Eswatini

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that workers, except for those in essential services, have the right to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law provides for the registration of unions and federations but grants far-reaching powers to the labor commissioner with respect to determining eligibility for registration. Unions must represent at least 50 percent of employees in a workplace and submit their constitutions to be automatically recognized.

The constitution and law provide for the right to organize and bargain collectively, subject to various legal restrictions. The law gives employers discretion as to whether to recognize a labor organization as a collective employee representative if less than 50 percent of the employees are members of the organization. If an employer agrees to recognize the organization as the workers’ representative, the law grants the employer the ability to set conditions for such recognition. The law provides for the registration of collective agreements by the Industrial Court. The court is empowered to refuse registration if an agreement conflicts with the law, provides terms and conditions of employment less favorable to employees than those provided by any law, discriminates against any person, or requires membership or nonmembership in an organization as a condition for employment. The Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration Commission presides over dispute resolution. The commissioner of labor has the power to “intervene” in labor disputes before they are reported to the commission if there is reason to believe a dispute could have serious consequences for the employers, workers, or the economy if not resolved promptly.

Employees not engaged in “essential services” have the right to undertake peaceful protest actions to “promote or defend socioeconomic interests” of workers. The law, however, defines “socioeconomic interest” as including “solutions to economic and social policy questions and problems that are of direct concern to the workers but shall not include matters of a purely political nature.” The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Extensive provisions allow workers to seek redress for alleged wrongful dismissal, but the law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

Although the law permits strikes, the right to strike is strictly regulated, and the administrative requirements to register a legal strike made striking difficult. Strikes and lockouts are prohibited in essential services, and the minister’s power to modify the list of these essential services provides for broad prohibition of strikes in nonessential sectors, including postal services, telephone, telegraph, radio, and teaching. The procedure for announcing a protest action requires advance notice of at least seven days. The law details the steps to be followed when disputes arise and provides penalties for employers who conduct unauthorized lockouts. When disputes arose with civil servant unions, the government often intervened to reduce the chances of a protest action, which may not be called legally until all avenues of negotiation are exhausted and a secret ballot of union members conducted.

Employers allegedly used labor brokers to hire individuals on contracts, to avoid hiring those who would normally be entitled to collective bargaining rights. No laws govern the operation of labor brokers.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, but it also exempts “communal services” from the definition of forced labor, referencing services that benefit the community and are uncompensated. Although the High Court declared null and void the law exempting “communal services” from the definition of forced labor, no actions were taken to repeal it. Local chiefs continued to require community members to work as a form of property tax. Types of work primarily included agricultural labor such as weeding fields, including the chief’s. Community members were, however, able to make a small financial contribution to the chiefdom rather than performing physical labor.

The labor code punishes those convicted of imposing forced labor with a maximum of one year’s imprisonment, a fine of 3,000 emalangeni ($217), or both. These penalties were considered sufficient to deter violations in cases when the law was enforced. Customary law has no stipulated sentences but provides for fines that range from a few hundred to several thousand emalangeni.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15, for night work 16, and for hazardous employment 18. The Employment Act, however, does not extend minimum age protections to children working in domestic or agricultural work. The law also prohibits children younger than 18 from engaging in hazardous work in industrial undertakings, including mining, manufacturing, and electrical work, but these prohibitions do not address hazardous work in the agriculture sector. The law limits the number of night hours children may work on school days to six and the overall hours per week to 33.

The Ministry of Labor, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister through the Department of Social Welfare, and the REPS are responsible for enforcement of laws relating to child labor. The government did not effectively enforce laws combating child labor due to a lack of baseline information regarding the scope of the problem and a lack of dedicated resources for identifying and punishing violators.

Penalties for conviction of child labor violations include a minimum fine of 100,000 emalangeni ($7,246), five years’ imprisonment, or both for a first offense, and a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment with no option for a fine for subsequent offenses.

Children continued to be employed in the informal sector, particularly in domestic services and agricultural work such as livestock herding. This work might involve activities that put at risk their health and safety, such as using dangerous machinery and tools, carrying heavy loads, being exposed to pesticides, and working alone in remote areas. Children also worked as porters, bus attendants, taxi conductors, and street vendors. Children working on the streets risked a variety of dangers, such as severe weather and automobile accidents. They also were vulnerable to exploitation by criminals.

Child domestic servitude was also prevalent, disproportionately affecting girls. Such work could involve long hours of work and could expose children to physical and sexual exploitation by their employer. Children’s exploitation in illicit activities was a problem. Children, particularly in rural areas, served alcohol in liquor outlets and grew, manufactured, and sold illegal drugs.

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 labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, HIV/AIDS or other communicable disease status, religion, political views, or social status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred (see section 6). While women have constitutional rights to equal pay and treatment and may take jobs without the permission of a male relative, there were few effective measures protecting women from discrimination in hiring, particularly in the private sector. The average wage rates for men by skill category usually exceeded those of women.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to work areas. Openly LGBTI persons were subject to discrimination in employment and social censure.

Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens but sometimes faced discrimination in employment due to societal prejudice against foreigners.

There is no national minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security sets wage scales for each industry. There was a legally mandated sliding scale of minimum wages depending on the type of work performed. Wages ranged from 828 emalangeni ($60) per month for domestic workers to 1,242 emalangeni ($90) per month for skilled forestry workers, above the World Bank’s poverty line of 27 emalangeni ($1.96) per day. All workers in the formal sector, including migrant workers, are covered by the wage laws. According to the most recent World Bank data (2016), 38 percent of the population lived below the international poverty line of 27 emalangeni ($1.96) per day.

There was a standard 48-hour workweek for most workers and a 72-hour workweek for security guards spread over a period of six days. The law requires all workers to have at least one day of rest per week and provides for premium pay for overtime. Most workers received a minimum of 12 days of annual leave with full pay. Workers receive 14 days of sick leave with full pay and 14 days with half pay after three months of continuous service; these provisions apply only once per calendar year. No sick leave is granted if an injury results from an employee’s own negligence or misconduct.

The law provides for some protection of workers’ health and safety. The government set safety standards for industrial operations and encouraged private companies to develop accident prevention programs. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The government inconsistently enforced the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which lays out the rights and responsibilities of employers, employees, and the government with respect to occupational health and safety.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of labor laws but faced significant resource challenges, including a lack of motor vehicles and inability to hire additional staff. The 15 labor inspectors serving the entire country were insufficient, and while the labor commissioner’s office conducted inspections in the formal sector, it did not have the resources to conduct inspections in the informal sector.

Labor laws are applicable to the informal sector but were seldom enforced. Most workers were in the informal sector, but credible data were not available. Workers in the informal sector, particularly foreign migrant workers, children, and women, risked facing hazardous and exploitative conditions. Minimum wage guidelines did not apply to the informal sector.

Public transportation workers complained they were required to work 12 hours a day or more without overtime compensation and they were not entitled to pensions and other benefits. Civil servants held several demonstrations during the year to demand a salary increase that the government has refused, citing the ongoing fiscal crisis. The country’s nurses engaged in strikes and work slowdowns during the year to advocate for higher wages and to protest understaffing and shortages of medicines and other medical supplies.

Credible data on workplace fatalities and accidents was not available.

Federated States of Micronesia

Section 7. Worker Rights

Although the law does not specifically provide for the right of workers to join a union, under the constitution citizens have the right to form or join associations, and by law government employees can form associations to “present their views” to the government without being subject to coercion, discrimination, or reprisals. Citizens did not exercise this right. No law deals specifically with trade unions, the right to collective bargaining, or antiunion discrimination. There is no specific right to strike, but no law prohibits strikes.

Although the law does not prohibit workers, including foreign workers, from joining unions, there were no unions and most private-sector employment was in small-scale, family-owned businesses or in subsistence farming and fishing. No nongovernmental organizations focused on unions or labor issues.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government generally enforced the law, although resources and inspections were minimal. The national antitrafficking law provides for penalties that were sufficient to deter violations. There were reports of foreign workers from Southeast Asian countries working in conditions indicative of human trafficking on Asian fishing vessels in the country or its territorial waters.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

National and state laws do not establish a minimum age or prescribe limits on hours or occupations for employment of children. The law does not prohibit the worst forms of child labor. There was no employment of children for wages, but children often assisted their families in subsistence farming and family-owned shops. There were reports of children trafficked by family members for commercial sex, particularly to foreign fishermen and other seafarers.

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, and religion. Labor law also prohibits discrimination based on race and gender. The law also provides protections for persons with disabilities, but they are limited in scope. The law does not provide for specific legal protections for age, citizenship, national origin, political opinion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or positive diagnosis of AIDS or other diseases.

There was no pattern of discrimination in most areas, although discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to persons with disabilities. Traditional customs, especially in Yap State, limited professional opportunities for lower-status and outer-island persons. Women were underrepresented in all areas except in the service sector.

The national minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government was not below the official estimate for the poverty income level.

The law sets a standard of an eight-hour day and a five-day workweek, with premium pay for overtime. There are no legal provisions prohibiting excessive or compulsory overtime. A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe workplace. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Division of Immigration and Labor within the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing these standards. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to deter violations. The tax system monitored the minimum wage effectively. The government generally was effective in its enforcement of these standards and provided sufficient resources for effective enforcement.

Approximately one-half of workers were in the informal economy where the law does not apply, predominantly in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Working conditions aboard some foreign-owned fishing vessels operating in the country’s waters continued to be very poor. Crewmembers reported incidents of injuries, beatings by officers, and nonpayment of salaries.

Lebanon

Section 7. Worker Rights

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/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

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.

Malaysia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for limited freedom of association and for some categories of workers to form and join trade unions, subject to a variety of legal and practical restrictions. The law provides for the right to strike and to bargain collectively, but both were severely restricted. The law prohibits employers from interfering with trade union activities, including union formation. It prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for legal union activities and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The law prohibits defense and police officials, retired or dismissed workers, or workers categorized as “confidential, managerial, and executive” from joining a union. The law also restricts the formation of unions to workers in “similar” trades, occupations, or industries. Foreign workers may join a trade union but cannot hold union office unless they obtain permission from the Ministry of Human Resources. In view of the absence of a direct employment relationship with owners of a workplace, contract workers may not form a union and cannot negotiate or benefit from collective bargaining agreements.

The director general of trade unions and the minister of human resources may refuse to register or withdraw registration from some unions without judicial oversight. The time needed for a union to be recognized remained long and unpredictable. Union officials expressed frustration about delays in the settlement of union recognition disputes; such applications were often refused. If a union’s recognition request was approved, the employer sometimes challenged the decision in court, leading to multi-year delays in recognizing unions.

Most private-sector workers have the right to bargain collectively, although these negotiations cannot include issues of transfer, promotion, appointments, dismissal, or reinstatement. The law restricts collective bargaining in “pioneer” industries the government has identified as growth priorities, including various high tech fields. Public sector workers have some collective bargaining rights, although some could only express opinions on wages and working conditions instead of actively negotiating. Long delays continued in the treatment of union claims to obtain recognition for collective bargaining purposes.

Private-sector strikes are legal, but severely restricted. The law provides for penal sanctions for peaceful strikes. The law prohibits general strikes, and trade unions may not strike over disputes related to trade union registration or illegal dismissals. Workers may not strike in a broad range of industries deemed “essential,” nor may they hold strikes when a dispute is under consideration by the Industrial Court. Union officials claimed legal requirements for strikes were almost impossible to meet; the last major strike occurred in 1962.

The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting employers from seeking retribution for legal union activities and requiring reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity. Penalties included fines, but were seldom assessed and generally not sufficient to deter violations.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining were not fully respected. National-level unions are prohibited; the government allows three regional territorial federations of unions–peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak–to operate. They exercised many of the responsibilities of national-level labor unions, although they could not bargain on behalf of local unions. The Malaysian Trade Unions Congress is a registered “society” of trade unions in both the private and government sectors that does not have the right to bargain collectively or strike but may provide technical support to affiliated members. Some workers’ organizations were independent of government, political parties, and employers, but employer-dominated or “yellow” unions were reportedly a concern.

The inability of unions to provide more than limited protection for workers, particularly foreign workers who continued to face the threat of deportation, and the prevalence of antiunion discrimination created a disincentive to unionize. In some instances companies reportedly harassed leaders of unions that sought recognition. Some trade unions reported the government detained or restricted the movement of some union members under laws allowing temporary detention without charging the detainee with a crime. Trade unions asserted some workers had wages withheld or were terminated because of union-related activity.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Five agencies, including the Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources, have enforcement powers under the law, but their officers performed a variety of functions and did not always actively search for indications of forced labor. NGOs continued to criticize the lack of resources dedicated to enforcement of the law.

The government continued efforts to enforce laws prohibiting forced labor. The Department of Labor required evidence of three months’ nonpayment of wages in order to initiate an investigation into a potential forced labor case. Penalties included fines. In addition to fines, authorities often charged forced labor perpetrators with related crimes that included harsher penalties.

The National Anti-Human Trafficking Council reported labor department officials received four specialized training courses, including with other law enforcement agencies, to help increase coordination. The Department of Labor had 30 “special enforcement officers” who focused primarily on forced labor and other human trafficking indicators (see section 7.e.).

In September the government established an Independent Committee on Foreign Workers to provide comprehensive reform plans to the government regarding foreign worker management and labor policy.

Forced labor occurred in the country. A variety of sources reported occurrences of forced labor, or conditions indicative of forced labor, in plantation agriculture, the fishing industry, electronics factories, garment production, construction, restaurants, and domestic households, among both adults and children (also see section 7.c).

Employers, employment agents, or labor recruiters subjected some migrants to forced labor or debt bondage. Many companies hired foreign workers using recruiting or outsourcing companies rather than directly, creating uncertainty about the legal relationship between the worker, the outsourcing company, and the owner of the workplace, making workers more vulnerable to exploitation and complicating dispute resolution. Labor union representatives described a typical pattern involving recruiting agents both in the countries of origin and in Malaysia who imposed high fees, which made migrant workers vulnerable to debt bondage.

Media reported in July that former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi was connected to a fraudulent scheme involving hundreds of thousands of Nepali workers seeking jobs in the country. According to the report, which civil society organizations deemed credible, private companies linked to the then-deputy prime minister’s brother and brother-in-law charged Nepali workers more than RM185 million ($46.3 million) for medical tests and to submit visa applications during the prior five years. These medical and visa processing services increased the cost ten-fold without offering additional protections or benefits. Zahid denied involvement in or knowledge of the scam, but the Malaysian Anticperorruption Commission charged him in October with 45 counts of corruption, bribery, and money laundering, three of which relate to RM3 million ($750,000) he allegedly received in bribes from a company that ran a visa center for Nepali workers. Critics of the former government had long characterized the foreign worker recruitment system as corrupt.

In June the minister of human resources suspended the system used to recruit migrant workers from Bangladesh following allegations of large-scale corruption under the former government. Local media alleged that a third-party recruitment agent with close links to senior Barisan Nasional officials earned more than RM2 billion ($500 million) in two years through the recruitment of more than 100,000 Bangladeshi workers. The new human resources minister called the former recruitment process a “total mess,” in which workers paid exorbitant amounts to intermediaries and became debt bonded. In October the government also signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Nepal that mandates direct government-to-government recruitment of foreign workers instead of relying on private recruitment companies. In addition to removing third-party intermediaries from the process, the new agreement requires the employer to pay workers’ airfare, visa fees, and medical checkup costs and also requires employers to deposit workers’ wages directly into bank accounts.

Nonpayment of wages remained a concern. Passport confiscation by employers increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to forced labor; the practice was illegal but widespread and generally went unpunished. Migrant workers without access to their passports were more vulnerable to harsh working conditions, lower wages than promised, unexpected wage deductions, and poor housing. NGOs reported that agents or employers in some cases drafted contracts including a provision for employees to sign over the right to hold their passports to the employer or an agent. Some employers and migrant workers reported that workers sometimes requested employers keep their passports, since replacing lost or stolen passports could cost several months’ wages and leave foreign workers open to questions about their legal status.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 14 but permits some exceptions, such as light work in a family enterprise, work in public entertainment, work performed for the government in a school or in training institutions, or work as an approved apprentice. There is no minimum age for engaging in light work. For children between ages 14 and 18, there was no list clarifying specific occupations or sectors considered hazardous and therefore prohibited.

The government did not fully enforce laws prohibiting child labor. Those found contravening child labor laws faced penalties of imprisonment and/or a fine.

Child labor occurred in some family businesses. Child labor in urban areas was common in the informal economy, including family food businesses and night markets, and in small-scale industry. Child labor was also evident among migrant domestic workers.

NGOs reported that stateless children in Sabah were especially vulnerable to labor exploitation in palm oil production, forced begging, and work in service industries, including restaurants. Although the National Union of Plantation Workers reported it was rare to find children involved in plantation work in peninsular Malaysia, others reported instances of child labor on palm oil plantations across the country. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

The law does not prohibit discrimination with respect to hiring; the director general of labor may investigate discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment for both foreign and local employees. The director general may issue necessary directives to an employer to resolve allegations of discrimination in employment; however, there were no penalties under the law for such discrimination.

Employers are obligated to inquire into most sexual harassment complaints in a prescribed manner. Advocacy groups such as the Association of Women Lawyers stated these provisions were not comprehensive enough to provide adequate help to victims.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women; members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities; and persons with disabilities. A code of practice guides all government agencies, employers, employee associations, employees, and others with respect to placement of persons with disabilities in private-sector jobs. Disability rights NGOs reported employers were reluctant to hire persons with disabilities. A regulation reserves 1 percent of public sector jobs for persons with disabilities.

Migrant workers must undergo mandatory testing for more than 16 illnesses as well as pregnancy. Employers may immediately deport pregnant or ill workers. Migrant workers also faced employment discrimination (see sections 7.b. and 7.e.). Employers were also unilaterally able to terminate work permits, subjecting migrant workers to immediate deportation.

Women experienced some economic discrimination in access to employment. A UN report noted participation in the labor market for women was 46.1 percent, compared to 78.7 percent for men. Employers routinely asked women their marital status during job interviews. The Association of Women Lawyers advocated for passage of a separate sexual harassment bill making it compulsory for employers to formulate sexual harassment policies. The law prohibits women from working underground, such as in sewers, and restricts employers from requiring female employees to work in industrial or agricultural work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. or to commence work for the day without having 11 consecutive hours of rest since the end of the last work period.

The government reserved large quotas for the bumiputra majority for positions in the federal civil service, as well as for vocational permits and licenses in a wide range of industries, which greatly reduced economic opportunity for minority groups (see section 6).

The minimum wage was raised to RM1,050 ($263) across all parts of the country, up from RM920 ($230) per month in Sabah and Sarawak States and RM1,000 ($250) per month in peninsular Malaysia. The minimum wage applied to both citizen and foreign workers in most sectors, with the exception of domestic service (see below). The minimum wage rates were less than Ministry of Finance-published poverty income levels in Sabah and Sarawak.

Working hours may not exceed eight per day or 48 per week, unless workers receive overtime pay. The law specifies limits on overtime, which vary by sector, but it allows for exceptions.

The law protects foreign domestic workers only with regard to wages and contract termination. The law excludes them from provisions that would otherwise stipulate one rest day per week, an eight-hour workday, and a 48-hour workweek. Instead, bilateral agreements or memoranda of understanding between the government and some source countries for migrant workers include provisions for rest periods, compensation, and other conditions of employment for migrant domestic workers, including prohibitions on passport retention.

On January 1, employers became responsible for paying a levy for their foreign workers, a move designed to better protect low-wage foreign workers and to encourage the hiring of local employees. Previously employers regularly passed the costs on to employees and withheld as much as 20 percent of a worker’s annual salary to cover the fees. Despite the change, some employers continued to deduct a government-imposed levy on companies employing migrant workers from the wages of their workers.

The Ministry of Human Resources began enforcing amendments to the Private Employment Agencies Act (PEAA) on February 1, following its passage in October 2017. The measure aims to make the cost of business too high for small-scale recruiting agencies that have been the sources of abuses in the past. Employment agencies must now pay as much as RM250,000 ($62,500) to operate a business that recruits foreign workers, a significant increase from the RM1,000 ($250) required under the original PEAA. Further, agencies must secure a guaranteed bank note for as much as RM250,000 ($62,500) that would be liquidated (and used for victim repatriation costs) if they are found to be in violation of the law. Under the new amendment, agencies found operating without a license would face tough new penalties, including a RM200,000 ($50,000) fine and a maximum three years in prison, increased from a RM5,000 ($1,250) fine.

Occupational health and safety laws cover all sectors of the economy except the maritime sector and the armed forces. The law requires workers to use safety equipment and cooperate with employers to create a safe, healthy workplace, but it does not specify a right to remove oneself from a hazardous or dangerous situation without penalty. Laws on worker’s compensation cover both local and migrant workers but provide no protection for migrant domestic workers.

The National Occupational Safety and Health Council–composed of workers, employers, and government representatives–creates and coordinates implementation of occupational health and safety measures. It requires employers to identify risks and take precautions, including providing safety training to workers, and compels companies with more than 40 workers to establish joint management-employee safety committees.

The National Wages Consultative Council is responsible for recommending changes to the minimum wage and coverage for various sectors, types of employment, and regions. The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources enforces wage, working condition, and occupational safety and health standards. Labor enforcement officers were responsible for enforcing labor law at hundreds of thousands of businesses and in private residences that employ domestic help; however, the number of officers was insufficient to enforce compliance. Department of Labor officials reported they sought to conduct labor inspections as frequently as possible. Nevertheless, many businesses could operate for years without an inspection.

Penalties for employers who fail to follow the law begin with a fine assessed per employee and can rise to imprisonment. Employers can be required to pay back wages plus the fine. If they refuse to comply, employers face additional fines per day that wages are not paid. Employers or employees who violate occupational health and safety laws are subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

Employers did not respect laws on wages and working hours. The Malaysian Trade Union Congress reported that 12-, 14-, and 18-hour days were common in food and other service industries. Migrant workers often worked under difficult conditions, worked in sectors where violations were common, performed hazardous duties, had their pay withheld by employers, and had no meaningful access to legal counsel in cases of contract violations and abuse. Some workers alleged their employers subjected them to inhuman living conditions, confiscated their travel documents, and physically assaulted them. Employers of domestic workers sometimes failed to honor the terms of employment and subjected workers to abuse. Employers reportedly restricted workers’ movement and use of mobile telephones; provided substandard food and living conditions; did not provide sufficient time off; physically and sexually assaulted workers; and harassed and threatened workers, including with deportation.

