.
Most employed children younger than age 16 worked after school in shops and supermarkets, or did light work in the informal sector.
The Ministry of Labour relied heavily on school truancy officers and the Community Affairs Division to monitor compliance with child labor laws, which they did effectively. The ministry reported that investigations were frequent, and that violators were referred to the Social Security division for enforcement.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status. The law stipulates any employer who wrongfully terminates an employee can be fined to the cover the cost of employee benefits. The government effectively enforced discrimination laws and regulations.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage was above the estimated poverty level income. The law does not prohibit excessive or compulsory overtime, but policy calls for employers to inform employees if they have to work overtime. Although not required by law, workers generally received at least one 24-hour rest period per week.
The government sets occupational safety and health standards, which were outdated but appropriate for the country’s main industries. Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The law also requires that employers report accidents and dangerous incidents.
The Labour Commission settles disputes over occupational safety and health conditions. The office conducts regular workplace inspections. Violators are subject to fines, and repeat offenders are subject to prosecution. The commission undertook wage inspections and special investigations when it received complaints. If the commission found that employers violated wage regulations, penalties were generally sufficient to encourage compliance. The government reported there were no violations resulting in arrests or prosecutions.
The Ministry of Labour relied primarily on worker complaints to trigger inspections of facilities using informal labor. Labour Commission inspectors enforced workplace health and safety standards. The Social Security Office was responsible for registering informal workers and businesses.