According to statistics by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, 117 workers died, 1,612 acquired a nonpermanent disability, and 80 acquired permanent disability in the first half of the year.

Maldives

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution provides for workers’ freedom of association; however, there is no law protecting the right to freedom of association, which is required to allow unions to register and operate without interference and discrimination. Worker organizations are treated as civil society organizations without the right to engage in collective bargaining. Police and armed forces do not have the right to form unions. The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act effectively prohibits strikes by workers in the resort sector, the country’s largest money earner. Employees in the following services are also prohibited from striking: hospitals and health centers, electricity companies, water providers, telecommunications providers, prison guards, and air traffic controllers. The Home Ministry enforces the act by arresting workers who go on strike. There were widespread reports from civil society organizations that civil service employees were also discouraged from going on strikes or participating in political protests. In August and September, there were reports that the government terminated or transferred several government workers to other islands for participating in the opposition’s presidential campaign activities.

The government did not always enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The Labor Relations Authority (LRA) is mandated to oversee compliance of the Employment Act and its related regulations. The Employment Tribunal examines and adjudicates legal matters arising between employers and employees and other employment problems, but its processes are cumbersome and complicated. Violators who refused to correct violations or pay fines were referred to the courts, whose decisions often were ignored. The cases are heard in the Dhivehi language, which few foreign workers understood. Foreign workers may not file a case with the tribunal unless they appoint a representative to communicate for them in the local language. If an employer fails to comply with a decision of the tribunal, the case must be submitted to the Civil Court, which often delays decisions. The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) reported the judicial system had delayed final decisions on numerous such cases, some older than five years of age. The Employment Tribunal only hears cases submitted within six months of the alleged offense. In September the Employment Tribunal amended its regulations so that dismissed or withdrawn appeals can only be resubmitted once. Previously, there was no restriction on the number of times such cases could be resubmitted. The Employment Tribunal received 148 claims as of July, 97 of which dealt with unfair dismissal.

Under the law, some workers’ organizations were established as civil society organizations, specifically in the tourism, education, health, and shipping (seafarers’) sectors, although these functioned more as cooperative associations and had very limited roles in labor advocacy. The Teachers Association of the Maldives and TEAM were among the more active workers’ organizations, along with the Maldives Fisherman’s Association and Maldivian Ports Workers.

All forms of forced or compulsory labor are prohibited, but the government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and there were reports forced labor occurred. Nevertheless, the LRA reported officers were adequately trained to identify cases of forced labor and stated that the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act provided an effective solution.

Resources, inspections, and remediation were generally inadequate, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The foreign worker population was particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Maldives Immigration detained undocumented workers at Hulhumale Detention Center, an immigration-processing center near Male, until deportation or repatriation. There were reports of bureaucratic delays in processing undocumented immigrants and substandard facilities at the immigration processing center. Maldives Immigration reported it screened the workers for victims of trafficking, but there were reports some of the detained and deported undocumented workers should have been identified as trafficking victims.

Under the penal code, forced labor carries a penalty of up to eight-years’ imprisonment. Under section 29 of the Maldives Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, confiscation, alteration, or withholding of identity and travel documents is a crime, and perpetrators are subject to up to five-years’ imprisonment. In 2015 parliament approved the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons for 2015-19. The penalty for human trafficking is a maximum sentence of 10 years. The police confirmed they did not investigate any labor recruiters or agencies allegedly engaged in fraudulent practices during the year.

The LRA, under the Ministry of Economic Development, recommended blacklisting of companies that violated the law, precluding the companies from bringing in new workers until violations were rectified. Maldives Immigration enforced the measure and blacklisted additional companies, although some companies resurfaced under different names. The law allows a fine of not more than MVR 50,000 ($3,250) for forced labor and other violations of the Employment Act, but the LRA reported this amount was not sufficient to deter violations by large companies. The government took steps to improve the conditions of migrant workers through the periodic distribution of pamphlets explaining their rights that were translated into languages commonly used by these workers.

As of August, Maldives Immigration reported the number of documented foreign workers at approximately 145,000. They estimated there were an additional 15,000-20,000 undocumented foreign workers in the country, mostly from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. Some of the 160,000-165,000 foreign workers in the country were subject to forced labor in the construction and tourism sectors. Most victims of forced labor suffered the following practices: debt bondage, holding of passports by employers, fraudulent offers of employment, not being paid the promised salary, or not being paid at all. Domestic workers, especially migrant female domestic workers, were sometimes trapped in forced servitude, in which employers used threats, intimidation, and in some cases sexual violence to prevent them from leaving.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16, with an exception for children who voluntarily participate in family businesses. The law prohibits employment of children under age 18 in “any work that may have a detrimental effect on health, education, safety, or conduct,” but there was no list of such activities. The law prescribes a fine of no less than MVR 1,000 ($65) and no more than MVR 5,000 ($325) for infractions. The Civil Service Commission reported there were 18 civil servants between the ages of 16 and 18 working for the government as of July 31.

The Ministry of Gender and Family, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Family and Child Protection Unit of the MPS are tasked with receiving, investigating, and taking action on complaints of child labor. According to the LRA, MPS and the Ministry of Gender and Family, none of the complaints received related to child labor or employment of minors. Additionally, the LRA found no cases of child labor during its regular labor inspections during the year. The MPS had investigated five cases of child pornography none of which was forwarded for prosecution as of July. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, because no additional resources were dedicated specifically to uncover additional child labor cases.

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

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, political opinion, religion, social origin, marital status, or family obligations. The government generally enforced those laws and regulations, with some exceptions that included unequal pay for women and retribution for political association.

According to NGOs, there were no policies in place to provide equal opportunities for women’s employment, despite provisions in the constitution and the law. The law and constitution prohibit discrimination against women for employment or for equal pay or equal income, but women tended to earn less than men for the same work and also because they tended to work in lower-paying industries. The absence of child-care facilities made it difficult for women with children to remain employed after they had children.

In March the Education Ministry dismissed a schoolteacher for participating in a political opposition protest. Parents of students at the school complained and noted other teachers who participated in political rallies in support of the government had not been dismissed. The teacher was not reinstated as of October.

The Employment Act establishes an Employment Tribunal to examine and protect the rights of employers and employees in legal matters and other employment problems. In 2016 President Yameen overhauled the seven-person tribunal by dismissing its president and vice president and appointing two new members. According to the Employment Act, tribunal members can be removed only in cases of bankruptcy, incapacity, conviction, negligence, or contravening the oath of office. Civil society organizations asserted the former president and vice president did not violate any of these stipulations, and the surprise dismissal of the tribunal members led to allegations of executive branch control over tribunal decisions. TEAM claimed President Yameen misused his authority to influence the tribunal’s decisions, especially in cases in which persons were fired for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of assembly.

Discrimination against migrant workers was pervasive (see section 7.b.).

The country does not have a national policy on minimum wage. Wages in the private sector were commonly set by contract between employers and employees and were based on rates for similar work in the public sector. The salary of the lowest-paid employee in the government sector was MVR 3,100 ($202) per month. According to TEAM, the average monthly salary for a worker employed at a tourism resort was MVR 3,835 ($250). According to 2016 Asian Development Bank statistics, 15 percent of citizens lived below the poverty level of MVR 29 ($1.90) per day.

The law establishes maximum hours of work, overtime, annual and sick leave, maternity leave, and guidelines for workplace safety. The law provides for a 48-hour per week limit on work with a compulsory 24-hour break if employees work six days consecutively. Certain provisions in the law, such as overtime and public-holiday pay, do not apply to emergency workers, air and sea crews, executive staff of any company, or workers who are on call. The law mandates implementation of a safe workplace, procurement of secure tools and machinery, verification of equipment safety, use of protective equipment to mitigate health hazards, employee training in the use of protective gear, and appropriate medical care. All employers are required to provide health insurance for foreign workers.

There were no national standards for safety measures, and as a result such measures were at the discretion of employers. The LRA also reported difficulties in assessing safety standards during inspections due to the lack of national standards. In 2013 parliament approved the country’s accession to eight core International Labor Organization conventions, but the government had not finalized the bills required for the conventions to be legislated into domestic law as of September 18.

The LRA and Employment Tribunal are charged with implementing employment law, and the LRA conducted workplace investigations and provided dispute resolution mechanisms to address complaints from workers. Authorities completed 241 inspections as of July 31. The most common findings related to employment contracts and job descriptions, overtime and other pay, and problems related to leave. The LRA preferred to issue notices to employers to correct problems, because cases were deemed closed once fines were paid. The LRA typically gave employers one to three months to correct problems but lacked the resources to monitor compliance systematically. The LRA recommended five companies for blacklisting through Maldives Immigration but did not fine any companies for noncompliance as of July 31. According to Maldives Immigration, there were 2,275 companies blacklisted over multiple years as of August.

The LRA reported 175 labor-related complaints as of September 18, 74 of which came from foreign workers. The majority of the complaints related to nonpayment of salary and benefits and failure to grant annual leave.

Migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, worked in unacceptable conditions, and were frequently forced to accept low wages to repay their debts with employment agencies, especially within the construction sector. Employers often housed foreign workers at their worksites. Some migrant workers were exposed to dangerous working conditions, especially in the construction industry, and worked in hazardous environments without proper ventilation.

The Employment Act protects workers who remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

Marshall Islands

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government interpreted this right as allowing people to form and join independent labor unions. The law neither provides for nor prohibits collective bargaining or the right to strike. The law does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination, nor does it require the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government enforced freedom of association laws. Penalties take the form of fines and were sufficient to deter violations.

With a small number of major employers, there were few opportunities for workers to unionize. Independent trade unions did not exist, and there were no NGOs promoting the rights of workers.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor, and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports of government enforcement, and there were no reported investigations of forced labor.

There were reports of families holding or attempting to hold extended relatives, including children, in domestic servitude, but there were no known formal allegations made or convictions for this practice. There were also reports some foreign fishermen were subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor on ships in Marshallese waters.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

There is no law or regulation setting a minimum age, hours of work, or occupational health restrictions for employment of children. The law prohibits exploitation of children younger than 18 years, including in the worst forms of child labor, child begging, and child domestic work. No information was available on government enforcement efforts regarding the worst forms of child labor.

Children typically did not work in the wage economy, but it was common for children to assist their families in fishing, agriculture, retailing, and other small-scale enterprises. This was particularly true in the subsistence economies of the more remote atolls where copra production can take children from school and reduce educational outcomes.

The constitution states that no person may be treated in a discriminatory manner under law or by public officials. Labor laws and regulations do not specifically prohibit employment discrimination. The constitution states that the attorney general, in all cases of violations of the constitution, whether by private or public officials, has the standing to complain of the violation in judicial proceedings. The criminal code does not stipulate any specific penalty in such cases. There were no formal complaints of employment discrimination during the year to September. No law mandates equal pay for equal work; government employees receive pay equity. Under the law, citizens receive preference in hiring, and noncitizen workers are hired only to supplement the local work force when no citizens qualify for the job. The law requires that employers who hire foreign workers pay a fee used for training citizen workers. Many employers willingly paid the fee to hire technically skilled labor, which was not widely available in the country.

The law establishes a minimum wage of $3.00 per hour for both government and private-sector employees. The government has not effectively enforced the law. The minimum wage does not apply to casual workers or family employees. There was no official poverty level.

Foreign employees and local trainees of private employers who invested in or established a business in the country are exempt from minimum wage requirements provided the employer receives government authorization. Most foreign workers, who constituted approximately 30 percent of the workforce (excluding agroforestry), and most of the professional and technical classes in the country earned considerably more than the minimum wage. Their earnings were estimated to average at least 50 percent higher than those of local workers.

The law provides for a standard workday of eight hours, but places no restrictions on the amount of overtime that could be worked.

No legislation provides protection for workers who file official complaints about conditions that endanger their health or safety. The law does not provide for workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Board of Inquiry within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the authority to make recommendations to the Nitijela on working conditions, such as the minimum wage, legal working hours, overtime payments, and occupational health and safety standards for workers. There were no policy recommendations or political initiatives by the Board of Inquiry during the year, however, and the office did not conduct any health and safety inspections of workplaces. The office is empowered to do so, but it does not have dedicated inspectors to carry out inspections to enforce sufficient compliance. The law provides no protections for informal-sector workers, which generally included work on a family farm or in copra production.

Mauritius

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for the rights of workers, including foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Civil servants have the right to bargain collectively with the Pay Research Bureau. Workers are free to form and join unions and to organize in all sectors, including in the export-oriented enterprises (EOE), formerly known as the export-processing zone. The Police (Membership of Trade Union) Act came into force in January 2017 and allows police officers to form and join unions. The law grants authorities the right to cancel a union’s registration if it fails to comply with certain legal obligations; however, there were no reports that the government exercised this right. The law provides for a commission to investigate and mediate labor disputes, and a program to provide unemployment benefits and job training. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference.

The law establishes a mandatory, complex, and excessively lengthy process for declaring a legal strike. This process calls for labor disputes to be reported to the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation only after meaningful negotiations have occurred and the parties involved have reached a deadlock–a process that is not to exceed 90 days unless the parties involved agree. If the parties reach no compromise, the workers may call a strike. Even if workers follow this procedure, the law allows the government to prohibit a strike and refer the dispute to arbitration if the strike could seriously affect an industry or service or threaten employment. Strikes are not generally legal on issues that are already covered in a collective bargaining agreement. The law requires workers in many sectors to provide minimum service levels in the event of a strike, including sectors that international standards do not classify as “essential services.” The law prohibits strikes and other demonstrations during the sittings of the National Assembly and does not allow unions to organize strikes at the national level or concerning general economic policy issues.

Worker participation in an unlawful strike is sufficient grounds for dismissal, but workers may seek a remedy in court if they believe their dismissals were unjustified. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Dismissed workers can turn to the Industrial Relations Court to seek redress.

National labor laws cover all workers in the formal and informal sectors, with exceptions in the EOE pertaining to overtime. Despite growth in the informal economy over the years, there was no research on or estimate of the size of the informal economy, which traditionally includes street “hawkers” involved in vending of food and clothing.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, but there were a few delays in procedures and appeals. Penalties for violations by employers, including fines of up to 25,000 rupees ($734), were insufficient to deter violations.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected, and workers exercised these rights. Most unions collectively negotiated wages higher than those set by the National Remuneration Board (NRB). Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. There were no reports of government interference in union activities.

Despite the law, antiunion discrimination and dismissal remained a problem in the private sector. Some employers in the EOE reportedly continued to establish employer-controlled work councils for EOE workers, effectively blocking union efforts to organize at the enterprise level. Approximately 59,000 persons worked in the EOE; only 10 percent belonged to unions.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The government made some efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor (see section 7.c.), but resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations, including 15 years’ imprisonment for convictions of adult trafficking and 30 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, were sufficient to deter violations. Data on the number of victims removed from forced or compulsory labor situations during the year were not available.

Trade unionists reported cases of forced labor during the year among migrant workers involving passport confiscation, underpayment of wages, substandard living conditions, lack of clearly defined work titles, denial of meal allowances, and deportation. As of November 1, there were an estimated 39,500 migrant workers in the country, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, and Madagascar. In addition, Malagasy women reportedly transited the country while traveling to other countries, where employers subjected them to forced labor conditions.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 and prohibits employment of children under 18 in work that is dangerous, unhealthy, or otherwise unsuitable for young persons. The penalties for employing a child are a fine of no more than 10,000 rupees ($293) and imprisonment not to exceed one year.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment is responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws and conducted frequent inspections of businesses in the formal economy, but generally inspections did not occur after hours. The ministry developed vocational training programs to prevent employment of underage children and conducted programs to identify and integrate street children into its vocational training program. These programs are preparatory professional training for school dropouts who are too young to enter the work force.

While the government generally respected this law, it did not effectively enforce it, especially in the informal sector. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Children worked in the informal sector, including as street traders, and in small businesses, restaurants, agriculture, small apparel workshops, and retail shops.

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 and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, social status, religion, political opinion, and national origin. The law affords women broadly defined wage protections and requires equal pay for equal work for both men and women; it also states that employers should not force women to carry loads above certain weight limits. The government did not effectively enforce these laws and regulations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation with respect to gender, race, disability, and HIV/AIDS status occurred. While women had equal access to education, the private sector paid women less than men for substantially similar work. Women filled few decision-making positions in the private sector, and there were even fewer women sitting on corporate boards, where approximately 6 percent of all board members were female. In 2015 police recruited 10 female police riders for its Traffic Enforcement Squad. The first female firefighter was recruited in 2011, and recruitment since brought the total number to 14. A large majority of women held unskilled labor jobs.

The law requires organizations employing more than 35 persons to set aside at least 3 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities, but the government was not always effective in enforcing this law. The main reasons for the low employment rate of persons with disabilities were inaccessible workplaces and a lack of adapted equipment.

Many community leaders claimed there was discrimination in the employment of Creoles (citizens of African descent) and Muslims of Indian origin in the public service.

There were unsubstantiated reports of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients and their relatives involving foreign workers whose work permits were denied by authorities due to their HIV status.

In November 2017 the Equal Opportunities Amendment Act came into force to counter abuses under the 2012 Certificate of Character Act, which requires employees to provide proof to their employers that they have no criminal record. The new amendment protects employees from being fired due to a criminal record on their certificate of character that “is irrelevant to the nature of the employment for which that person is being considered.” Previously some workers complained employers fired them once the employer learned they lacked a clean certificate of character. Many individuals complained the certificate makes no distinction between minor offenses, such as street littering, and more serious offenses. Observers noted all offenses remain permanently on the certificate of character.

In the private sector, the NRB sets minimum wages for nonmanagerial workers outside the EOE. The government introduced a minimum wage of 9,000 rupees ($264) per month and mandated the minimum wage rise each year based on the inflation rate. The minimum wage for an unskilled domestic worker in the EOE was approximately 607 rupees ($18) per week, while the minimum wage for an unskilled domestic factory worker outside the EOE was approximately 794 rupees ($23) per week. According to the National Empowerment Fund, the national poverty threshold was a household monthly income level of 6,200 rupees ($182).

By law employers cannot force a worker outside the EOE to work more than eight hours per day, six days per week. The standard legal workweek in the EOE is 45 hours. According to a local trade union, the Mauritius Labor Congress, 10 hours of overtime a week is nonetheless mandatory at certain textile factories in the EOE. Regulations require remuneration for those who work more than their stipulated hours at one and a half times the normal salary rate. Those who work during their stipulated hours on public holidays are remunerated at double their normal salary rate. The law provides for paid annual holidays but does not prohibit compulsory overtime in the EOE. For industrial positions, regulations do not permit workers to work more than 10 hours a day. The law requires the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment to investigate cases of overtime violations. If an employer fails to take action to address the violations (for example, by paying wages owed or allowing 11-hour breaks), the ministry initiates a court action.

The Employment Rights Act and the Employment Relations Act cover the laws relating to acceptable conditions of work outside the EOE. These laws provide for a standard workweek and paid annual holidays, require premium pay for overtime, and prohibit compulsory overtime. A worker (other than a part-time worker or a watchperson) and an employer may agree, however, to have the employee work in excess of the stipulated hours without added remuneration, if the number of hours covered in a 14-day period does not exceed 90 hours or a lesser number of hours as agreed to by both parties.

The government did not always enforce the law effectively. While the government enforced wages in the formal sector, there were reports that employers demoted workers to part-time status to evade wage and hour requirements.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations; however, workers did not generally exercise this right.

Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment officials inspected working conditions. The ministry employed labor and industrial relations officers, including labor inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, to investigate all reports of labor abuses. Despite an increase in the number of inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, the number was insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not always sufficient to deter violations. Authorities generally applied these standards to both foreign and citizen workers.

The actual market wage for most workers was much higher than the minimum wage due to a labor shortage and collective bargaining. There were reports, however, that employers did not always pay full-time employees in the cleaning industry the NRB-recommended minimum wage; some reportedly received only 1,500 rupees ($44) per month.

Unions reported cases of underpayment for overtime in the textile and apparel industries due to differences in existing legislation and remuneration orders for the calculation of overtime hours.

Employers did not always comply with safety regulations, resulting in occupational accidents. There were reports of foreign workers living in dormitories having unsanitary conditions.

Namibia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively; however, the law prohibits workers in certain sectors, such as police, military, and corrections, from joining unions.

Except for workers in services designated as essential services, such as public health and safety, workers may strike once mandatory conciliation procedures lasting 30 days are exhausted and 48 hours’ notice is given to the employer and labor commissioner. Workers may take strike actions only in disputes involving specific worker interests, such as pay raises.

Worker rights disputes, including dismissals, must first be submitted to the labor commissioner for conciliation, followed by a more formal arbitration process if conciliation is unsuccessful. The parties have the right to appeal the arbitrator’s findings in labor court. The law provides for conciliation and arbitration to resolve labor disputes more quickly, although employers and unions publicly questioned the system’s effectiveness. The law prohibits unfair dismissal of workers engaged in legal strikes, specifically prohibits employer retaliation against both union organizers and striking workers, and provides for reinstatement for workers dismissed for union activity so long as the workers’ actions at the time were not in violation of other laws.

The law provides employees with the right to bargain individually or collectively and provides for recognition of the exclusive collective bargaining power of a union when more than half of workers are members of that union. The law provides for the protection of all workers, including migrants, nonessential public sector workers, domestic workers, and those in export processing zones. The law supporting collective bargaining does not cover the informal sector.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association, and workers exercised this right. The government effectively enforced applicable laws on freedom of association, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Aside from mediation efforts, the government was not directly involved in union activities. Employers also did not appear to interfere in union activities.

The government generally enforced the law on collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining was not practiced widely outside the mining, construction, agriculture, and public-service sectors. Almost all collective bargaining was at the workplace and company level. Employers respected the collective bargaining process. Employees of parastatals Namibian Broadcasting Corporation and University of Namibia engaged in orderly strikes during the year.

The law requires employers to provide equal labor rights to all their employees. Employers may apply to the minister of labor and social services for an exemption from these provisions if they can prove workers’ rights are protected, but very few employers pursued this option.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. Under the Combating Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018, persons convicted of engaging in trafficking in persons, which includes forced labor, face a maximum fine of N$ one million ($77,600), 30 years’ imprisonment, or both. The government did not report any allegations of forced or compulsory labor; it investigated child labor when reported. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations had yet to be applied under the trafficking act by year’s end.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 14. Children under age 18 may not engage in hazardous work, including working between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., underground work, mining, construction work, or in facilities where goods are manufactured or electricity is generated, transformed, or distributed, or machinery is installed or dismantled. Hazardous work prohibitions for children in the agriculture sector are not comprehensive. Children ages 16 and 17 may perform hazardous work subject to approval by the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and restrictions outlined in the Labor Act. Persons convicted of employing children face a maximum fine of N$20,000 ($1,550), four years’ imprisonment, or both. The Child Care and Protection Act also includes provisions prohibiting child labor.

GBV protection units enforced child labor laws in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation. By law labor inspectors are not authorized to issue penalties for labor violations, including child labor violations. The ministry, however, made special provisions in its labor inspections to look for underage workers, although budget constraints limited the number of inspectors. The government trained all inspectors to identify the worst forms of child labor. Targeted labor inspections in areas where child labor was reported continued on a regular basis.

Children worked on communal farms owned by their families herding cattle, goats, and sheep. Children also worked as child minders or domestic servants and in family businesses, including informal “businesses” such as begging.

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 labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, pregnancy, family responsibility, disability, age, language, social status, and HIV-positive status, and the government in general effectively enforced the law. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The law does not specifically address employment discrimination based on sexual or gender orientation.

Refugees and legal immigrants with work permits enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and the Employment Equity Commission both report to the minister of labor and are responsible for addressing complaints of discrimination in employment.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender (see section 6), most frequently in the mining and construction industries. Men occupied approximately two-thirds of upper management positions in both the private and public sectors. Indigenous and marginalized groups sometimes faced discrimination in employment involving unskilled labor.

Although various sectors have a minimum wage, there was no generally applicable minimum wage law. Unions and employers negotiated industry-specific minimum wages, under Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mediation, greater than the poverty rate.

The standard legal workweek was 45 hours, with at least 36 consecutive hours of rest between workweeks. By law an employer may not require more than 10 hours’ overtime work per week and must pay premium pay for overtime work. The law mandates 20 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a five-day workweek and 24 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a six-day workweek. The law also requires employees receive paid time off for government holidays, receive five days of compassionate leave per year, at least 30 workdays of sick leave during a three-year period, and three months of maternity leave paid by the employer and the Social Security Commission.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mandates occupational safety and health standards, and the law empowers authorities to enforce these standards through inspections and criminal prosecution. The law requires employers to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. The law covers all employers and employees in the country, including the informal sector and individuals placed by a private employment agency (labor hire), except independent contractors and members of the National Defense Force, Namibian Intelligence Service, the Prison Service, and police. By law employees have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

The government did not always enforce labor laws effectively. Resources to enforce the law were limited, and the number of inspectors was insufficient to address violations. Inspections occurred proactively, reactively, and at random. Due to the ministry’s resource constraints in vehicles, budget, and personnel, as well as difficulty in gaining access to some large communal and commercial farms and private households, labor inspectors sometimes found it difficult to investigate possible violations. The law provides that persons convicted of violating safety regulations face a maximum fine of N$10,000 ($775), two years’ imprisonment, or both; however, the penalties were insufficient to deter violations, and labor law violations occurred. The Namibian Employers’ Federation reported that the most prominent offenses concerning employee rights and working conditions were in the informal sector, including the common informal bars known as “shebeens.”

There were several reports of incidents of serious violations of construction sector occupational safety and health standards.

Allegations persisted that, apart from failing to adhere to the labor code concerning hiring and firing, Chinese firms failed to pay sector-established minimum wages and benefits in certain industries, failed to respect workhour regulations for public holidays and Sundays, and ignored occupational health and safety measures, for example, by requiring construction workers to sleep on site.

Nicaragua

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of all workers in the public and private sectors, with the exception of those in the military and police, to form and join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization and to bargain collectively. The constitution recognizes the right to strike, although it places some restrictions on this right. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Burdensome and lengthy conciliation procedures impeded workers’ ability to call strikes. The government created parallel labor unions that it controlled to confuse and diffuse efforts to organize strikes or other labor actions. Additionally, if a strike continues for 30 days without resolution, the Ministry of Labor may suspend the strike and submit the matter to arbitration.

A collective bargaining agreement may not exceed two years and is renewed automatically if neither party requests its revision. Collective bargaining agreements in the Free Trade Zone regions, however, are for five-year periods. Companies in disputes with their employees must negotiate with the employees’ union, if one exists. By law several unions may coexist at any one enterprise, and the law permits management to sign separate collective bargaining agreements with each union.

The government typically enforced applicable laws and often sought to foster resolution of labor conflicts through informal negotiations rather than formal administrative or judicial processes. The law does not establish specific fines, and observers claimed penalties were generally insufficient to deter violations. Although the law establishes a labor court arbitration process, it was subject to long wait times and lengthy and complicated procedures, and many labor disputes were resolved out of court. The government claimed the vast majority of labor disputes were resolved favorably to workers, but labor and human rights organizations continued to allege rulings were often unfavorable to workers.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected, but, as in other cases involving independent groups, the government often intervened for political reasons. Most labor unions were allied with political parties, and in recent years the government reportedly dissolved unions and fired workers not associated with the ruling FSLN.

Politically motivated firings continued to be a problem, and the government appeared to accelerate such firings during the protests. By August 22, the Nicaraguan Medical Association reported at least 240 doctors had been fired from the public health system without cause. Many of those affected stated they were fired for rejecting government orders not to provide medical attention to protesters. On August 20, authorities similarly fired more than 40 public university staff, who also claimed that firings were in retaliation for expressing support for protests or in favor of university students participating in protests. In other cases observers noted the firings were carried out for reasons such as the refusal of a worker to join the FSLN or participate in FSLN demonstrations. In some cases there were reports of persons being fired for speaking with the independent press. Moreover, party affiliation or letters of recommendation from party secretaries, family cabinet coordinators, or other party officials were allegedly required from applicants seeking public-sector jobs. Several sources highlighted similar instances of public-sector employees being fired without receiving severance pay.

There were no known high-profile documented instances of strikes being declared illegal. During a strike employers may not hire replacement workers, but unions alleged this practice was common. Wildcat strikes–those without union authorization–have historically been common.

Employers interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations and committed other violations related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Labor leaders noted employers routinely violated collective bargaining agreements and labor laws with impunity.

Many employers in the formal sector continued to blacklist or fire union members and did not reinstate them. Many of these cases did not reach the court system or a mediation process led by the Ministry of Labor. Employers often delayed severance payments to fired workers or omitted the payments altogether. Employers also avoided legal penalties by organizing employer-led unions lacking independence and by frequently using contract workers to replace striking employees. There were reports FSLN party dues were automatically deducted from paychecks.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for violations were generally insufficient to deter violations. There was no information available regarding government enforcement of these laws. Despite reported political will to combat human trafficking, including labor trafficking, during the year the government prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers than in the previous year and provided only limited information about its law enforcement efforts.

Observers noted reports of forced labor, including of men, women, and children in agriculture, construction, mining, and domestic servitude.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The law establishes the minimum age for employment at 14 and limits the workday for any individual between ages 14 and 18 to six hours and the workweek to 30 hours. Those between ages 14 and 16 must have parental approval to work or enter into a formal labor contract. The law prohibits teenage domestic workers from sleeping in the houses of their employers. It is illegal for minors to work in places the Ministry of Labor considers harmful to their health or safety, such as mines, garbage dumps, and night entertainment venues, and to undertake certain agricultural work. The government mostly enforced the law in the formal sector, which was significantly smaller than the informal sector, in which child labor was more prevalent. Legal penalties for persons employing children in dangerous work were sufficient to deter violations. The government reported finding 27 child workers under the age of 14 during the year. These minors were separated from the workplace.

The government used its limited resources to concentrate on child labor violations in select sectors in narrow geographic areas, such as coffee-growing regions, and gave only limited attention to the large informal sector.

The government continued Programa Amor, which aimed to eradicate child labor by reintegrating abandoned children into society. Information on the program’s activities, funding, and effectiveness was unavailable.

Child labor remained widespread. According to organizations that worked on children’s rights, this likely increased to almost 320,000 children working in some form of child labor. A common feature of child labor was the prevalence of unpaid family work, and the National Institute of Development Information stated 80 percent of children and adolescents were unpaid workers.

Most child labor occurred in forestry, fishing, and the informal sector, including on coffee plantations and subsistence farms. Child labor also occurred in the production of dairy products, oranges, bananas, tobacco, palm products, coffee, rice, and sugarcane; cattle raising; street sales; garbage-dump scavenging; stone crushing; street performing; and transport.

Children working in agriculture suffered from sun exposure, extreme temperatures, and dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. Children working in the fishing industry were at risk from polluted water and dangerous ocean conditions.

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 and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status. The government did not deter such discrimination because it did not effectively enforce the law and regulations.

Discrimination in employment took many forms. Although women generally had equal access to employment, few women had senior positions in business; in the public sector or in elected positions, women’s independence and influence were limited. Additionally, women’s wages were generally lower when compared with those of male counterparts, even for the same position and work performed. Workplace challenges for persons with disabilities included inadequate infrastructure, lack of educational opportunities, and a generally low rate of public services positions, despite a legal requirement that a certain percentage be available to them. LGBTI organizations complained sexual orientation and gender identity continue to be a basis for discriminatory behavior.

The law establishes a statutory minimum wage for 10 economic sectors. According to the Ministry of Labor, the average legal minimum wage covered only 35 percent of the cost of basic goods.

In general the minimum wage was enforced only in the formal sector, estimated to be approximately 20 percent of the economy, and contracting. The Ministry of Labor is the primary enforcement agency, but the government did not allocate adequate staff or other measures to enable the Office of Hygiene and Occupational Safety to enforce occupational safety and health (OSH) provisions. Established penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations.

The standard legal workweek is a maximum of 48 hours, with one day of rest. The law dictates an obligatory year-end bonus equivalent to one month’s pay, proportional to the number of months worked. The law mandates premium pay for overtime, prohibits compulsory overtime, and sets a maximum of three hours of overtime per day not to exceed nine hours per week.

The National Council of Labor Hygiene and Safety, including its departmental committees, is responsible for implementing worker safety legislation and collaborating with other government agencies and civil society organizations in developing assistance programs and promoting training and prevention activities. OSH standards did not deter violations in the formal sector because they were infrequently enforced. The government reported 19,622 labor accidents in the year, resulting in 32 labor-related deaths.

OSH standards also were not widely enforced in an expanding large informal sector, which represented 77 percent of employment and 88 percent of businesses, according to 2016 reports from the Consultants for Business Development and the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development. The informal sector included the bulk of workers in street sales, agriculture and ranching, transportation, domestic labor, fishing, and minor construction. Legal limitations on hours worked often were ignored by employers, who claimed workers readily volunteered for extra hours for additional pay. Violations of wage and hour regulations in the informal sector were common and generally not investigated, particularly in street sales, domestic work, and agriculture. Compulsory overtime was reported in the private security sector, where guards often were required to work excessive shifts without relief.

By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. It was unclear if authorities effectively protected employees in all such cases.

Niger

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law provides for freedom of association, but the government had not adopted implementing regulations to enforce the law. While there were no provisions that limit collective bargaining in nonessential services, certain provisions restrict certain categories of public servants not engaged in the administration of the government from exercising their right to collective bargaining. Children ages 14-15 are permitted to work (although there are limits on the hours and type of work) but are not permitted to join unions. The right to strike excludes police and other security forces. The law restricts the right to strike by public servants in management positions and workers in certain “essential services,” the scope of which was broader than that envisioned in International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The law defines strategic and essential services that require minimum service during a strike, including telecommunications, health, government media, water supply, electricity distribution, fuel distribution, air traffic control, financial services, public transportation, garbage collection, and government authority services. Legal restrictions usually involve requiring civil servants to report to work during a legally notified strike. There are no prohibitions on strikes in nonessential services. Workers must give employers at least three days’ advance notice of intent to strike. The government may call for mandatory arbitration in lieu of a strike.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for damages (instead of reinstatement) for workers dismissed for union activity. There are limitations on the law’s applicability to public service employees, however.

Government application of laws in the public and private sectors varied, but the law was largely enforced. Penalties for violations included imprisonment and fines; these penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations in the formal sector.

The law applied to the large informal sector, which accounted for 64.5 percent of the economy in 2015, according to the National Institute of Statistics, but enforcement was limited because this sector was largely nonunionized and not subject to inspection. The informal sector did feature some unions. For example Marche Katako, a large informal market in Niamey, had its own union, the Union for Katako Tradespersons.

Authorities respected freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to collective bargaining, and workers exercised these rights. For example, the tradespersons and storeowners in several markets throughout the country staged unobstructed strikes at times during the year to protest new taxes and high energy costs. Unions exercised the right to bargain collectively for wages above the legal minimum and for more favorable working conditions. In September the Ministry of Secondary Education discussed banning unions for secondary school students, but it did not ultimately pass the measure. The government also was increasingly critical of the National Union of University Teachers, blaming teacher strikes over unpaid wages, lack of supplies, and unacceptable facilities for lost school days.

The law criminalizes all forms of forced labor, including slavery, practices similar to slavery, and exploitative begging. The term “forced or compulsory labor” is interpreted to mean “any labor or service required of a person under the threat of punishment and for which the individual has not given full consent.” The government did not effectively enforce these laws.

The labor code imposes penalties including fines and imprisonment for forced labor, but the penalties were largely unenforced. Information on the number of victims removed from forced labor was not available.

The government, particularly the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service, made efforts to reach out to administrative heads and religious and traditional chiefs to discourage forced labor, especially traditional slavery. Enforcement of the law, however, was sporadic and ineffective, particularly outside the capital.

Forced labor remained a problem. A study conducted by the government and the ILO concluded that in 2011 the prevalence of forced labor was 1.1 percent among the adult population (more than 59,000 persons), 48.8 percent of whom were engaged in domestic work, and 23.6 percent in agriculture or stockbreeding. These percentages were higher in the regions of Tillabery, Tahoua, and Maradi. A study conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, in 2016 concluded that victims of forced labor were characteristically young (age 17 on average) and predominantly male (62.5 percent), although adult victims were also identified. The study found poverty and associated misery and unacceptable living conditions to explain why victims accepted offers that put them into forced labor situations.

The Tuareg, Djerma, Fulani, Toubou, and Arab ethnic minorities throughout the country, particularly in remote northern and western regions and along the border with Nigeria, practiced a traditional form of caste-based servitude or bonded labor. Persons born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery sometimes worked without pay for those above them in the social order. Such persons were forced to work without pay for their masters throughout their lives, primarily herding cattle, working on farmland, or working as domestic servants. Estimates of the numbers of persons involved in traditional slavery varied widely.

Forced child labor occurred. Thousands of boys as young as age four and largely from poor, rural families, were forced to beg on city streets in lieu of payment of fees for religious education. Girls from poor rural families were sometimes forced into domestic servitude (see section 7.c.). In Djerma/Songhai communities, social stigma against descendants of hereditary slaves interfered with the latter’s right to marry freely, own property, practice independent farming or other economic activity, and participate in politics. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the use of child labor and the employment of children younger than age 12. Children who are 12 or 13 may perform nonindustrial light work for a maximum of two hours per day outside of school hours with a labor inspector’s authorization, as long as such work does not impede their schooling. Light work is defined as including some forms of domestic work, fruit picking and sorting, and other nonindustrial labor. Children who are 14 to 17 may work a maximum of 4.5 hours per day. Children may not perform work that requires force greater than their strength, may damage their health or development, is risky, or is likely to undermine their morals. The minimum age for hazardous work does not meet the international standard of age 18. In addition, the law does not prohibit hazardous occupations and activities in all relevant child labor sectors, including agriculture. The law requires employers to provide minimum sanitary working conditions for children. The law does not apply to types of employment or work performed by children outside an enterprise, such as self-employment.

The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws, in part due to an insufficient number of child labor inspectors in the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service. Penalties for violations included fines and imprisonment, but these were not adequate to deter violations. The laws rarely were applied to work performed by children in the nonindustrial/informal sector. The government worked with international partners to provide relevant education as an inducement to parents to keep their children in school.

Child labor was prevalent. According to a 2012 national survey, approximately 43 percent of children between ages five and 14 (an estimated 2.5 million) were engaged in labor. The majority of rural children regularly worked with their families from an early age, helping in the fields, pounding grain, tending animals, gathering firewood and water, and doing similar tasks. Some families kept children out of school to work or even beg.

A study in 2009 indicated that 2.8 percent of working children (an estimated 55,000) were engaged in forced child labor. The most common forms of exploitation according to the study were forced labor (31.4 percent or about 631,437 persons), begging (21 percent), prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation (17.8 percent), slavery (10.2 percent), and servitude (11.4 percent).

Male youths, between the ages of four and 20 (with an average age of 10) were the most affected. The victims were forced to labor in mines, quarries, agriculture, as mechanics or welders, in artisanal workshops, or to beg or steal. Female victims, between ages 13 and 39 (with an average age of 19.8 years), mainly were forced into domestic or sex work. There were reports that loosely organized clandestine international networks forced young boys from neighboring countries into manual labor or begging and young girls to work as domestic servants, usually with some degree of consent or complicity of their families.

The practice of forced begging of talibes–Quranic schoolchildren–where some Quranic schoolteachers forced their young male pupils to work as beggars, remained widespread, with a degree of complicity from parents.

Child labor occurred in largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining operations as well as in trona (a source of sodium carbonate compounds), salt, and gypsum mines. The artisanal gold mines at Komabangou, Tillabery Region, continued to use many children, particularly adolescent boys and some girls, under hazardous health and safety conditions. The use of cyanide further complicated the health hazards. Komabangou miners, other residents, and human rights groups expressed deep concern about poisoning, but the practice remained widespread.

Children born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery became the property of their masters and could be passed from one owner to another as gifts or part of a dowry. 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 constitution provides for equal access to employment for all citizens. The labor code prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, sickle cell anemia, or other communicable disease. The code prescribes fines for persons engaging in discrimination. The code requires equal pay for equal work and provides benefits for persons with disabilities.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government neither adopted any regulations to implement the labor code nor took any actions to prevent or prosecute employment discrimination. The government had inadequate resources to investigate reports of violations, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and disability. Traditional and religious beliefs resulted in employment discrimination against women. The government requires companies to hire a minimum of 5 percent of individuals with disabilities; however, the government did not enforce the law. Workplace access for persons with disabilities remained a problem. The descendants of hereditary slaves also faced discrimination in employment and occupation.

The labor code establishes a minimum wage only for salaried workers in the formal sector with fixed (contractual) terms of employment. Minimum wages are set for each class and category within the formal economy. The lowest minimum wage was 30,047 CFA francs ($54) per month, with an additional 2,500 CFA francs ($4.51) per child per month. The government designated 1,000 CFA francs ($1.80) per day as the poverty income level, and during the year the government reported 48.2 percent of citizens lived below that level.

The formal economy’s legal workweek is 40 hours with a minimum of one 24-hour rest period, although the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service authorized workweeks of up to 72 hours for certain occupations such as private security guards, domestic workers, and drivers. The law provides for paid annual holidays. The law provides special arrangements regarding the mining and oil sectors whereby the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service may grant waivers regarding work hours based on these two sectors’ specific nature and make allowances for working larger blocks of time in exchange for time off. Workers may work for two weeks beyond normal work hours, in compensation for which they are entitled to two weeks’ rest. Employers must provide premium pay for overtime, although the law does not set a specific rate. The labor code calls for a maximum eight hours of overtime per week, but this was not enforced. Employees of each enterprise or government agency negotiate with their employer to set the rate.

The labor code establishes occupational safety and health standards, which were current and appropriate for the main industries. It extends labor inspectors’ authority and provides for sanctions, including a mandatory appearance before labor inspectors for resolving labor disputes. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and there are no exceptions from such protections for migrant or foreign workers. Nevertheless, authorities did not effectively protect employees in such situations. The nonunionized subsistence agricultural and small trading sectors, where the law applied but was not enforced, employed approximately 80 percent of the workforce. In the nonunionized informal sector, despite the law, it was unlikely workers could exercise the right to sick leave without jeopardizing their employment.

The Ministry of Labor and Civil Service inconsistently enforced minimum wages and workweek laws only in the regulated formal economy. The number of inspectors responsible for enforcing the labor code was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Ministry officials observed that monetary sanctions were not stringent enough to deter violations.

Violations of provisions governing wages, overtime, and work conditions reportedly occurred in the petroleum and mining sectors, including at artisanal gold mines, oil fields, and oil refineries. Groups of workers in hazardous or exploitive work conditions included mineworkers, which included children, domestic workers, and persons in traditional slavery. In the traditional gold-mining sector, the use of cyanide posed serious health hazards for workers and surrounding communities. A significant, but unknown, percentage of the mining workforce worked in the informal sector.

Union workers in many cases did not receive information about the risks posed by their jobs. According to the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service, in 2013 there were 229 work-related accidents, including nine fatalities. All cases were compensated as required by law. Most accidents occurred in the mining sector.

Oman

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that workers can form and join unions, as well as conduct legal strikes and bargain collectively, but with significant restrictions. The law provides for one general federation, to which all unions must affiliate, and which represents unions in regional and international fora. The law requires a minimum of 25 workers to form a union, regardless of company size. The law requires an absolute majority of an enterprise’s employees to approve a strike, and notice must be given to employers three weeks in advance of the intended strike date. The law allows for collective bargaining; regulations require employers to engage in collective bargaining on the terms and conditions of employment, including wages and hours of work. Where there is no trade union, collective bargaining may take place between the employer and five representatives selected by workers. The employer may not reject any of the representatives selected. While negotiation is underway, the employer may not act on decisions related to problems under discussion. The law prohibits employers from firing or imposing other penalties on employees for union activity, although it does not require reinstatement for workers fired for union activity.

Despite the legal protections for labor unions, no independent organized labor unions existed. Worker rights continued to be administered and directed by the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions (GFOTU).

Government-approved unions are open to all legal workers regardless of nationality. The law prohibits members of the armed forces, other public security institutions, government employees, and domestic workers from forming or joining such unions. In addition labor laws apply only to workers who perform work under a formal employment agreement.

The law prohibits unions from accepting grants or financial assistance from any source without the Ministry of Manpower’s prior approval. By law unions must notify the government at least one month in advance of union meetings. All unions are subject to the regulations of the government federation and may be shut down or have their boards dismissed by the federation.

The government generally enforced applicable laws effectively and respected the rights to collectively bargain and conduct strikes, although strikes in the oil and gas industries are forbidden. The GFOTU reported in a survey conducted by the International Trade Union Confederation that employers bypassed collective bargaining and retaliated against workers who participated in strikes. The government provided an alternative dispute resolution mechanism through the Ministry of Manpower, which acted as mediator between the employer and employee for minor disputes such as disagreement over wages. If not resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, the employee could, and often did, resort to the courts for relief. The country lacked dedicated labor courts, and observers noted the mandatory grievance procedures were confusing to many workers, especially foreign workers. The Ministry of Manpower had sufficient resources to act in dispute resolution, and there were no complaints of lengthy delays or appeals. Foreign and local union leaders reported intimidation by companies for their activities and complained they were passed over for promotion.

Freedom of association in union matters and the right to collective bargaining exist, but often the threat of a strike can prompt either company action to resolution or spur government intervention. Strikes rarely occurred and were generally resolved quickly, sometimes through government mediation.

The law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor, but the law does not cover domestic workers. All police officials underwent training in how to identify victims of trafficking in persons to help them identify cases of forced or compulsory labor.

Conditions indicative of forced labor were present. By law all foreign workers, who constituted approximately one-half of the workforce and the majority of workers in some sectors, must be sponsored by a citizen employer or accredited diplomatic mission. Some men and women from South and Southeast Asia, employed as domestic workers or as low-skilled workers in the construction, agriculture, and service sectors, faced working conditions indicative of forced labor, including withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, usurious recruitment fees, nonpayment of wages, long working hours without food or rest, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. These situations were generally considered civil or contract matters by authorities, who encouraged dispute resolution rather than criminal action. Authorities continued to rely on victims to identify themselves and report abuses voluntarily, rather than proactively investigating trafficking in vulnerable communities.

Sponsorship requirements left workers vulnerable to exploitative conditions, as it was difficult for an employee to change sponsors (see section 2.d.). The “free visa” system allows sponsors to enable employees to work for other employers, sometimes in return for a fee. This system is illegal, but enforcement is weak and such arrangements left workers vulnerable. The government clarified that sponsors of domestic workers are not allowed to send their workers to another home to work, but the regulation was weakly enforced. Some employers of domestic workers, contrary to law, withheld passports and other documents, complicating workers’ release from unfavorable contracts and preventing workers’ departure after their work contracts expired. In some cases employers demanded exorbitant release fees totaling as much as four months’ salary before providing a “no-objection certificate” to permit the worker to change employers. Without this release letter, foreign workers are required to either depart the country for a minimum of two years, or remain in their current position. There were reports that sponsors were reluctant to provide release letters, which would result in loss of the foreign labor certificate for that position.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 16 years, or 18 for certain hazardous occupations. Children between the ages of 16 and 18 may work only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and are prohibited from working for more than six hours per day, on weekends, or on holidays. The law allows exceptions to the age requirement in agricultural works, fishing, industrial works, handicrafts, sales, and administration jobs, under the conditions that it is a one-family business and does not hinder the juvenile’s education or affect health or growth.

The Ministry of Manpower and Royal Oman Police are responsible for enforcing laws with respect to child labor. The law provides for fines for minor violations and imprisonment for repeat violations. Employers are given time to correct practices that may be deemed child labor.

In 2017 the country made a moderate advance in eliminating the worst forms of child labor. Although the problem does not appear to be widespread, children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation. The government does not publish information on the enforcement of child labor laws and lacks a reciprocal mechanism between the labor inspectorate and social services.

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 and regulations do not address discrimination based on race, sex, gender, nationality, political views, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social status. Discrimination occurred based on gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and gender identity. Foreign workers were required to take HIV/AIDS tests and could only obtain or renew work visas if the results were negative. For further discussion of discrimination, see section 6.

The minimum wage for citizens was 325 rials ($845) per month. Minimum wage regulations do not apply to a variety of occupations and businesses, including small businesses employing fewer than five persons, dependent family members working for a family firm, or some categories of manual laborers. The minimum wage does not apply to noncitizens in any occupation. Most citizens who lived in poverty, about 8 percent of the population, were engaged in traditional subsistence agriculture, herding, or fishing, and generally did not benefit from the minimum wage. The private sector workweek is 45 hours and includes a two-day rest period following five consecutive days of work. Government workers have a 35-hour workweek. The law mandates overtime pay for hours in excess of 45 per week.

The government sets occupational health and safety standards. The law states an employee may leave dangerous work conditions without jeopardy to continued employment if the employer was aware of the danger and did not implement corrective measures. Employees covered under the labor law may receive compensation for job-related injury or illness through employer-provided medical insurance.

Neither wage and hour nor occupational safety and health regulations apply to domestic workers.

The Ministry of Manpower is responsible for enforcing labor laws, and during the year it employed approximately 90 inspectors in Muscat and an additional 70 around the country. It generally enforced the law effectively with respect to citizens; however, it did not effectively enforce regulations regarding hours of employment and working conditions for foreign workers.

Labor inspectors with arrest authority for egregious violations performed random checks of worksites to verify compliance with all labor laws. Approximately 180 inspectors from the Department of Health and Safety of the Labor Care Directorate are responsible for enforcement of health and safety codes. Limited inspections of private sector worksites are required by law to deter or redress unsafe working conditions in the most dangerous sectors.

The Ministry of Manpower effectively enforced the minimum wage for citizens. No minimum wage existed for noncitizens. In wage cases the Ministry of Manpower processed complaints and acted as mediator. In a majority of cases, the plaintiff prevailed, gaining compensation, the opportunity to seek alternative employment, or return to their country of origin in the case of foreign laborers, although they rarely used the courts to seek redress. The ministry was generally effective in cases regarding minor labor disputes.

The government made insufficient efforts during the year to prevent violations or improve wages and working conditions, which disproportionately affected foreign workers.

Foreign workers were vulnerable to poor, dangerous, or exploitative working conditions. There were reports that migrant laborers in some firms and households worked more than 12 hours a day without a day off for below-market wages. Employers often cancelled the employment contracts of seriously sick or injured foreign workers, forcing them to return to their countries of origin or remain in the country illegally. Frequently, labor inspections focused on enforcing visa violations and deporting those in an irregular work visa status rather than verifying safe and adequate work conditions.

There are no maximum work-hour limits for domestic workers nor any mandatory rest periods, although the contract between the employer and worker can specify such requirements. There were frequent reports that domestic workers were subject to overwork with inadequate rest periods. Separate domestic employment regulations obligate the employer to provide domestic workers with free local medical treatment throughout the contract period. Penalties for noncompliance with health regulations, ranging from approximately 10 to 100 rials ($26 to $260), multiplying per occurrence per worker and doubling upon recurrence, were insufficient to deter violations. Some domestic workers were subjected to abusive conditions.

There was no data available on workplace fatalities or safety.

Panama

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for private-sector workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. By law public-sector employees may strike but may not organize unions. Instead, they may organize an association that can bargain collectively on behalf of members. The employer, however, is not legally obligated to bargain with the association. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers terminated for union activity. Despite some restrictions, public- and private-sector employers generally respected freedom of association.

Unions and associations are required to register with government authorities. If the government does not respond to a private-sector union registration application within 15 days, the union automatically gains legal recognition. In the public sector, associations gain legal recognition automatically if the General Directorate for Administrative Public Sector Careers does not respond to registration applications within 30 days. The Varela administration (2013-18) approved 48 union-formation applications, compared with the previous administration’s approval of nine unions during five years.

The Board of Appeals and Conciliation of the Ministry of Labor has the authority to resolve certain labor disagreements, such as internal union disputes, enforcement of the minimum wage, and some dismissal issues. The law allows arbitration by mutual consent, at the request of the employee or the ministry in the case of a collective dispute in a privately held public utility company. It allows either party to appeal if arbitration is mandated during a collective dispute in a public-service company. The board has sole competency for disputes related to domestic employees, some dismissal issues, and claims of less than 1,500 balboas.

Government-regulated union membership policies place some restrictions on freedom of association. The constitution mandates that only citizens may serve on a union’s executive board. In addition the law requires a minimum of 40 persons to form a private-sector union (either by a company across trades or by trade across companies) and allows only one union per business establishment. The ILO criticized the 40-person minimum as too large for workers wanting to form a union within a company. Many domestic labor unions, as well as the public and private sector, reiterated their support for keeping the figure at 40 individuals.

In the public sector, member associations represent workers. The law stipulates only one association may exist per public-sector institution and permits no more than one chapter per province. Forty public servants are required to form an association.

The National Federation of Public Servants (FENASEP), an umbrella federation of 25 public-sector worker associations, advocates for adequate treatment of the public sector as a sector with established rights like that of private-sector unionized groups. FENASEP contended there was no political will to allow public servants within ministries to form unions because this could eliminate space for political appointees. No law protects the jobs of public-sector workers in the event of a strike.

The law prohibits federations and confederations from calling strikes, as well as strikes against the government’s economic and social policy. Individual associations under FENASEP may negotiate on behalf of their members. FENASEP leaders noted that collective bargaining claims were heard and recognized, but they reported a lack of change afterwards, particularly regarding dismissals without cause.

A majority of employees must support a strike, and strikes are permitted only if they are related to the improvement of working conditions, a collective bargaining agreement, or in support of another strike of workers on the same project (solidarity strike). In the event of a strike, at least 20 to 30 percent of the workforce must continue to provide minimum services, particularly public services as defined by law, such as transportation, sanitation, mail delivery, hospital care, telecommunications, and public availability of essential food.

Strikes in essential transportation services are limited to those involving public passenger services. The law prohibits strikes for the Panama Canal Authority’s employees but allows associations to organize and bargain collectively on issues such as schedules and safety and provides arbitration to resolve disputes. (The Panama Canal Authority is an autonomous government entity, with independence from the central government.).

The Conciliation Board in the Ministry of the Presidency hears and resolves public-sector worker complaints. The board refers complaints it cannot resolve to arbitration panel, which consists of representatives from the employer, the workers’ association, and a third member chosen by the first two. If the dispute cannot be resolved, it is referred to a tribunal under the board. Observers, however, said the Ministry of the Presidency had not designated the tribunal judges. The alternative to the board is the civil court system. Cases presented in the courts tended to favor the employer. FENASEP noted one public-sector institution had appealed more than 100 complaints to the Supreme Court, only two of which were ruled in favor of the public-sector employee. Supreme Court decisions are final.

Two major strikes occurred during the year. The Panama Canal Tugboat Union (UCOC) claimed unsafe work conditions led to three collisions in the Panama Canal. Beginning in August the UCOC periodically went on strike, mostly over safety reasons. UCOC representatives asserted that due to a low minimum crew requirement and poor-quality tugboats, crews were overworked, fatigued, and experiencing anxiety. They suggested the Panama Canal Authority was using disciplinary action against UCOC protesters. In May SUNTRACS, the largest union of construction workers in the country, launched a strike demanding better wages. After one month of strikes, they negotiated a 14 percent increase in their salaries.

The law prohibits all forms of forced labor of adults or children. It establishes penalties of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment for forced labor involving movement (either cross-border or within the country) and six to 10 years’ imprisonment for forced labor not involving movement. Such penalties were sufficiently stringent to deter violations.

There continued to be reports of Central and South American and Chinese men exploited in forced labor in construction, agriculture, mining, restaurants, door-to-door peddling, and other sectors; traffickers reported used debt bondage, false promises, lack of knowledge of the refugee process and irregular status, restrictions on movement, and other means. There also were reports of forced child labor (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 14, although children who have not completed primary school may not begin work until age 15. The family code permits children ages 12 to 14 to perform domestic and agricultural work with regard to schedule, salary, contract, and type. The law allows children ages 12 to 15 to perform light work in agriculture if the work is outside regular school hours. The law also allows a child older than age 12 to perform light domestic work and stipulates employers must ensure the child attends school through primary school. The law neither limits the total number of hours these children may work nor defines the light work children may perform. The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from engaging in hazardous work but allows children as young as 14 to perform hazardous tasks in a training facility, in violation of international standards.

Youths younger than age 16 may work no more than six hours per day or 36 hours per week, while those ages 16 and 17 may work no more than seven hours per day or 42 hours per week. Children younger than 18 may not work between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

In 2017 the government strengthened the penalties for child labor, improved agricultural labor inspections, and increased interagency coordination on labor cases. The government increased fines for child labor law violators, who may be fined up to 700 balboas for a first-time violation. Employers who endanger the physical or mental health of a child may also face two to six years’ imprisonment.

Sixty personnel from the Childhood and Adolescence Police, the National Secretariat for Childhood Adolescence and Family, and other government agencies received training on investigating and sanctioning the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Criminal enforcement agencies subsequently investigated 920 reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children and prosecuted and sanctioned four individuals. The country is a source, transit, and destination for men and women exploited in forced labor. Children were exploited in forced labor, particularly domestic servitude, and sex trafficking. The law includes punishment of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for anyone who recruits children under age 18 or uses them to participate actively in armed hostilities.

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 regarding race, gender, religion, political opinion, citizenship, disability, social status, and HIV status but not based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the Ministry of Labor adopted the UN Development Program’s Gender Equality Seal program, the government had neither developed an implementation strategy nor allocated a national source of funds to promote gender equality in the workplace. In addition, a gender wage gap continued to exist, despite the country being a member of the Equal Pay International Coalition, which promotes pay equality between women and men.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, and HIV-positive status. During the job interview process, applicants, both citizens and migrants, must complete medical examinations, including HIV/AIDS testing. The law requires all laboratories to inform applicants an HIV test will be administered, but private-sector laboratories often did not comply. It was common practice for human resources offices in the private sector to terminate the application of a citizen who was HIV positive, usually without informing the applicant. For HIV-positive migrants, private laboratories often informed law enforcement, and the National Immigration Office began deportation procedures. Observers noted that during job interviews, women were often asked if they were married, pregnant, or planned to have children in the future. It was common practice for human resources offices to terminate the applications of women who indicated a possibility of pregnancy in the near future (see section 6).

The law provides for a national minimum wage. Public servants’ monthly minimum wage met the official estimate for the poverty income level. Most workers formally employed in urban areas earned the minimum wage or more. Approximately 41 percent of the working population worked in the informal sector, and some earned well below the minimum wage. The agricultural sector, as well as the maritime and aviation sectors, received the lowest and highest minimum wages, respectively. The Ministry of Labor was less likely to enforce labor laws in most rural areas (see section 6, Indigenous People).

The law establishes a standard workweek of 48 hours, provides for at least one 24-hour rest period weekly, limits the number of hours worked per week, provides for premium pay for overtime, and prohibits compulsory overtime. There is no annual limit on the total number of overtime hours allowed. If employees work more than three hours of overtime in one day or more than nine overtime hours in a week, excess overtime hours must be paid at an additional 75 percent above the normal wage. Workers have the right to 30 days’ paid vacation for every 11 months of continuous work, including those who do not work full time.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for setting health and safety standards. Standards set were generally current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. The law requires employers to provide a safe workplace environment, including the provision of protective clothing and equipment for workers.

The Ministry of Labor generally enforced these standards in the formal sector. The inspection office comprised two groups: the Panama City-based headquarters group and the regional group. As of September there were 47 inspectors reported within the headquarters. The regional branches had 69 general inspectors and 118 safety inspectors for construction sites. The number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce labor laws adequately. As of July the Ministry of Labor had conducted 9,929 safety inspections nationwide. Fines were low and generally insufficient to deter violations. During the year, however, the government levied fines according to the number of workers affected, resulting in larger overall fines.

Reports of violations relating to hours of work were frequent, especially in the maritime sector, where unions reported shifts of 14 to 24 hours. These long shifts reportedly resulted in fatigue-based occupational safety and health risks. Reports also indicated that neither the Maritime Authority nor the Labor Ministry conducted inspections regarding working conditions in the maritime sector. Canal Zone unions and workers experienced difficulties accessing the justice system to adjudicate complaints due to delays and other deficiencies of the Labor Relations Board, which is the court of first instance on labor matters in the Canal Zone. Reports also indicated violations relating to hours of work for coffee harvest workers, who often lacked formal contracts and were vulnerable to coercion from the employer.

Employers often hired employees under short-term contracts to avoid paying benefits that accrue to long-term employees. Employers in the maritime sector also commonly hired workers continuously on short-term contracts but did not convert them to permanent employees as required by law. The law states that employers have the right to dismiss any employee without justifiable cause before the two-year tenure term. As a result, employers frequently hired workers for one year and 11 months and subsequently laid them off to circumvent laws that make firing employees more difficult after two years of employment. This practice is illegal if the same employee is rehired as a temporary worker after being laid off, although employees rarely reported the practice.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and the occupational health section of the Social Security Administration reported conducting periodic inspections of hazardous employment sites. The law requires the resident engineer and a ministry construction-industry inspector to remain on construction sites, establish fines for noncompliance, and identify a tripartite group composed of the Chamber of Construction, SUNTRACS, and the ministry to regulate adherence.

Some construction workers and their employers were occasionally lax about basic safety measures, frequently due to their perception that it reduced productivity. Equipment was often outdated, broken, or lacking safety devices, due in large part to a fear that the replacement cost would be prohibitive.

Papua New Guinea

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers in the public and private sectors to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The government has limited influence over trade union formation and registration. The law does not cover workers in the informal sector, which accounted for 85 percent of the labor force, most of whom were engaged in small-scale farming.

The law requires unions to register with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. An unregistered union has no legal standing and thus cannot operate effectively. Although the law provides for the right to strike, the government may, and often did, intervene in labor disputes, forcing arbitration before workers could legally strike or refusing to grant permission for a secret ballot vote on strike action. Some union leaders complained that the labor department’s refusal to allow for votes on strike action constituted undue government influence. By law the government has discretionary power to intervene in collective bargaining by canceling arbitration awards or declaring wage agreements void when deemed contrary to government policy.

The law prohibits both retaliation against strikers and antiunion discrimination by employers against union leaders, members, and organizers. The law does not provide for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. In cases of retaliation or unlawful dismissal for union activity, the court may fine an employer and may order the reinstatement of the employee and reimbursement of any lost wages. If an employer fails to comply with such directives, the court may order imprisonment or fines until the employer complies.

The labor department is responsible for enforcing the law but did so selectively. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations since the maximum fine was PGK 1,000 ($290). With two labor inspectors per province and inadequate resources, inspectors usually monitored and enforced the law on an ad hoc basis. The labor department did not always act to prevent retaliation against strikers or protect workers from antiunion discrimination, which remained widespread in the logging sector and in state-owned enterprises. Observers attributed its ineffectiveness to a lack of sufficient manpower and resources.

Unions were generally independent of both the government and political parties, whose influence diminished from previous years. Employees of some government-owned enterprises went on strike on several occasions during the year, primarily to protest against privatization policies, terminations, and appointments of managers or board members, or in pay disputes. In most cases the strikes were brief due to temporary agreements reached between the government and workers. In February state-owned Ok Tedi Mine fired 93 employees for participating in a one-day protest demanding better working conditions. The chief executive officer of Ok Tedi said the employees’ decision to stage a protest was not in line with proper protocol for filing grievances. The workers filed a complaint with the labor department but as of October the investigation had not been completed.

Workers in both the public and private sectors engaged in collective bargaining. The labor department and courts were involved in dispute settlement.

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties are sufficiently stringent to deter violations, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.

Logging and mining sites primarily operated in remote regions with negligible government oversight, and authorities did not make efforts to identify forced labor victims at these sites. The law allows officials, on order of a judge or magistrate, to apprehend a noncitizen crewmember of a foreign-registered ship who fails to rejoin the crewmember’s ship during its time in the country. The crewmember is placed at the disposal of the diplomatic representative of the country in which the ship is registered (or, if no such representation exists, the ship’s owner or representative) in order to return him to the ship. Observers noted this practice might prevent foreign workers from reporting or escaping situations of forced labor.

There were reports that foreign and local women and children were subjected to forced labor as domestic servants, as beggars or street vendors, and in the tourism sector (also see section 7.c.). Foreign and local men were subjected to forced labor, including through debt bondage, in the logging, mining, and fishing sectors. There also were reports of foreign workers, particularly from China and other Pacific nations, entering the country with fraudulent documents and being subjected to forced labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

By law the minimum working age is 16 years. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, but the government has not identified a list of which occupations are hazardous. Children between 11 and 16 years may be employed in light work in a family business or enterprise, provided they have parental permission, medical clearance, and a work permit from a labor office. This type of employment was rare, except in subsistence agriculture. Work by children between 11 and 16 years must not interfere with school attendance, and children younger than 16 may not be employed in working conditions dangerous to their health. The law does not, however, specify the types of activities in which light work is permitted nor the number of hours per week this work may be undertaken. The labor department is responsible for enforcing child labor law provisions; however, enforcement was not effective due to lack of resources and weak penalties.

There was a high prevalence of child labor in urban and rural areas, including in hazardous occupations. Children were seen directing parking and selling cigarettes, food, and DVDs on the street and in grocery stores throughout the country, sometimes near mining and logging camps. There were reports of boys as young as 12 years being exploited as “market taxis” in urban areas, carrying extremely heavy loads for low pay; some may have been victims of forced labor. There were also reports of children engaging in mining activities, including prospectors forcing children to work in alluvial gold mining.

Children work mainly in subsistence agriculture, cash crop farming, and livestock herding. This included seasonal work in plantations (for coffee, tea, copra, and palm oil) in the formal and informal rural economies.

Some children (primarily girls) worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes, often to repay a family debt to the “host” family, in situations that sometimes constituted domestic servitude. In some cases the host was a relative who informally “adopted” the child. There were reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children (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/ .

No law prohibits discrimination regarding race, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status. The constitution bars discrimination based on disability, but the government did not take measures to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination. The law bans discrimination based on gender for employment and wages in the workplace. The government did not effectively enforce these laws.

The law explicitly precludes women from employment in certain occupations, allows the government to recruit either men or women for certain civil service positions, and discriminates by gender in eligibility for certain job-related allowances.

Discrimination occurred based on the above categories with respect to employment and occupation. For example, the International Labor Organization noted there were concerns regarding discrimination against certain ethnic groups, including Asian workers and entrepreneurs.

The minimum wage was PGK 3.50 ($1.05) per hour for all workers; this was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The law regulates minimum wage levels, allowances, rest periods, holiday leave, and overtime work. The law limits the workweek to 42 hours per week in urban areas and 44 hours per week in rural areas, and it provides for premium pay for overtime work. Labor laws do not apply to workers in the informal sector.

The labor department is responsible for enforcing the law regarding minimum wage and work hours and occupational safety and health. It sets occupational safety and health standards and is required by law to inspect work sites on a regular basis. Due to a lack of resources, however, inspections took place only when requested by workers or unions. Workers are entitled to wages while the inspection takes place, although the law does not specify further protection for employees who seek to remove themselves from conditions they deem hazardous. The number of occupational health and safety and industrial relations inspectors, 43, was insufficient to enforce compliance. The labor department and the courts were not effective in enforcing the law regarding minimum wage and hours of work, in part because penalties were insufficient to deter violations. In the case of a second or subsequent, continuing offense, the employer is liable for a fine for each day or part of each day for which the offense continued. When an employer fails to obey an order, direction, or requirement, the court may order imprisonment of the offender until the directive is obeyed.

Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health laws and regulations were common in the logging, mining, agricultural, and construction sectors due to the government’s lack of enforcement capacity. The logging industry in particular was known for extremely low wages and poor working conditions, including cramped and unhygienic worker housing. Workers in the mining sector were also subjected to hazardous and exploitative conditions, including exposure to toxic metals such as mercury.

According to World Bank data, 90 percent of the 2.9 million workers labored in rural areas, where law enforcement and monitoring were weak.

Paraguay

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions (with the exception of the armed forces and police), bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits binding arbitration or retribution against union organizers and strikers. There are several restrictions on these rights. The law requires that industrial unions have a minimum of 20 members to register. All unions must register with the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security, a process that often takes more than a year. The ministry, however, typically issued provisional registrations within weeks of application to allow labor unions to operate. Unions with provisional registrations had the same rights and obligations as other unions. Workers cannot be members of more than one union, even if they have more than one part-time employment contract. Strikes are limited to purposes directly linked to workers’ occupations. Candidates for trade union office must work for a company and be active members of the union.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for enforcing labor rights, registering unions, mediating disputes, and overseeing social security and retirement programs. Penalties, fines, and remedies associated with discrimination against unions were generally ineffective. Investigations of antiunion discrimination to protect labor rights were rare, lacked sufficient resources, and reportedly occurred only if requested by an aggrieved party. The ministry does not have jurisdiction to initiate or participate in antiunion litigation. Employers who fail to recognize or to bargain collectively with a registered union face fines of 50 days’ wages, or approximately Gs. 3.5 million ($595). Employers who blacklist employees face fines of only 30 days’ wages, or approximately Gs. 2.1 million ($350). These penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The government often did not prevent retaliation by employers who took action against strikers and union leaders. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays, mishandling of cases, and corruption.

The government did not always respect unions’ freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain. Employers and professional associations heavily influenced some private-sector unions. The leadership of several unions representing public-sector employees had ties to political parties and the government.

While union workers from the steel and maritime industries were unionized and often received relevant legal protections, most workers, including farmers, ranchers, and informal-sector employees, did not participate in labor unions. Many of these workers were members of farmworker movements.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security lacked adequate resources to conduct inspections, especially in remote areas where forced labor was reportedly more prevalent. The Special Directorate to Fight the Trafficking of Persons and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, however, increased child and forced labor investigations in the Chaco region, where the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and debt bondage were most prevalent. Penalties for violations include up to 20 years in prison, but enforcement was minimal and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

During the year the labor ministry’s regional office in the Chaco received complaints for unjustified firings, nonpayment of wages, and other labor violations. The ministry did not confirm instances of debt bondage in the Chaco but would not dismiss the possibility that it continued to exist. In that region there were reports children worked alongside their parents in debt bondage on cattle ranches, on dairy farms, and in charcoal factories. The government continued antitrafficking law enforcement and training efforts and provided limited protective services to female and child trafficking victims. The labor ministry began an antichild-labor information campaign specific to the Chaco in August.

Child labor and trafficking, particularly in domestic service, was a significant problem (see section 7.c.). Reports of criadazgo continued throughout the year. Criadazgo is the practice where middle- and upper-income families informally “employ” child domestic workers, often from impoverished families, and provide them with shelter, food, some education, and a small stipend. Although not all children in situations of criadazgo were victims of trafficking, it made them more vulnerable. The government did not oversee implementation of the practice nor specifically safeguard the rights of children employed through the criadazgo system. While the practice is not legally prohibited specifically, the National Child and Adolescent Secretariat continued to denounce it as illegal under child labor laws.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, with the exception of slavery-like practices that do not include trafficking involving physical movement of the victim. The minimum age for full-time employment is 18. Children 14 to 17 years old may work with written parental authorization, if they attend school and do not work more than four hours a day (14-15 years old) or six hours (16-17 years old), and do not work more than a maximum of 24 hours per week.

The government did not effectively enforce laws protecting children from exploitation in the workplace. The maximum administrative penalty for employing a child under age 14 is a fine of Gs. 3.78 million ($640). The law stipulates those who employ adolescents between ages 14 and 17 under hazardous conditions must pay the maximum administrative penalty, serve up to five years in prison, or both, but penalties were insufficient to deter violations due to lax enforcement.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for administratively enforcing child labor laws, and the Attorney General’s Office prosecutes violators. The Ombudsman’s Office and the Child Rights Committee receive complaints and refer them to the Attorney General’s Office. In the first nine months of the year, the ministry received 17 complaints regarding child and adolescent workers. Most worked as metalworkers, cashiers, sales clerks, helpers, and in other service jobs.

Child labor continued to occur in retail; sugar, brick, and limestone production; domestic service; and small-scale agricultural sectors. Children, primarily boys, also worked in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and in the restaurant and other service industries. According to both the government and the NGO community, 45,000-47,000 children, primarily girls, worked as domestic servants and received little or no pay under the criadazgo system. In exchange for work, employers promised child domestic servants room, board, and financial support for school. Some of these children were victims of human trafficking for the purposes of forced child labor, did not receive pay or the promised benefits in exchange for work, suffered from sexual exploitation, and often lacked access to education.

The 2017 case against Rosa Delvalle and Anderson Rios for serious bodily damage, attempted homicide, sexual abuse, and torture for forcing a 15-year-old minor to drink caustic soda while working as a domestic servant under the criadazgo system remained pending as of August 24.

The worst forms of child labor occurred where malnourished, abused, or neglected children worked in unhealthy and hazardous conditions selling goods or services on the street, working in factories, or harvesting crops. Children were used, procured, and offered to third parties for illicit activities, including commercial sexual exploitation (see also section 6, Children), sometimes with the knowledge of parents and guardians, who received remuneration. Some minors were involved in forced criminality, acting as drug smugglers for criminal syndicates along the border with Brazil. Children reportedly work in debt bondage alongside their parents in the Chaco region (see section 7.b.).

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 specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, religion, political opinion, disability, HIV-positive status, or social origin. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The fines for discrimination range from 10 to 30 daily wages per affected worker.

The press and civil society reported on employment discrimination based on sex, race, disability, age, language, weight, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, and pregnancy.

The mandatory national minimum wage was Gs. 2.12 million ($355) per month. The mandatory minimum wage for domestic employees is set at 60 percent of the national minimum wage. Both were above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The law stipulates that domestic employees work a maximum of eight hours per day. The law provides for a standard legal workweek of 48 hours (42 hours for night work) with one and one-half days of rest. There are no prohibitions of, or exceptions for, excessive compulsory overtime.

The government sets appropriate occupational health and safety standards stipulating conditions of safety, hygiene, and comfort. Although these standards were current and appropriate for light-manufacturing and construction industries, enforcement was inadequate.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security did not effectively enforce provisions for overtime pay, the minimum wage, or limitations on hours of work in the formal or the informal sector. It launched public awareness campaigns, however, aimed at employers and workers to raise awareness of labor laws and worker rights. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance with all labor laws, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

During the first eight months of the year, the labor ministry’s Department of Mediation of Private Conflicts received 5,571 labor complaints and mediation requests. Men filed the majority of these complaints, which involved illegal dismissals or the failure of employers to pay the legally mandated end-of-year bonuses. Many formal and informal employers violated provisions requiring overtime pay, particularly in the food and agricultural sectors and for domestic services. From January to September 30, the labor ministry received 100 complaints of occupational safety and health violations, some associated with workplace accidents or fatalities. Most workplace accidents or fatalities occurred in the construction and light-manufacturing industries.

Employers are obligated to register workers with the labor ministry. As of October 13, however, approximately 2,160 employers had registered 7,090 workers with the ministry, which was very low compared with the country’s population of approximately 6.7 million.

According to the labor ministry and NGOs, many domestic workers suffered discrimination, routinely worked 12-hour workdays (when eight is the maximum), were not paid for overtime work (as required by law), were allowed to rest less than the 36 hours mandated by law, were not entitled to publicly provided retirement benefits, and did not routinely attain job stability after 10 years, unlike other workers covered by the labor code. Domestic workers were eligible for government-sponsored medical care and retirement programs through small payroll and employer contributions.

Peru

Section 7. Worker Rights

With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide freedom of association, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The law prohibits employer intimidation and other forms of antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, unless they opt to receive compensation instead. Regulations allow workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. The minimum membership required by law to form a union is 20 employees for a workplace-level union and 50 employees for a sector-wide union, which some labor activists viewed as prohibitively high in some instances, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. The use of consecutive short-term contracts in some nontraditional export sectors, such as textiles and apparel, made the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining difficult.

The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their governing documents. Private-sector workers must give advance notice of at least five working days, and public-sector workers must give at least 10 days’ notice. The law also allows nonunion workers to declare a strike with a majority vote as long as the written voting record is notarized and announced at least five working days prior to a strike. Unions in essential services are permitted to call a strike but must provide 15 working days’ notice, receive the approval of the ministry, obtain approval of a simple majority of workers, and provide a sufficient number of workers during a strike to maintain operations. Private enterprises and the public institutions cannot fire workers who strike legally.

The law requires businesses to monitor their contractors with respect to labor rights and imposes liability on businesses for the actions of their contractors. The law governing the general private-sector labor regime sets out nine categories of short-term employment contracts that companies may use. The law sets time limits for each of the categories and contains a five-year overall limit on the consecutive use of short-term contracts. A sector-specific law covering the textile and apparel nontraditional export sectors exempts employers from this five-year limit and allows employers to hire workers on indefinite short-term contracts, without requiring a conversion to the permanent workforce.

Although the Ministry of Labor and its National Superintendency of Labor Inspection (SUNAFIL) received budget increases in 2017 and 2018, resources remained inadequate to enforce freedom of association, collective bargaining, and other labor laws. In July Congress passed a law to merge the regional labor inspectors and Ministry of Labor inspectors with SUNAFIL. As of September SUNAFIL reported having 636 labor inspectors and to have budgeted for the hiring of an additional 216 inspectors by the end of the year. SUNAFIL opened a new labor inspection office in Puno in May. As of October SUNAIFL had offices in 16 of the 24 regions.

Penalties for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining range from 7,400 to 74,000 soles ($2,280 to $22,800). Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations and, according to labor experts and union representatives, were rarely enforced. Workers continued to face prolonged judicial processes and lack of enforcement following dismissals resulting from trade union activity.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.

Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate for effective enforcement of the law. The law prescribes penalties of eight to 25 years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking, although the government did not report statistics on convictions and sentences for forced labor during the year. Financial penalties for violations range from 7,400 to 74,000 soles ($2,280 to $22,800) but were insufficient to deter violations.

SUNAFIL officials conducted inspections to identify forced labor. The Ministry of Labor and SUNAFIL provided training sessions to SUNAFIL and regional labor inspectors around the country to raise awareness of forced labor and the applicable law. The government continued to implement the 2013-17 national plan to combat forced labor during the year. The government approved a new National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons 2017-21 in June 2017. The plan addresses forced labor as human trafficking with an emphasis on the needs of victims through a dedicated Victim Reintegration Plan.

Thousands of persons remained subject to conditions of forced labor, mainly in mining, forestry, agriculture, brick making, and domestic service. There were reports that men and boys were subjected to bonded labor in mining (including gold mining), forestry, and brick making, while women were most often found working under conditions of domestic servitude. Both men and women reportedly worked in bonded labor in agriculture.

In July a court sentenced the husband and wife who operated a workshop to preventive detention. As of October the husband remained in jail, and his wife was under house arrest, pending trial. A fire in June 2017 in downtown Lima exposed the informal counterfeit lightbulb workshop, which allegedly engaged in human trafficking for forced labor exploitation. Two workers were locked in the workshop; one, a 17-year-old minor, died in the fire.

In September the PNP reported it rescued 1,077 human trafficking victims (sexual exploitation and forced labor) during multiple police operations from January to September. The rescued victims included 130 foreign women, mostly Venezuelans with some Ecuadorians and Bolivians. The police conducted the operations in Madre de Dios, Piura, Tumbes, and Lima.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The legal minimum age for employment is 14, although children between the ages of 12 and 14 may work in certain jobs for up to four hours per day. Adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 may work up to six hours per day, if they obtain special permission from the Ministry of Labor and certify that they are attending school. In certain sectors of the economy, higher age minimums existed: 15 in nonindustrial agriculture; 16 in industry, commerce, and mining; and 17 in industrial fishing. The law specifically prohibits the hiring of minors in a number of occupations considered hazardous for children, including working underground, lifting or carrying heavy weights, accepting responsibility for the safety of others, and working at night. The law prohibits work that jeopardizes the health of children and adolescents; puts their physical, mental, and emotional development at risk; or prevents regular attendance at school.

A permit from the Labor Ministry is required for persons under 18 to work legally. Parents must apply for the permits, and employers must have a permit on file to hire a minor.

The Ministry of Labor and SUNAFIL are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but enforcement was not effective, especially in the informal sector in which the majority of child labor occurred. The ministry and SUNAFIL lacked the resources needed to execute necessary inspections, and inter-ministerial coordination was often lacking. Inspectors conducted visits without notice to areas where persons or organizations had reported child labor problems. By law the penalties for illegal child labor include fines from 192,500 soles ($59,400) for microbusiness to 385,000 soles ($118,800) for small and medium-sized businesses and 770,000 soles ($237,600) for larger enterprises. In addition to these fines, violators are subject to civil and criminal legal proceedings.

The Labor Ministry continued its “Vamos Peru” (Let’s Go, Peru) program, focused on job training, technical assistance to entrepreneurs, and job placement, and the “Peru Responsable” (Responsible Peru) program, aimed at fostering corporate social responsibility and creating formal employment for youth. The ministry continued to implement its national strategy to combat child labor, including projects in Junin, Huancavelica, Pasco, Carabayllo, and Huanuco, which focused on reducing child labor by improving educational services, providing mechanical tools, and providing cash transfers to families in rural areas.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children and Adolescents (DEMUNA) worked with the Labor Ministry to document complaints regarding violations of child labor laws. DEMUNA operated a decentralized child labor reporting and tracking system. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations administered a program that sent specialized teachers to the streets to provide education and support to minors involved in begging and street vending. The ministry continued to implement the Yachay program, which assists homeless children ages six to 17 with workshops, health care, education, legal services, and scholarships.

A 2016 government child labor report found more than two million children in the five-to-17 age group worked, a rate of more than 26 percent. The report noted child labor rates tracked closely with high poverty rates, with several of the rural highland regions having child labor rates above 50 percent: 67 percent for Huancavelica, 63 percent for Cajamarca, 54 percent for Cusco, and 51 percent for Puno. Some coastal regions had child labor rates below 10 percent, such as Callao with 4 percent, Lima with 6 percent, and Ica with 9 percent. The report also found child labor predominately occurred in rural, agricultural areas (46 percent), in contrast to urban centers (13 percent). The report noted that children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including mining and in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking.

Representatives from the Labor Ministry, NGOs, and labor unions reported counterfeit U.S. currency cases that involved child labor. The ministry, NGOs, and labor activists reported the use of child labor in rice production on plantations in the Tumbes 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 prohibits discrimination with respect to employment based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, or social status. The law does not specifically identify discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. The law prohibits discrimination against domestic workers and any requirement by employers for their domestic workers to wear uniforms in public places. The law establishes the following employment quotas for persons with disabilities: 3 percent for private businesses with more than 50 employees and 5 percent for public-sector organizations. The National Council for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities oversees compliance with employment quotas for persons with disabilities.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment, but they were not sufficient to deter violations. NGOs and labor rights advocates noted that discrimination cases often went unreported to authorities.

Societal prejudice and discrimination led to disproportionate poverty and unemployment rates for women. Women were more likely to work in the informal sector or in less secure occupations, such as domestic service, factory work, or as street vendors, and they were more likely to be illiterate due to lack of formal education.

In April the government increased the statutory monthly minimum wage for formal workers from 850 soles ($265) to 930 soles ($290) per month. The INEI estimated the poverty line to be 315 soles ($97) a month per person, although it varied by region. The average monthly income, set in September 2016, was 1,640 to 1,867 soles ($505-$575) for men and 1,352 soles ($415) for women. The INEI reported the average monthly income in 2017 for Lima was 1,667.30 soles ($521).The government did not effectively enforce wage laws and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations of minimum wage standards.

The law provides for a 48-hour workweek for formal workers and one day of rest. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, nor does the law limit the amount of overtime that a worker may work. The law stipulates 15 days of paid annual vacation.

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Standards are appropriate for the main industries. SUNAFIL is responsible for the enforcement of OHS standards. The government did not devote sufficient resources and personnel to enforce OHS standards.

Fines for labor violations were last increased in April 2014. Noncompliance with the law is punishable by fines of 7,400 to 74,000 soles ($2,280 to $22,800). In July 2014, however, the government enacted a three-year decree that reduced fines on employers for labor violations to no more than 35 percent of the maximum fine established by law. The government renewed that decree in 2017 for another three years. The reduction is limited to fines for occupational safety and health violations that did not result in death or permanent injury of the worker and violations of laws related to freedom of association and workplace discrimination determined not to be “very serious.” The reduction does not apply to violations that “very seriously affect” freedom of association, union formation, and workplace discrimination; violations related to child labor or forced labor; violations of occupational and safety norms that result in death or permanent disability of the worker; actions that impede labor inspections; and recidivist conduct, defined as repeat violations within a six-month period from the time a final decision on the first infraction was issued. The reductions, however, do not apply to violations of fundamental labor rights. Many fines went uncollected, in part because the government lacked an efficient tracking system and at times due to a lack of political will, according to a local labor NGO and labor experts.

The law provides for fines and criminal sanctions for occupational safety and health violations. In cases of infractions, injury, or deaths of workers or subcontractors, the penalty is one to four years’ imprisonment. Criminal penalties are limited to those cases where employers “deliberately” violated safety and health laws and where labor authorities had previously notified employers who chose not to adopt measures in response to a repeated infraction. The law requires that a worker prove an employer’s culpability to obtain compensation for work-related injuries.

Representatives of labor, business, and the government reported that the majority of companies in the formal sector generally complied with the law. Many workers in the informal economy, approximately 70 percent of the total labor force, received less than the minimum wage, although most were self-employed.

Philippines

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers, with the exception of the military, police, short-term contract employees, and some foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes; it prohibits antiunion discrimination. The law, however, places several restrictions on these rights.

Laws and regulations provide for the right to organize and bargain collectively in both the private sector and corporations owned or controlled by the government. The law prohibits organizing by foreign national or migrant workers unless a reciprocity agreement exists with the workers’ countries of origin specifying that migrant workers from the Philippines are permitted to organize unions there. The law also requires the participation of 20 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit where the union seeks to operate; the International Labor Organization (ILO) called this requirement excessive and urged the government to lower minimum membership. The scope of collective bargaining in the public sector is limited to a list of terms and conditions of employment negotiable between management and public employees. These are items requiring appropriation of funds, including health-care and retirement benefits, and those that involved the exercise of management prerogatives, including appointment, promotion, compensation, and disciplinary action, are nonnegotiable.

Strikes in the private sector are legal. Unions are required to provide strike notice, respect mandatory cooling off periods, and obtain approval from a majority of members before calling a strike. The Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE/labor department) Bureau of Labor Relations reported 417 mediation-conciliation cases from January to July. Of these, 288 cases were filed under preventive mediation, 124 under notices of strike or lockout, and five cases under actual strike or lockout. Of the total reported mediation-conciliation cases, 66 percent raised issues on unfair labor practices.

The law subjects all problems affecting labor and employment to mandatory mediation-conciliation for one month. Parties to a dispute must attempt mediation before giving notice to strike; if that fails, the union may issue a strike notice. Parties may bring any dispute to mediation, but strikes or lockouts must be related to acts of unfair labor practice, a gross violation of collective bargaining laws, or a collective bargaining deadlock. The law provides for a maximum prison sentence of three years for participation in an illegal strike, a requirement the ILO urged the government to amend.

The law permits employers to dismiss union officers who knowingly participate in an illegal strike. Union officers convicted of striking illegally are subject to a maximum imprisonment of three years, although there has never been such a conviction.

The law prohibits government workers from joining strikes under the threat of automatic dismissal. Government workers may file complaints with the Civil Service Commission, which handles administrative cases and arbitrates disputes. Government workers may also assemble and express their grievances on the work premises during nonworking hours.

The secretary of the DOLE, and in certain cases the president, may intervene in labor disputes by assuming jurisdiction and mandating a settlement if either official determines that the strike-affected company is vital to the national interest. Vital sectors include hospitals, the electric power industry, water supply services (excluding small bottle suppliers), air traffic control, and other activities or industries as recommended by the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC). Labor rights advocates continued to criticize the government for maintaining definitions of vital services that were broader than international standards.

By law antiunion discrimination, especially in hiring, is an unfair labor practice and may carry criminal or civil penalties (although generally civil penalties were favored over criminal penalties).

The government generally respected freedom of association and collective bargaining, and enforced laws protecting these rights. The Department of Labor has general authority to enforce laws on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Commission’s (NLRC) labor arbiter may also issue orders or writs of execution for reinstatement that go into effect immediately, requiring employers to reinstate the worker and report compliance to the NLRC. Allegations of intimidation and discrimination in connection with union activities are grounds for review by the quasi-judicial NLRC, as they may constitute possible unfair labor practices. If there is a definite preliminary finding that a termination may cause a serious labor dispute or mass layoff, the DOLE secretary may suspend the termination and restore the status quo pending resolution of the case.

Penalties under the law for violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining laws were generally not sufficient to deter violations.

Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Before disputes reach the NLRC, the labor department provides mediation services through a board, which settles most unfair labor practice disputes. Through the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, the department also works to improve the functioning of labor-management councils in companies with unions.

The NTIPC serves as the main consultative and advisory mechanism on labor and employment for organized labor, employers, and government on the formulation and implementation of labor and employment policies. It also acts as the central entity for monitoring recommendations and ratifications of ILO conventions. The labor department, through the NTIPC, is responsible for coordinating the investigation, prosecution, and resolution of cases alleging violence and harassment of labor leaders and trade union activists pending before the ILO.

Workers faced several challenges in exercising their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Unions continued to claim that local political leaders and officials who governed the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) explicitly attempted to frustrate union organizing efforts by maintaining union-free or strike-free policies. Unions also claimed that the government stationed security forces near industrial areas or SEZs to intimidate workers attempting to organize, and alleged that companies in SEZs used frivolous lawsuits to harass union leaders. Local SEZ directors claimed exclusive authority to conduct their own inspections as part of the zones’ privileges intended by the legislature. Employers controlled hiring through special SEZ labor centers. For these reasons, and in part due to organizers’ restricted access to the closely guarded zones and the propensity among zone establishments to adopt fixed-term, casual, temporary, or seasonal employment contracts, unions had little success organizing in the SEZs. The DOLE does not have data on compliance with labor standards in SEZs.

There were isolated reports of labor-related violence during the year. In July police arrested 19 NutriAsia workers and supporters for “obstructing the ingress and egress” to the company plant. The DOLE mediated the case between NutriAsia and its workers.

Some employers reportedly chose to employ workers who could not legally organize, such as short-term contract and foreign national workers, to minimize unionization and avoid other rights accorded to “regular” workers. The nongovernmental Center for Trade Union and Human Rights contended that this practice led to a decline in the number of unions and workers covered by collective bargaining agreements. Employers also often abused contractual labor provisions by rehiring employees shortly after the expiration of the previous contract. The labor department reported multiple cases of workers alleging employers refused to bargain.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Legal penalties for forced labor were sufficiently stringent.

Trade unions reported continued poor compliance with the law, due in part to the government’s lack of capacity to inspect labor practices in the informal economy. The government continued awareness-raising activities, especially in the provinces, in an effort to prevent forced labor. The DOLE’s efforts included an orientation program for recruits for commercial fishing vessels, who were among the workers most vulnerable to forced labor conditions.

Reports of forced labor by adults and children continued, mainly in fishing and other maritime industries, small-scale factories, gold mines, domestic service, agriculture, and other areas of the informal sector (see section 7.c.). Unscrupulous employers subjected women from rural communities and impoverished urban centers to domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced labor in small factories. They also subjected men to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture, including on sugar cane plantations and in fishing and other maritime industries.

There were reports that some persons who voluntarily surrendered to police and local government units in the violent antidrug campaign were forced to do manual labor, exercise, or other activities that could amount to forced labor without charge, trial, or finding of guilt under law.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 15 years, except under the direct and sole responsibility of parents or guardians, and sets the maximum number of working hours for them at four hours per day and no more than 20 hours per week. The law also prohibits the worst forms of child labor. Children between 15 and 17 are limited to eight working hours per day, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. The law forbids the employment of persons younger than 18 in hazardous work. The law sets the minimum age for domestic workers at 15.

Although the government supported programs that sought to prevent, monitor, and respond to child labor, resources remained inadequate. The government imposed fines and instituted criminal prosecutions for law violations in the formal sector, such as in manufacturing. Fines for child labor law violations were not sufficient to deter violations. From January to July, the DOLE, through its Sagip Batang Manggagawa (Rescue Child Laborers) program (part of the Health, Education, Livelihood, and Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution, Monitoring and Evaluation [H.E.L.P.M.E.] Convergence Program), conducted five operations and removed 25 minors from hazardous and exploitative working conditions. As of July the department closed three establishments for violations of child labor laws. In June the PNP’s Women and Children Protection Center rescued 19 female high school students allegedly working as escorts at a bar in Manila. The PNP also arrested three suspected pimps offering “jobs” to students outside the school premises.

The government, in coordination with domestic NGOs and international organizations, continued to implement programs to develop safer options for children, return them to school, and offer families viable economic alternatives to child labor. The labor department continued its efforts to reduce the worst forms of child labor and to remove children from hazardous work under the H.E.L.P.M.E. Convergence Program.

Despite these efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem. Previous cases reported to the DOLE centered in the service and agricultural sectors, notably in the fishing, palm oil, and sugar cane industries. Most child labor occurred in the informal economy, often in family settings. Child workers in those sectors and in activities such as gold mining, manufacturing (including of fireworks), domestic service, drug trafficking, and garbage scavenging faced exposure to hazardous working environments.

NGOs and government officials continued to report cases in which family members sold children to employers for domestic labor or sexual exploitation.

Online sexual exploitation of children and child soldiering also continued to be a problem (see sections 6 and 1.g., respectively).

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 with respect to employment and occupation based on age; sex; race; creed; disability; and HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, or marital status. The law does not prohibit employment discrimination with respect to color, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, other communicable disease status, or social origin. While some local antidiscrimination ordinances existed at the municipal or city levels that prohibit employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender–but not intersex–persons, there was no prohibition against such discrimination in national legislation.

The law requires most government agencies and government-owned corporations to reserve 1 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities; government agencies engaged in social development must reserve 5 percent. The law commits the government to providing “sheltered employment” to persons with disabilities, for example in workshops providing separate facilities. The labor department’s Bureau of Local Employment maintained registers of persons with disabilities that indicate their skills and abilities and promoted the establishment of cooperatives and self-employment projects for such persons.

Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in hiring and employment. The labor department estimated that only 10 percent of employable persons with disabilities were able to find work.

Between January and July, no cases were filed to test how effectively the law was enforced. The government did not effectively monitor and enforce laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on disability, and the National Council for Disability Affairs and the labor department did not monitor the regulation regarding the employment of persons with disabilities effectively. The effectiveness of penalties to prevent violations could not be assessed.

The government had limited means to assist persons with disabilities in finding employment, and the cost of filing a lawsuit and lack of effective administrative means of redress limited the recourse of such persons when prospective employers violated their rights. In 2016 an HIV-positive worker won a case against his employer for having been fired because of his HIV-positive diagnosis. The court ordered that the individual be reinstated and receive approximately 600,000 pesos ($11,200) in damages and back wages.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to LGBTI persons. A number of LGBTI organizations submitted anecdotal reports of discriminatory practices that affected the employment status of LGBTI persons. Discrimination cases included the enforcement of rules, policies, and regulations that disadvantaged LGBTI persons in the workplace. For example, in 2017 transgender women were told by recruitment officers that they would be hired only if they presented themselves as males by cutting their hair short, dressing in men’s clothes, and acting in stereotypically masculine ways.

Women faced discrimination both in hiring and on the job. Some labor unions claimed female employees suffered punitive action when they became pregnant. Although women faced workplace discrimination, they continued to occupy positions at all levels of the workforce.

Women and men were subject to systematic age discrimination, most notably in hiring.

The government allowed refugees to work. A DOLE order affirmed refugees’ and stateless persons’ access to work permits. The Bureau of Immigration provided temporary work permits for persons with pending applications for refugee or stateless status upon endorsement by the RSPPU. The types of employment open to refugees and stateless persons were generally the same as those open to other legal aliens.

As of May tripartite regional wage boards of the National Wage and Productivity Commission had not increased the daily minimum wage rates for agricultural and nonagricultural workers. Minimum wages ranged from 512 pesos ($9.57) per day for nonagricultural workers in the Manila region to 256 pesos ($4.79) per day for agricultural workers in the Ilocos region. According to the government, in 2015, the latest year for which such data was available, a family of five needed an average income of 8,022 pesos ($150) per month to avoid poverty.

The law did not cover many workers, since wage boards exempted some newly established companies and other employers from the rules because of factors such as business size, industry sector, export intensity, financial distress, and capitalization level.

Domestic workers worked under a separate wage and benefit system, which lays out minimum wage requirements and payments into social welfare programs, and mandates one day off a week. While there were no reliable recent data, informed observers believed two million or more persons were employed as domestic workers, with nearly 85 percent being women or girls as young as 15 years.

Penalties for noncompliance with increases or adjustments in the wage rates as prescribed by law are a fine not exceeding 25,000 pesos ($468), imprisonment of one to two years, or both. In addition to fines, the government used administrative procedures and moral suasion to encourage employers to rectify violations voluntarily.

By law the standard workweek is 48 hours for most categories of industrial workers and 40 hours for government workers, with an eight hour per day limit. The law mandates one day of rest each week. The government mandates an overtime rate of 125 percent of the hourly rate on ordinary days, 130 percent on special nonworking days, and 200 percent on regular holidays. There is no legal limit on the number of overtime hours that an employer may require.

The law provides for a comprehensive set of occupational safety and health standards. Regulations for small-scale mining prohibit certain harmful practices, including the use of mercury and underwater, or compressor, mining. The law provides for the right of workers to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Most labor laws apply to foreign workers, who must obtain work permits and may not engage in certain occupations.

The DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) monitors and inspects compliance with labor law in all sectors, including workers in the formal sector, nontraditional laborers, and informal workers, and inspects SEZs and businesses located there. The number of labor law compliance officers, who monitor and enforce the law, including by inspecting compliance with core labor and occupational safety standards and minimum wages, increased to 608 from 574 in 2017. The BWC stated that its budget increased to allow 710 permanent labor inspector positions, once qualified applicants were selected. Nonetheless, the number of compliance officers was insufficient for the workforce of 42 million workers, particularly in rural areas. ILO standards for developing countries suggest a need for approximately 2,800 labor inspectors–one inspector for every 15,000 workers. The labor department prioritized increasing the number of officers while acknowledging that insufficient inspection funds continued to impede its ability to investigate labor law violations effectively, especially in the informal sector and in small and medium size enterprises.

The DOLE continued to implement its Labor Laws Compliance System for the private sector. The system included joint assessments, compliance visits, and occupational safety and health standards investigations. Labor department inspectors conducted joint assessments with employer and worker representatives; inspectors also conducted compliance visits and occupational safety and health standards investigations. The labor department and the ILO also continued to implement an information management system to capture and transmit data from the field in real time using mobile technology. Violations included 13,240 for labor standards, 9,842 for general labor standards, 2,045 for violations of minimum wage rates, and 11,142 for occupational safety and health standards. Following a deficiency finding, the labor department may issue compliance orders that can include a fine or, if the deficiency poses a grave and imminent danger to workers, suspend operations. The BWC also reported no establishments were found deficient with respect to child labor law as of July.

Violations of minimum wage standards were common, as was the use of contract employees to avoid the payment of required benefits, including in the SEZs. Many firms hired employees for less than minimum wage apprentice rates, even if there was no approved training in their work. Complaints about payment under the minimum wage and nonpayment of social security contributions and bonuses were particularly common at companies in the SEZs. In 2017 the DOLE issued Department Order 174, setting stricter guidelines on the use of labor contracting and subcontracting. Some labor unions, however, criticized the order for not ending all forms of contractual work. On May 1, President Duterte issued an Executive Order prohibiting employers from circumventing a worker’s “security of tenure,” which he defined as the right “not to be dismissed or removed without just and authorized cause.” Similar to Department Order 174, some labor unions criticized the action for not ending all forms of contractual work.

There were also gaps and uneven applications of the law. Media reported problems in the implementation and enforcement of the domestic worker’s law, including a tedious registration process, an additional financial burden on employers, and difficulty in monitoring employer compliance.

During the year various labor groups criticized the government’s enforcement efforts, in particular the DOLE’s lax monitoring of occupational safety and health standards in workplaces. Between January and July, the BWC recorded 28 work-related accidents that caused 19 deaths and 23 injuries. Statistics on work-related accidents and illnesses were incomplete, as incidents were underreported, especially in agriculture.

The government and several NGOs worked to protect the rights of the country’s overseas citizens, most of whom were Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) contract or temporary workers. Although the POEA registered and supervised domestic recruiter practices, authorities often lacked sufficient resources to provide complete worker protection overseas. The Overseas Worker Welfare Administration provides support to overseas workers in filing grievances against employers via its Legal Assistance Fund. The fund covers administrative costs that would otherwise prevent overseas workers from filing grievance complaints. Covered costs include fees for court typing and translation, visa cancellation, and contract termination.

The government continued to place financial sanctions on, and bring criminal charges against, domestic recruiting agencies found guilty of unfair labor practices. From January to August 2017, the POEA reported 100 suspension orders issued to 57 licensed recruitment agencies for various violations.

Foreigners were generally employed in the formal economy and recruited for high paying, specialized positions. They typically enjoyed better working conditions than citizens.

Poland

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and provides legal measures under which workers fired for union activity may demand reinstatement. On July 25, the president signed the revision of the law on trade unions to expand the right to form a union to persons who entered into an employment relationship based on a civil law contract, or to persons who were self-employed. The law is the result of the 2015 the Constitutional Court ruling that found any limitation to the freedom of association violates the constitution, and required the government and parliament to amend the law on trade unions.

Government workers, including police officers, border guards, prison guards, and employees of the supreme audit office, are limited to a single union. Workers in services deemed essential, such as security forces, the Supreme Chamber of Audit, police, border guards, and fire brigades, do not have the right to strike. These workers have the rights to protest and to seek resolution of their grievances through mediation and the court system.

Trade unions are registered when at least 10 eligible persons adopt a resolution to form a trade union. Newly established trade unions must appoint a founding committee consisting of three to seven persons. A new trade union must register with the National Court Registry within 30 days of the resolution. The court may remove a trade union from the registry only if a trade union adopts a resolution to dissolve; is no longer able to operate due to the bankruptcy, liquidation, or reorganization of the company in which the trade union operated; or if a trade union has fewer than 10 members for more than three months.

Legal strike ballots require the support of the majority of union voters. To allow for required mediation, a strike may not be called fewer than 14 days after workers present their demands to an employer. The law obligates employers to notify the district inspection office in their region about a group dispute in the workplace. Cumbersome procedures made it difficult for workers to meet all of the technical requirements for a legal strike. What constitutes a strike under the labor law is limited to strikes regarding wages and working conditions, social benefits, and the trade union rights and freedoms of workers. The law prohibits collective bargaining for key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges, and prosecutors.

The penalties for obstructing trade union activity range from fines to community service. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were not adequate, and the small fines imposed as punishment were an ineffective deterrent to employers. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Unions alleged that the government did not consistently enforce laws prohibiting retribution against strikers. On May 28, the state-owned national airline LOT fired trade union leader Monika Zelazik, who tried to organize a strike at the company in May. In July the Chief Labor Inspectorate initiated legal proceedings against LOT management claiming that Zelazik’s firing constituted a violation of the law on trade unions. On October 22, LOT fired 67 employees for organizing a strike on October 18 that the company described as illegal. On November 1, LOT management and trade unions signed an agreement ending the strike, and all 67 fired employees returned to work. On November 20, the Warsaw local court rejected a motion by LOT management challenging the legality of the October strike.

Trade union representatives stated that violations of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining occurred. While many workers exercised the right to organize and join unions, many small- and medium-sized firms, which employed a majority of the workforce, discriminated against those who attempted to organize. The government enforced applicable laws but penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

Labor leaders continued to report that employers regularly discriminated against workers who attempted to organize or join unions, particularly in the private sector. Discrimination typically took the forms of intimidation, termination of work contracts without notice, and closing of the workplace. Some employers sanctioned employees who tried to organize unions.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, forced labor occurred.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced labor violations were sufficiently stringent to deter violations. In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics were available, the government assisted in removing 74 victims from forced labor.

There were reports that foreign and Polish men and women were subjected to forced labor in construction, agriculture and restaurants and children were subjected to forced begging (see section 7.c., Child Labor).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16, with exceptions in the cultural, artistic, sporting, and advertising fields when parents or guardians and the local labor inspector give their permission. The labor inspector issues a permit on the basis of psychological and medical examinations. Child labor is not allowed if the work may pose any threat to life, health or physical and mental development of the child, or will conflict with the child’s education. The government effectively enforced applicable laws but penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Some children younger than 18 engaged in hazardous work in agriculture, primarily on family farms. Migrant Romani children from Romania were subjected to forced begging. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation in any way, directly or indirectly, on the grounds of race, sex, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, trade union membership, and regardless of whether the person is hired for definite or indefinite contracts, or for full- or half-time work. The law does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on language, HIV-positive status, gender identity, or social status. According to the Polish Society for Antidiscrimination Law, by law the accused must prove that discrimination did not take place, but judges often placed the burden on the victim to prove that discrimination occurred. The government enforced applicable laws, but penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, age, minority status, disability, political opinion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and trade union membership. According to an EC report on equality published in March, the gender wage gap in 2016 was 7.2 percent. Discrimination against Romani workers also occurred (see section 6).

The national monthly minimum wage and the minimum wage for formal work agreements meet the social minimum monthly income level. There is no minimum wage for informal work agreements. The government effectively enforced wage laws but penalties were not sufficient to deter violations; there were reports of employers withholding wages or underpaying laborers on informal work agreements, particularly among Ukrainian migrant workers.

The constitution provides every employee the right to statutorily specified days free from work as well as annual paid holidays.

The law defines strict and extensive minimum conditions to protect worker health and safety, and empowers the National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) to supervise and monitor implementation of worker health and safety laws and to close workplaces with unsafe conditions. 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 NLI’s powers are limited to the formal economy; it does not have authority to monitor implementation of worker health and safety laws in the informal economy, private farms, and households.

Resources were inadequate to enforce effectively minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety in the formal or informal sectors. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to deter violations.

According to the inspectorate’s 2017 report, the most frequent labor rights violations concerned failure to pay or delayed payment of wages, failure to pay for overtime work, and failure to sign a labor contract in situations when the job performed constituted regular labor. Most wage payment violations occurred in the services, construction, and processing industries. Seasonal workers were particularly vulnerable to such violations. The national inspectorate’s report did not cover domestic workers because inspectors could only conduct inspections in businesses, not private homes. The second-most common problem was inaccurate timekeeping records for hours worked.

Employers often ignored requirements regarding overtime pay. A large percentage of construction workers and seasonal agricultural laborers from Ukraine and Belarus earned less than the minimum wage. The large size of the informal economy–particularly in the construction and transportation industries–and the low number of government labor inspectors made enforcement of the minimum wage difficult. The Main Statistical Office definition of informal economy includes unregistered employment performed without a formal contract or agreement, and is not counted as a contribution to social security and from which income taxes are not deducted. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 2017 (the latest year for which data were available), approximately 5.4 percent of workforce (880,000 persons) worked in the informal economy.

Trade union leaders stated penalties for employers were not sufficient to deter violations. In the case of serious violations, labor inspectors may submit the case to a court, which may impose a fine of up to 30,000 zloty ($7,600). According to labor laws, persons who maliciously violate the labor rights of employees may face up to two years’ imprisonment. International observers noted that the NLI’s mandate both to confirm the legal status of workers and to monitor working conditions creates a potential conflict of interest.

During the year the NLI continued a public awareness campaign to lower the number of work-related accidents in logging and timber companies and conducted a “Work Legally” public awareness campaign promoting legal employment. In addition, the NLI continued a prevention and information campaign–”Construction Site. No More Accidents!”–that targeted construction companies and included training on work safety standards for employees and employers. During the year the NLI implemented its “Respect Life–Safe Work on Private Farms” campaign and visited many private farms to assess safety conditions and organized a number of competitions for individual farmers.

In the first half of the year, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) reported 37,007 victims of workplace accidents, a decrease of 2,086 from the same period in 2017. The highest number of victims worked in industrial processing, trade, car repairs, the health-service sector, transportation, warehouse management, and construction. The CSO reported 73 work-related deaths during the first six months of the year, in comparison with 93 death accidents during the same period in 2017. The CSO reported most of fatal accidents occurred in construction, industrial processing, and transport. In 2017 the inspectorate investigated 2,479 accidents in which there were deaths or injuries, including 263 workers killed and 924 persons seriously injured. The NLI reported that, as in previous years, most of the fatal accidents occurred in the construction, industrial-processing, transport, farming and forestry, mining, and trade industries. Employers routinely exceeded standards limiting exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise. According to the inspectorate’s 2017 report, inadequate training of employees, the poor quality of job-related risk assessment tools, and inadequate measures by employers to prevent accidents were the leading causes of workplace accidents.

Portugal

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

While the law provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining, several restrictions limit these rights. The rights of police officers and members of the armed forces are limited. The Judiciary Police, the Foreigners and Borders Service, and prison guards may strike; the Public Security Police and the Republican National Guard may not. If a long strike occurs in a sector deemed essential, such as justice, health, energy, or transportation, the government may order strikers back to work for a specified period. Unions considered the list of essential sectors to be overly broad. Unions reported that compulsory conciliation and arbitration as prerequisites to strikes, restrictions on the scope of strikes, and restrictions on the types of strike actions permitted could limit the effectiveness of strikes.

The law requires unions to represent at least 50 percent of workers in a sector for collective bargaining units to be extended beyond the enterprise level. Public-sector employee unions have the right to discuss and consult with their employers on conditions of work, but they do not have the right to negotiate binding contracts. There remained a lack of clarity regarding criteria for union representation in the Permanent Commission for Social Partnerships, a tripartite advisory body. The law names specific unions, rather than giving participation rights to the most representative unions.

The government was generally effective in enforcing these laws. Resources, including inspections and remediation, were adequate. Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

Authorities generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations could generally operate free from government interference. Requirements for enterprise-level bargaining by work councils sometimes prevented local union representatives from bargaining directly on behalf of workers. There were instances of employers undermining strikes using last-minute minimum-service requirements. According to labor union representatives, some workers received threats that union participation would result in negative performance reviews.

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor. The law places responsibility for complying with legal provisions on temporary employment agencies and employers of temporary workers. It provides that the contractor and the developer, company, or farm, as well as the respective managers, administrators, or directors, and companies with which they are connected are jointly liable for violations of the legal provisions relating to the health and safety of temporary workers and are responsible for entitlements, social security contributions, and the payment of the respective fines.

Government resources dedicated to prevention of forced labor, including inspections and remediation, and enforcement of the law remained inadequate, but penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment were sufficiently stringent to deter violations. Convictions remained low, and convicted offenders frequently avoided imprisonment, undercutting enforcement efforts and victim protections, according to NGOs and media. Government efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year included a countrywide awareness campaign and training security forces to identify, flag, and direct victims to assistance services. In 2017 courts convicted and sentenced 11 traffickers for forced labor.

According to the Portuguese Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings, foreign labor trafficking victims were exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, while Portuguese victims were exploited in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service, primarily in Portugal and Spain.

Traffickers subjected children to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The statutory minimum age for employment is 16. The law prohibits the employment of persons younger than 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous. The Working Conditions Authority (ACT) in the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security has primary responsibility for enforcement of the minimum age law, and enforced it effectively in major industries and the service sector. The government effectively enforced the applicable laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Child labor occurred in very limited cases. Children of Romani descent were subjected to forced begging and coerced to commit property crimes (see section 6, Children).

Resources and inspections were adequate. Penalties for violations included imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations.

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, and the government effectively enforced these laws.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. According to the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security, however, women’s average salaries were approximately 17 percent lower than those of men.

In September the government launched a seven million euro ($ eight million) funding program for projects focused on reconciliation and gender equality under the European EEA Grants 2014-21 financial mechanism. According to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the program is the responsibility of the State Secretariat for Citizenship and Equality and is operated by the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality. The program includes one million euros ($1.15 million) in national funds, which is twice the amount of the previous program. The aim is to finance structural projects and initiatives in areas aligned with the National Strategy for Equality and Non-Discrimination 2018-2030 “Portugal + Equal.”

The minimum wage, which covers full-time workers, rural workers, and domestic employees who are 18 years of age and older, was 580 euros ($667) per month. The poverty income level for 2018 was 454 euros ($522) per month per adult.

The legal workday may not exceed 10 hours, and the maximum workweek is 40 hours. In 2016 the government approved a return to the public sector’s traditional 35-hour working week, down from the 40 hours that had become standard in the private sector. There is a maximum of two hours of paid overtime per day and 200 hours of overtime per year, with a minimum of 12 hours’ rest between workdays. Premium pay for overtime worked on a rest day or public holiday is 100 percent; overtime performed on a normal working day is paid at a premium of 50 percent for the first hour and 75 percent for subsequent time worked. Unions raised concerns regarding working hour provisions on flexibility schemes and time banking, which the government noted were designed to make working hours more flexible and increase productivity. Occupational safety and health standards set by ACT were current and appropriate. Information on enforcement of these laws in the small informal economy was not available.

ACT was responsible for enforcement of minimum wage, hours of work, and safety standards in the formal sector, and effectively enforced these measures. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Penalties ranged from fines to prison sentences and were sufficient to deter violations.

Workers have the right to lodge confidential grievances with ACT regarding hazardous conditions or circumstances they believe endanger their health. Inspectors have the right to conduct inspections at any private or public company at any time without warning, and they may shut down a workplace or a business permanently or temporarily if there is imminent danger to the workers’ health or safety. Workers are registered with social security services, whose funds cover their mandatory insurance for occupational diseases and work-related accidents. ACT conducts studies on labor accidents, salaries, and working conditions. It may impose administrative penalties and file lawsuits against employers. It has the right to access company records, files, and archives, and it may provide mediation services to resolve individual or group labor disputes. Labor enforcement tended to be less rigorous in sectors such as construction and agriculture, where most immigrant workers were employed, according to NGOs. ACT reported that there were 115 deaths from work-related accidents in 2017. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

Romania

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent labor unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Unions can affiliate with regional, national, or EU union federations, but may affiliate with only one national organization. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows workers fired for union activity to challenge in court for reinstatement. The law provides for protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining, but unions complained there was little enforcement to protect against violations of these rights.

Civil servants generally have the right to establish and join unions. Employees of the Ministry of National Defense, certain categories of civilian employees of the Ministries of Interior and Justice, judges, prosecutors, intelligence personnel, and senior public servants, including the president, parliamentarians, mayors, prime minister, ministers, employees involved in security-related activities, and president of the Supreme Court, however, do not have the right to unionize. Unions complained about the requirement that they submit lists of union members with their registration application. Since employers also had access to the list, union officials feared this could lead to reprisals against individual unionized employees, particularly dismissals, hindering the formation of new unions.

Unions may strike only if they give employers 48 hours’ notice, and employers can challenge the right in court, effectively suspending a strike for months. Military personnel and certain categories of staff within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, such as medical personnel, are not permitted to strike. Although not compulsory, unions and employers can seek arbitration and mediation from the Ministry of Labor’s Office for Mediation and Arbitration. Companies may claim damages from strike organizers if a court deems a strike illegal. The law permits strikes only in defense of workers’ economic, social, and professional interests and not for the modification or change of a law. As a result, workers may not challenge any condition of work established by law, such as salaries for public servants, limiting the effectiveness of unions in the public sector.

Unions complained that the legal requirement for representativeness, which states that the right to collective bargaining and to strike can be asserted only by a union that represents 50 percent plus one of the workers in an enterprise, is overly burdensome and limits the rights of workers to participate in collective bargaining and to strike. In the absence of this clear majority, an employer can appoint a worker representative of its choosing to negotiate the agreement. Unions also complained that some companies created separate legal entities to which they transferred employees, thereby preventing them from reaching the threshold for representation.

The law requires employers with more than 21 employees to negotiate a collective labor agreement but provides no basis for national collective labor agreements. Employers refusing to initiate negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement can receive fines. The law permits, but does not impose, collective labor agreements for groups of employers or sectors of activity. The law requires employers to consult with unions on such topics as imposing leave without pay or reducing the workweek due to economic reasons.

Unions complained that the government’s general prohibition on union engagement in political activities was intended to prohibit unions from entering unofficial agreements to support political parties. The law provides for this control due to past abuses by union officials. Unions also complained that authorities could exercise excessive control over union finances, although the government asserts that national fiscal laws apply to all organizations. The International Labor Organization’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations identified fiscal laws as an area of concern.

Union representatives alleged that official reports of incidents of antiunion discrimination remained minimal, as it was difficult to prove legally that employers laid off employees in retaliation for union activities. The CNCD fines employers for antiunion discrimination, although it lacked the power to order reinstatement or other penalties. In 2017 the CNCD issued fines in 18 cases involving access to employment and profession, which includes antiunion discrimination and collective bargaining agreement infringement. The law prohibits public authorities, employers, or organizations from interfering, limiting, or preventing unions from organizing, developing internal regulations, and selecting representatives. Possible fines range from 15,000 to 20,000 lei ($3,800 to $5,000), but in recent years the Labor Inspectorate, which also has jurisdiction over discrimination claims, had not applied such sanctions. The potential fines were insufficient to deter violations, and employees must usually seek judicial remedies to order reinstatement.

The government and employers generally respected the right of association and collective bargaining, and union officials stated that registration requirements stipulated by law were complicated but generally reasonable.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, there were reports that such practices continued to occur, often involving Roma, disabled persons, and children. The government did not effectively enforce the law and took limited measures to prevent forced or compulsory labor. The law criminalizes forced labor with penalties ranging from one to three years’ imprisonment, exploitation for beggary with penalties ranging from six months’ to five years’ imprisonment, and enslavement with penalties of imprisonment for three to 10 years. These penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 79 of the 662 victims of trafficking officially identified in 2017 were exploited specifically for labor purposes. Of these, 42 were trafficked for agricultural work. Appeals courts in Arges County affirmed the convictions of seven defendants sentenced to between four and eight years in prison for their roles in a forced labor case in Berevoiesti. In 2016 the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) uncovered a human trafficking ring that had forced its kidnapped victims, including children, into beggary, slavery, and other forms of forced labor. The captors allegedly kept the victims locked and chained, beat them, and forced them to work.

In October 2017 DIICOT uncovered a group of three citizens who had exploited minors and vulnerable adults for work at a mountain sheep hold on three separate occasions. The victims suffered abuse and assault and had their cell phones taken away. One victim escaped by walking nearly 18 miles back to his hometown.

Men, women, and children were subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing. Organized rings, often involving family members, forced persons, including significant numbers of Romani women and children, to engage in begging and petty theft (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for most forms of employment is 16. Children may work with the consent of parents or guardians at age 15 if the activities do not endanger their health, morality, or safety. The law prohibits persons younger than age 18 from working in hazardous conditions, includes a list of dangerous jobs, and specifies penalties for offenders. Some examples of hazardous jobs for children include those posing a high risk of accident or damage to health, exposure to psychological or sexual risk, night shifts, exposure to harmful temperatures, and those requiring use of hazardous equipment. Parents whose children carry out hazardous activities are required to attend parental education programs or counseling and may be fined between 100 and 1,000 lei ($25 and $250) if they fail to do so. Persons or companies who employ children for hazardous tasks may be fined 500 to 1,500 lei ($125 to $375).

Minors who work have the right to continue their education, and the law obliges employers to assist in this regard. Minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may work a maximum of six hours per day and no more than 30 hours per week, provided their school attendance is not affected. Businesses that impose tasks incommensurate with minors’ physical abilities or fail to respect restrictions on minors’ working hours can face fines of up to 6,000 lei ($1,500). Many minors reportedly did not attend school while working. Minors have the right to an additional three days of annual leave.

The law requires schools to notify social services immediately if children miss class to work, but schools often did not comply. Social welfare services have the responsibility to reintegrate such children into the educational system.

Penalties for violation of child labor laws include sentences ranging from one to two years’ imprisonment or fines. Violations were rarely prosecuted, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Labor may impose fines and close businesses where it finds exploitation of child labor. The National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption (ANPFDC) in the Labor Ministry has responsibility for investigating reports of child labor abuse, but enforcement of child labor laws tended to be lax, especially in rural areas with many agricultural households and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address child labor violations.

The ANPFDC is responsible for monitoring and coordinating all programs for the prevention and elimination of child labor. Government efforts focused on reacting to reported cases, and the ANPFDC dedicated limited resources to prevention programs. According to the ANPFDC, 356 children were subject to child labor in 2017. The incidence of child labor was widely believed to be much higher than official statistics reflected. Child labor, including begging, selling trinkets on the street, and washing windshields, remained widespread in Romani communities, especially in urban areas. Children as young as five engaged in such activities, and cases were usually documented only when police became involved. Of the 356 documented cases of child labor in 2017, authorities prosecuted only 14 alleged perpetrators.

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation because of race, sex, gender, age, religion, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive or other communicable disease status, social status, or refugee or stateless status. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, reacting to claims of discrimination rather than adequately engaging in programs to prevent discrimination. Although the CNCD and the Labor Inspectorate investigated reported cases of discrimination, penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The penalties for discrimination include fines of between 1,000 and 30,000 lei ($250 and $7,500) for discrimination against an individual, or between 2,000 and 100,000 lei ($500 and $25,000) for discrimination targeting a group of individuals or a community.

Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, and HIV status. Discrimination against Roma and migrant workers also occurred. In 2017 the CNCD processed 273 discrimination cases with respect to employment. The CNCD addressed cases in both the public and private sectors.

According to Eurostat, the pay gap between men and women in the country was 5.2 percent in 2016. While the law provides female employees re-entering the workforce after maternity leave the right to return to their previous or a similar job, pregnant women and other women of childbearing age could still suffer unacknowledged discrimination in the labor market.

Although systematic discrimination against persons with disabilities did not exist, the public at large had a bias against those with disabilities. NGOs worked actively to change attitudes and assist persons with disabilities to gain skills and employment, but the government lacked adequate programs to prevent discrimination. A government ordinance that took effect in September 2017 includes a provision requiring companies or institutions with more than 50 employees to employ workers with disabilities for at least 4 percent of their workforce or pay a fine for lack of compliance. Before the ordinance was adopted, the law allowed companies not in compliance with the quota to fulfill their legal obligation by buying products from NGOs or firms, known as “sheltered units,” where large numbers of disabled persons were employed. NGOs reported that sheltered units lost an important source of income as a result.

In 2016 the LGBTI rights group ACCEPT received reports of eight cases of employment discrimination against LGBTI persons and guided the complainants in possible courses of action. One case was resolved after the complainant filed an internal complaint with the employer in June; three other individuals refused to appeal to the CNCD or the courts due to concerns about further harassment, preferring settlements with their employers.

The law provides for a national minimum wage that is greater than the official estimate for the poverty income level. The minimum wage more than doubled in nominal terms since 2012, rising from 700 lei ($186) to 1,900 lei ($505) during the year. Authorities enforced wage laws adequately, although a significant informal economy existed. According to Eurostat data, in 2017 more than a third of the population (35.7 percent) was at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Despite minimum wage increases, nearly one in five employed Romanians (18.9 percent) was at risk of poverty.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or five days. Workers are entitled to overtime pay for weekend or holiday work or work of more than 40 hours. An employee’s workweek may not exceed 48 hours per week on average over a four-month reference period, although certain exceptions are allowed for certain sectors or professions. The law requires a 48-hour rest period in the workweek, although most workers received two days off per week. During reductions in workplace activity for economic or technical reasons, the law allows employers to shorten an employee’s workweek and reduce the associated salary. Excessive overtime may lead to fines for employers if workers file a complaint, but complaints were rare. The law prohibits compulsory overtime.

The law gives employers wide discretion regarding the performance-based evaluation of employees. The law permits 90-day probationary periods for new employees and simplifies termination procedures during this period.

The law provides for temporary and seasonal work and sets penalties for work performed without a labor contract in either the formal or the informal economy. The fine for employers using undeclared workers is 20,000 lei ($5,000) for each individual working without a labor contract, up to a maximum of 200,000 lei ($50,000). The maximum duration of a temporary contract 36 months, in accordance with EU regulations.

The Ministry of Labor, through the Labor Inspectorate, is responsible for enforcing the law on working conditions, health and safety, and minimum wage rates. The inspectorate was understaffed and inspectors underpaid; consequently, the inspectorate had high turnover and limited capacity. Minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health standards were not effectively enforced in all sectors. The construction, agriculture, and small manufacturers sectors were particularly problematic sectors for both labor underreporting and neglecting health and safety standards. The Labor Inspectorate identified 5,609 undeclared workers in 2017 and fined employers 45.7 million lei ($11.5 million). Through June the Labor Inspectorate identified 4,940 undeclared workers and fined employers 64.6 million lei ($16.2 million).

According to trade union reports, many employers paid supplemental salaries under the table to reduce both employees’ and employers’ tax burdens. To address underreported labor, in 2017 the government increased the minimum required payroll taxes that employers must pay for their part-time employees to equal those of a full-time employee earning minimum wage. In addition the Labor Inspectorate collaborated with the National Authority for Fiscal Administration to conduct joint operations to check employers in sectors prone to underreported labor, including the textile, construction, security, cleaning, food preparation, transportation, and storage industries. These investigations often focused on underpayment of taxes rather than workers’ rights.

The government did not effectively enforce overtime standards. Union leaders complained that overtime violations were the main problem facing their members, since employers often required employees to work longer than the legal maximum without always receiving mandatory overtime compensation. This practice was especially prevalent in the textile, banking and finance, and construction sectors. In August employees in a wiring and cable factory in Arges County complained about work conditions and practices, including insufficient breaks and mistreatment by management. Penalties for violating overtime standards ranged from 5,000 lei ($1,250) to 10,000 lei ($2,500). Fines of 20,000 lei ($5,000) were imposed for not respecting provisions regarding special compensation or leave for national holidays.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for establishing occupational health and safety standards, and the Labor Inspectorate inspects employers for compliance with regulations. The high number of violations suggested that the penalties did not deter abuses. In 2017 inspectors focusing on workplace safety conducted 56,629 inspections, imposed 76,154 fines, and applied sanctions ranging from remedial recommendations to workplace or equipment suspension. Workers could remove themselves from situations they deemed dangerous to their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Not all workplace accidents are investigated by labor inspectors. Companies investigated minor incidents, while labor inspectors investigated more severe ones, typically those that resulted in fatalities or in multiple injuries. If appropriate, incidents may be referred for criminal investigation. Union leaders stated that labor inspectors only superficially investigated workplace accidents, including ones involving fatalities, and inspectors often wrongly concluded that the victims were at fault in most fatal accidents.

Russia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that workers may form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not require employers to reinstate workers fired due to their union activity. The law prohibits reprisals against striking workers. Unions must register with the Federal Registration Service, often a cumbersome process that included lengthy delays and convoluted bureaucracy. The grounds on which trade union registration may be denied are not defined and can be arbitrary or unjustified. Active members of the military, civil servants, customs workers, judges and prosecutors, and persons working under civil contracts are excluded from the right to organize. The law requires labor unions to be independent of government bodies, employers, political parties, and NGOs.

The law places several restrictions on the right to bargain collectively. For example, only one collective bargaining agreement is permitted per enterprise, and only a union or group of unions representing at least one-half the workforce may bargain collectively. The law allows workers to elect representatives if there is no union. The law does not specify who has authority to bargain collectively when there is no trade union in an enterprise.

The labor code prohibits strikes in the military and emergency response services. It also prohibits strikes in essential public-service sectors, including utilities and transportation, and strikes that would threaten the country’s defense, safety, and the life and health of its workers. The law also prohibits some nonessential public servants from striking and imposes compulsory arbitration for railroad, postal, and municipal workers as well as other public servants in roles other than law enforcement.

Union members must follow extensive legal requirements and engage in consultations with employers before acquiring the right to strike. According to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, the legal preparation for a strike takes at least 40 days. Solidarity strikes and strikes on issues related to state policies are illegal, as are strikes that do not respect the onerous time limits, procedures, and requirements mandated by law. Employers may hire workers to replace strikers. Workers must give prior notice of the following aspects of a proposed strike: a list of the differences of opinion between the parties that triggered the strike; the date and time at which the strike will start, its duration and the number of anticipated participants; the name of the body that is leading the strike and the representatives authorized to participate in the conciliation procedures; and proposals for the minimum service to be provided during the strike. In the event a declared strike is ruled illegal and takes place, courts may confiscate union property to cover employers’ losses.

The Federal Labor and Employment Service (RosTrud) regulates employer compliance with labor laws and is responsible for “controlling and supervising compliance with labor laws and other legal acts which deal with labor norms” by employers. Several state agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Service for Labor and Employment, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for enforcing the law. These agencies, however, frequently failed to enforce the law, and violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining were common. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Employers frequently engaged in reprisals against workers for independent union activity, including threatening to assign them to night shifts, denying benefits, and blacklisting or firing them. Although unions were occasionally successful in court, in most cases managers who engaged in antiunion activities did not face penalties.

On January 10, a court in St. Petersburg ruled to liquidate the “Worker’s Association” Interregional Labor Union, in the first-ever application of the country’s “foreign agents” law to a labor union. The St. Petersburg offices of the Justice Ministry and Federal Tax Service claimed the organization engaged in political activity and received foreign funding. Media reported that prosecutors alleged the union received more than 32 million rubles ($480,000) from a Swiss-based international union federation to train members. On May 22, however, the Supreme Court overturned the decision and restored the union’s legal status.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor but allows for it as a penal sentence, in some cases as prison labor contracted to private enterprises.

The government was generally effective in enforcing laws against forced labor, but gaps remained in protecting migrant laborers, particularly from North Korea. Migrant forced labor occurred in the construction and service industries, logging industry (timber), textile shops, brick making, and the agricultural sector (see section 7.c.). Migrant workers at times experienced exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, nonpayment for services rendered, physical abuse, and extremely poor living conditions.

Under a state-to-state agreement in effect since 2009, North Korean citizens worked in the country in a variety of sectors, including the logging and construction industries in the Far East. As of 2016 the Federal State Statistics Service, citing GAMI numbers, reported 30,000 North Korean workers were in the country, many of whom worked under conditions of forced labor. Press reports indicated North Korean laborers helped build a new soccer stadium in St. Petersburg used in the World Cup soccer tournament held during the year, a project on which at least one laborer died. Two North Korean laborers died in central Moscow in July while working on a luxury apartment complex, and independent reports characterized as consistent with forced labor conditions in the logging camps in the country’s Far East that employed North Korean laborers.

Authorities failed to screen departing North Korean workers for human trafficking and indications of forced labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 16 in most cases and regulates the working conditions of children younger than age 18. The law permits children to work at the age of 14 under certain conditions and with the approval of a parent or guardian. Such work must not threaten the child’s health or welfare. The labor code lists occupations restricted for children younger than age 18, including work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, underground work, or jobs that might endanger a child’s health and moral development.

RosTrud is responsible for inspecting enterprises and organizations to identify violations of labor and occupational health standards for minors. The government did enforce the law, but violations, such as employing child labor, were at times classified as administrative matters and punished with insufficient fines, doing little to deter future violations.

Child labor was uncommon, but it could occur in brick making, the timber industry, and the informal service, construction, and retail sectors. Some children, both Russian and foreign, were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced participation in the production of pornography (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 does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, gender identity, or disability. Although the country placed a general ban on discrimination, the government did not effectively enforce the law.

Discrimination based on gender in compensation, professional training, hiring, and dismissal was common. Employers often preferred to hire men to save on maternity and child-care costs and to avoid the perceived unreliability associated with women with small children. Such discrimination was often very difficult to prove, although NGOs reported several successful lawsuits in St. Petersburg against companies for wrongful termination of women on maternity leave.

A 2013 law prohibits employer discrimination in posting job vacancy information. It also prohibits employers from requesting workers with specific gender, race, nationality, address registration, age, and other factors unrelated to personal skills and competencies. Notwithstanding the law, vacancy announcements sometimes specified gender and age requirements, and some also specified a desired physical appearance.

According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, courts often ruled in favor of employees filing complaints, but the sums awarded were inconsequential. Many employees preferred not to spend the money and time to take legal action.

The labor code restricts women’s employment in jobs with “harmful or dangerous conditions or work underground, except in nonphysical jobs or sanitary and consumer services,” and forbids women’s employment in “manual handling of bulk weights that exceed the limits set for their handling.”

The labor code includes hundreds of tasks prohibited for women and includes restrictions on women’s employment in mining, manufacturing, and construction. The World Economic Forum’s publication, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015, based on the country’s annual statistics report, documented a widespread gender pay gap and noted that, while women were close to parity in senior business roles, women predominated in low-paying jobs in education, the health-care industry, and low-level sales positions. On average women earned 72.6 percent of salaries for men, notwithstanding that 85 percent of women had completed some form of higher education compared with 68 percent of men.

The law requires applicants to undergo mandatory medical screenings when entering into a labor agreement or when enrolling at educational institutions. The medical commission can restrict or prohibit access to jobs and secondary or higher education if they find signs of physical or mental issues. Persons with disabilities were subject to employment discrimination. Companies with 35 to 100 employees have an employment quota of 1 to 3 percent for persons with disabilities, while those with more than 100 employees have a 2- to 4-percent quota. Some local authorities and private employers continued to discourage persons with disabilities from working. Inadequate workplace access for persons with disabilities limited their work opportunities.

Many migrants regularly faced discrimination and hazardous or exploitative working conditions. Union organizers faced employment discrimination, limits on workplace access, and pressure to give up their union membership.

Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was a problem, especially in the public sector and education. Employers fired LGBTI persons for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or public activism in support of LGBTI rights. If they expected to be fired, some LGBTI persons chose to resign preemptively to avoid having their future prospects hindered by a dismissal on their resumes. Primary and secondary school teachers were often the targets of such pressure due to the law’s focus on so-called propaganda targeted at minors (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Persons with HIV/AIDS were prohibited from working in some areas of medical research and medicine.

In September, as part of broader pension reform, amendments to the criminal code were adopted to establish criminal liability for employers who dismiss workers due to approaching pension age.

The monthly minimum wage increased to the official “subsistence” level of 11,163 rubles ($170) on May 1, and it will be regularly revised to keep pace with the increase in the subsistence minimum income. Some local governments enacted minimum wage rates higher than the national rate.

Nonpayment of wages is a criminal offense and is punishable by fines, compulsory labor, or imprisonment. Federal law provides for administrative fines of employers who fail to pay salaries and sets progressive compensation scales for workers affected by wage arrears. The government did not effectively enforce the law and nonpayment or late payment of wages remained widespread. According to Rosstat, as of October wage arrears amounted to 3.1 billion rubles ($48.4 million).

According to Novaya Gazeta, 60 coalminers in the TransBaikal region began a hunger strike in June for nonpayment of wages.

The labor code contains provisions for standard workhours, overtime, and annual leave. The standard workweek cannot exceed 40 hours. Employers may not request overtime work from pregnant women, workers younger than age 18, and other categories of employees specified by federal laws. Standard annual paid leave is 28 calendar days. Employees who perform work involving harmful or dangerous labor conditions and employees in the Far North regions receive additional annual paid leave. Organizations have discretion to grant additional leave to employees.

The labor code stipulates that payment for overtime must be at least 150 percent for the first two hours and not less than 200 percent after that. At an employee’s request, overtime may be compensated by additional holiday leave. Overtime work cannot exceed four hours in a two-day period or 120 hours in a year for each employee. The law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and worker health, but does not explicitly allow workers to remove themselves from hazardous workplaces without threat to their employment. The law entitles foreigners working legally to the same rights and protections as citizens.

Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate to the main industries. Government inspectors are responsible for enforcement and generally applied the law in the formal sector. Serious breaches of occupational safety and health provisions are criminal offenses. Experts generally pointed to prevention of these offenses, rather than adequacy of available punishment, as the main challenge to protection of worker rights. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law in all sectors. RosTrud, the agency that enforces the provisions, noted that state labor inspectors needed additional professional training and additional inspectors to enforce consistent compliance.

According Rosstat, in 2016 a total of 21.2 percent of the labor force was employed in the informal economy, up from 20.5 percent in 2015 and the highest percentage since 2006. Rosstat defined the informal economy as enterprises not registered as legal companies, including persons who were self-employed or worked for an “individual entrepreneur.” Employment in the informal sector was concentrated in the southern regions. The largest share of laborers in the informal economy was concentrated in the trade, construction, and agricultural sectors, where workers were more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions. Labor migrants worked in low-quality jobs in construction but also in housing, utilities, agriculture, and retail trade sectors, often informally.

No national-level information was available on the number of workplace accidents or fatalities during the year. According to Rosstat, in 2015 approximately 28,200 workers were injured in industrial accidents, including 1,290 deaths.

According to HRW at least 21 workers died from work-related accidents at World Cup soccer tournament construction sites. Many suffered from severe working conditions, including lack of proper safety equipment, freezing temperatures, and threats of termination for complaining. Some workers either did not receive employment contracts or received them late, and some went unpaid for months.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Section 7. Worker Rights

The 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, which can negotiate better wages and benefits for union members and the right to strike. The law permits the police, civil service, and organizations such as hotels, construction workers, and small businesses to organize staff associations. Some staff associations have bargaining powers and dispute settlement rights; associations do not have collective bargaining rights but may negotiate or represent members. Employers generally recognized a union if a majority of workers voted to organize, although they are not legally obliged to recognize a union.

In practice, but not by law, there were restrictions on strikes by workers who provide essential services, such as the police and civil servants. A union that obtains membership of more than 50 percent of employees at a company may apply for the employer to recognize it for collective bargaining. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not require employers found guilty of such action to rehire employees fired for union activities. In case of termination, the government pays lost wages and severance pay to workers employed at least one year, based upon their length of service. Civil servants do not receive severance pay, but auxiliary workers, such as public works employees, do. The International Labor Organization Committee of Experts reported in 2015 that workers do not receive adequate protection against all acts of antiunion discrimination at the time of recruitment and throughout the course of employment.

Freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively generally were respected in practice. The law does not prescribe remedies for labor law violations, and the Ministry of Labor did not provide information on the adequacy of resources, inspections, and penalties for violations. Penalties were outdated and fines insufficient to deter violations. The Department of Labor provided employers with training on their rights and responsibilities during the year.

The constitution prohibits slavery, servitude, and forced labor. The Ministry of Labor, however, did not provide information on the adequacy of resources, inspections, remediation, penalties for violations, and sufficiency of such penalties.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum age for work at 16. Prohibitions do not apply to family businesses, and children ages 16 and 17 appear to lack legal protections from employment in dangerous conditions. The law permits employment of youth between the ages of 16 and 18 years with regular hours, except in certain industries related to the hotel and entertainment sectors, where their employment is restricted. The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and a Special Victims Unit has been created by the police and Child Protections Services agency to carry out investigations on the worst forms.

Most children under the age of 16 years who engaged in employment worked after school in shops and supermarkets or did light work in the informal sector.

The Ministry of Labor relied heavily on school truancy officers and the Community Affairs Division to monitor compliance, which they did effectively. The ministry reported that investigations were infrequent in the informal sector, and fines and penalties were not always enforced.

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding 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 is subject to a fine of not more than $2,500 XCD ($925). It was doubtful this was sufficient to deter discrimination in and of itself. The government effectively enforced discrimination laws and regulations.

The government set the minimum wage at $9.00 XCD ($3.30) an hour in 2014. The official estimate of the poverty level income was $7,330 XCD ($2,710) for St. Kitts and $9,790 XCD ($3,630) for Nevis per year. The law does not prohibit excessive or compulsory overtime, but policy calls for employers to inform employees if they will be scheduled to work overtime. Although not required by law, workers 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 Labor Commission settles disputes over occupational safety and health conditions. The office was underresourced, and labor officers were unspecialized. The commission undertook wage inspections and special investigations when it received complaints. It required employers found in violation to pay back up to a maximum of two years’ wages. Eight labor officers served as labor inspectors. Based on anecdotal evidence, the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law. Information on the adequacy of resources, inspections, remediation, penalties for violations, and sufficiency of such penalties was not available.

The Ministry of Labor encouraged enforcement of labor standards in the informal labor sector as well and worked in conjunction with the Social Security Office to have those in the informal sector register their businesses and become self-employed. The labor commissioner reported that this outreach led to an increase in registered businesses. Once a business is officially registered, employees begin to receive benefits along with regular inspections.

Data on workplace fatalities and other accidents were unavailable.

Saint Lucia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law specifies the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and strike. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination, and workers fired for union activity have the right to reinstatement.

The law places restrictions on the right to strike by members of the police and fire departments, health services, and utilities (electricity, water, and telecommunications) on the grounds that these organizations provide “essential services.” They must give 30 days’ notice before striking. Once workers have given notice, authorities usually refer the matter to an ad hoc labor tribunal set up under the Essential Services Act. The government selects tribunal members following rules to ensure tripartite representation. These ad hoc tribunals try to resolve disputes through mandatory arbitration.

The law provides effective remedies and penalties, but investigation and prosecution of labor standards violations was insufficient.

The government generally respected freedom of association, while employers generally respected the right to collective bargaining. Workers exercised the right to strike and bargain collectively.

The government prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and effectively enforced the prohibition. Forced labor violations can result in fines of up to XCD 10,000 ($3,700), imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both. The Countertrafficking Act prohibits trafficking for forced labor, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, fines of up to XCD 100,000 ($37,000), or both. Penalties that allow for imposition of fines were not sufficiently stringent to deter violations. The government did not have written procedures to guide officials on the proactive identification and referral of trafficking victims.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law provides for a minimum legal working age of 15, once a child has finished the school year. The minimum legal age for industrial work is 18. The law provides special protections for workers younger than 18 regarding working conditions and prohibits hazardous work, although there are no specific restrictions on working hours for those under 18. There is no comprehensive list of what constitutes hazardous work; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act prohibits children under 18 from working in industrial undertakings, including using machinery and working in extreme temperatures. Children ages 15 to 18 need a parent’s permission to work.

The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy, and Labor is responsible for enforcing statutes regulating child labor. These laws were effectively enforced, and the penalties were adequate to deter violations.

There were no formal reports of violations of child labor laws. Child labor was uncommon (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 and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, color, sex, religion, national extraction, social origin, ethnic origin, political opinion or affiliation, age, disability, serious family responsibility, pregnancy, marital status, or HIV/AIDS but not sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits termination of employment for sexual orientation. Civil society groups received reports of LGBTI persons being denied jobs or leaving jobs due to a hostile work environment. There are no specific penalties for discrimination, but discrimination is covered under the general penalties section of the labor code that provide for one year’s imprisonment, a fine of XCD 5,000 ($1,850), or both. The government effectively enforced applicable law. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The law provides for a minimum wage for some sectors, including office clerks, shop assistants, and messengers. On average the sector-specific minimum wages were below the official poverty income level.

The legislated workweek is 40 hours with a maximum of eight hours per day. Special legislation covers work hours for shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestic workers, and workers in industrial establishments. Labor laws, including occupational health and safety standards, apply to all workers whether in the formal or informal sectors.

The labor code provides penalties for violations of labor standards of up to XCD 10,000 ($3,700) or two years’ imprisonment. The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy, and Labor is charged with monitoring violations of labor law. Employers generally were responsive to ministry requests to address labor code violations, and authorities rarely levied fines. Eight compliance officers monitored compliance with pension standards and standards governing terminations, vacation and sick leave, contracts, and hours of work. There were no reported violations of wage laws. Labor unions did not routinely report such violations, and most categories of workers received much higher wages based on prevailing market conditions. There were no reported workplace fatalities or major accidents.

The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are current and appropriate. There was one OSH inspector and one OSH consultant; the nine labor inspectors also assisted with occupational and safety standard inspections. The number of inspectors was not adequate to enforce compliance, but the labor ministry had an active OSH compliance program and closed multiple offices during the year for failing to meet OSH standards. Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. OSH violations most commonly occurred in government offices and call centers. The ministry reported workers in the construction sector sometimes faced hazardous working conditions. Most overtime and wage violations occurred in this sector. The government does not legally define or collect statistics on the informal economy.

Sao Tome and Principe

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. While the law recognizes the right to collective bargaining, there are no regulations governing this right. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination or acts of interference committed by employers against trade unions. While the law provides for the right to strike, including by government employees and other essential workers, this right is strictly regulated. The provisions regulating strikes require a majority of workers to call a strike, and replacement workers may be hired without consultation with trade unions to perform essential services in the event the enterprise is threatened by a strike. The law does not provide a list of specific minimum or essential services. In the event of disagreement in determining what constitutes a “minimum service,” the employer and the workers’ union arrive at a decision on a case-by-case basis through negotiation (instead of through an independent body). The law also requires compulsory arbitration for services, including postal, banking, and loan services. The law does not prohibit retaliation against strikers.

The government effectively enforced the law. Both the government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations were restricted in some sectors but generally were independent of government and political parties. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Workers’ collective bargaining rights remained relatively weak due to the government’s role as the principal employer in the formal wage sector and key interlocutor for organized labor on all matters, including wages. The two labor unions–the General Union of Workers of Sao Tome and Principe and the National Organization of Workers of Sao Tome and Principe–negotiated with the government on behalf of their members as needed. There were no reported attempts by unions or workers to negotiate collective agreements during the year.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The government did not have sufficient capacity to undertake all inspections and enforcement operations. There were no reports of forced or compulsory labor, or evidence that such practices occurred.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law protects children from exploitation in the formal sector. The minimum employment age is 18 for full-time work. The law sets the minimum age for nonhazardous work at 14, but the types of hazardous work prohibited for children are not comprehensive, inhibiting effective enforcement. The law allows minors between ages 14 and 17 to work up to 35 hours per week, provided employers permit them to attend school.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the government had limited enforcement capacity. Penalties for violations of child labor law include fines and the loss of operating licenses, and these penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The government conducted a media campaign aimed at preventing child labor. The Ministry of Education mandates compulsory school attendance through the sixth grade, and the government granted some assistance to several thousand low-income families to keep their children in school.

Employers in the formal wage sector generally respected the legally mandated minimum employment age. Exceptions include apprentice-type work such as car repair and carpentry; some employers abused this status. Children worked in informal commerce, including street work. Children also commonly performed agricultural and domestic activities such as washing clothes or childcare to help their parents, which is not prohibited under the law.

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 occupation based on race, sex, and religious belief. Additionally, the constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination based on political affiliation, social origin, and philosophical conviction. The law, however, does not prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation based on color, age, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases. There were anecdotal instances of discrimination against HIV-positive employees, and advocacy groups conducted awareness campaigns to address discrimination.

There were no reports of gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 6, Women). The law allows women to request permission to retire at age 57 or older and men at age 62 but does not oblige them to do so. During the year there were no reports the government subjected women to discriminatory early termination from employment.

The law does not distinguish between migrant workers and citizens in terms of protections, wages, and working conditions.

In January 2017 the government established a national minimum wage of 1,300 dobras ($65) per month. The legal minimum wage for civil servants was also 1,300 dobras ($65) per month. The legal workweek is 40 hours, with 48 consecutive hours per week mandated for rest. According to law workers earn 22 days of annual leave per year. Shopkeepers who wish to keep their stores open longer may ask for an exception, which if granted requires them to pay their workers overtime or have them work in shifts. The law provides for compensation for overtime work and prescribes basic occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. The law specifies occupations in which civil servants may work second jobs.

Working two or more jobs was common. Working conditions on many of the largely family-owned cocoa farms–the largest informal economic sector–were unregulated and harsh, with long hours for workers and limited protection from the sun.

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs are responsible for enforcement of appropriate OSH standards. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ labor inspectors were insufficient in number to address its normal caseload. They did not monitor labor conditions sufficiently, and enforcement of the standards seldom occurred. Department of Labor inspectors lacked the necessary financial and human resources, as well as basic equipment, to conduct regular inspections. Reliable data on workplace fatalities or accidents was not available. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities had limited inspection capacity to ensure this right was respected. Since the government is the largest employer, it sets the standards on hours of work and effectively enforced OSH standards in the public sector. Approximately one-third of the labor force worked in the informal sector, where laws were not strictly enforced due to limited resources.

Working conditions in the agricultural sector were sometimes hazardous because the sector lacked investment and all work was manual. Salaries were low, although workers also received payment in kind. Most farms were family-owned, consisting of small parcels distributed by the government. Less hazardous working conditions existed for those who worked in domestic households.

Saudi Arabia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions. The law does not provide for the right to collective bargaining or the right to conduct legal strikes. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination or require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government did not respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. There were no labor unions in the country, and workers faced potential dismissal, imprisonment, or, in the case of migrant workers, deportation for union activities.

The government allowed citizen-only labor committees in workplaces with more than 100 employees, but it placed undue limitations on freedom of association and was heavily involved in the formation and activities of these committees. For example, the ministry approves the committee members and authorizes ministry and employer representatives to attend committee meetings. Committee members must submit the minutes of meetings to management and then transmit them to the minister; the ministry can dissolve committees if they violate regulations or are deemed to threaten public security. Regulations limit committees to making recommendations to company management regarding only improvements to working conditions, health and safety, productivity, and training programs. In October 2017 the NSHR said it registered 289 labor-related complaints in 2016-17 that it sought to resolve through settlements.

On April 15, Riyadh Governor Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al Saud warned against illegal assemblies by workers to protest delayed salaries. He advised that foreign workers should seek recourse from the offices of provincial governors and legal processes, and he reiterated the importance of both employers’ and employees’ abiding by their contractual obligations.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce legal protections for migrant workers. Forced labor occurred, especially among migrant workers–notably domestic servants. Conditions indicative of forced labor experienced by foreign workers included withholding of passports, nonpayment of wages, restrictions on movement, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Labor law prohibits the confiscation of passports and nonpayment of wages. Violations of labor laws resulted in fines of up to one million riyals ($267,000), prison terms up to 15 years, and restrictions on the entity’s ability to recruit foreign workers. Many noncitizen workers, particularly domestic employees not covered under the labor law, were unable to exercise their right to end their contractual work. An employer may require a trainee to work for him or her upon completion of training for a period not to exceed twice the duration of the training or one year, whichever is longer.

Restrictive sponsorship laws increased workers’ vulnerability to forced labor conditions and made many foreign workers reluctant to report abuse. The contract system does not allow workers to change employers or leave the country without the written consent of the employer under normal circumstances. If wages are withheld for 90 days, a ministerial decree permits an employee to transfer his or her sponsorship to a new employer without obtaining prior approval from the previous employer. There were reports, however, that the Ministry of Labor and Social Development did not always approve petitions to transfer sponsorship due to withheld wages, including some cases in which wages had been withheld for more than three months. During the year numerous migrant workers reported being laid off, sometimes after months of nonpayment of salaries. Some remained stranded in the country because they were unable to pay required exit visa fees. A few countries that previously allowed their citizens to migrate to the country for work prohibited their citizens from seeking work there after widespread reports of worker abuse.

The government continued implementation of the Wage Protection System (WPS), which requires employers to pay foreign workers through bank transfers, thereby allowing the ministry to track whether workers were paid appropriately. All employers with more than 10 employees were required to comply with WPS regulations as of August 2017. WPS covers 6.4 million employees. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development fined companies 3,000 riyals ($800) for delaying payment for employees’ salaries on the first occurrence and blocked companies from accessing government services if a company delayed salaries for two or more months.

Throughout the year the government strictly implemented measures to limit the number of noncitizen workers in the country. The government also penalized Hajj tourist agencies that engaged in human trafficking and local companies that abused the country’s visa laws to bring individuals into the country for reasons other than to employ them directly. A smaller number came as religious pilgrims and overstayed their visas. Because of their undocumented status, many persons in the country were susceptible to forced labor, substandard wages, and deportation by authorities.

On February 17, the public prosecutor warned that involvement in trafficking-in-persons crimes carries a fine of up to one million riyals ($267,000), a prison term up to 15 years, or both.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The law provides that no person younger than 15 may legally work unless that person is the sole source of support for the family. Children between the ages of 13 and 15 may work if the job is not harmful to health or growth and does not interfere with schooling. The law provides that hazardous operations or harmful industries may not employ legal minors, and children younger than 18 may not be employed for shifts exceeding six hours a day. There is no minimum age for workers employed in family-owned businesses or other areas considered extensions of the household, such as farming, herding, and domestic service.

The HRC and NSHR are responsible for monitoring enforcement of child labor laws. There was little information on government efforts to enforce relevant laws or actions to prevent or eliminate child labor during the year. Authorities most commonly enforced the law in response to complaints of children begging on the streets.

Most child labor involved children from other countries, including Yemen and Ethiopia, forced into begging rings, street vending, and work in family businesses.

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV-positive status. Discrimination with respect to employment and occupation occurred with respect to all these categories.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development explicitly approved and encouraged the employment of women in specific sectors, particularly in government, but women faced many discriminatory regulations. The first-quarter Labor Market Report by the General Authority for Statistics found that Saudi girls and women (15 years of age and above) constituted 8 percent of the country’s total labor force (Saudi and non-Saudi, 15 years of age and above). The same report estimated that women and girls, both Saudi and foreign, represented 21 percent of all employed persons (15 years of age and above) in the country. Most non-Saudi women were employed as domestic workers. Rules limited the type of work women were allowed to perform and required them to wear a veil. In practice gender segregation continued to take place in the workplace.

There is no regulation requiring equal pay for equal work. In the private sector, the average monthly wage of Saudi women workers was 58 percent of the average monthly wage of Saudi men. Labor dispute settlement bodies did not register any cases of discrimination against women.

Regulations ban women from 24 professions, mostly in heavy industry, but create guidelines for women to telework. Nevertheless, some factories and manufacturing facilities, particularly in Eastern Province, employed men and women, who worked separate shifts during different hours of the day. The law grants women the right to obtain business licenses without the approval of their guardians, and women frequently obtained licenses in fields that might require them to supervise foreign workers, interact with male clients, or deal with government officials. It is illegal for a potential employer to ask a female applicant for her guardian’s permission when she applies for a job. In medical settings and the energy industry, women and men worked together, and in some instances women supervised male employees. Women who work in establishments with 50 or more female employees have the right to maternity leave and child care.

Discrimination with respect to religious beliefs occurred in the workplace. Members of the Shia community complained of discrimination based on their religion and had difficulty securing or being promoted in government positions. Shia were significantly underrepresented in national security-related positions, including the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Guard. In predominantly Shia areas, Shia representation was higher in the ranks of traffic police, municipalities, and public schools. A very small number of Shia occupied high-level positions in government-owned companies and government agencies (see section 3, Participation of Women and Minorities). Shia were also underrepresented in employment in primary, secondary, and higher education.

Discrimination against Asian and African migrant workers occurred (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities). The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue continued programs that sought to address some of these problems and provided training during the year to combat discrimination against national, racial, or ethnic groups. There were numerous cases of assault on foreign workers and reports of worker abuse.

Informal discrimination in employment and occupation occurred on the basis of sex, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation or gender identity.

In November 2017 the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Passports announced a national campaign to identify, arrest, fine, and deport individuals found in violation of the country’s residency laws under the title of “Nation Without Violators.” The campaign began with a 90-day grace period or general amnesty to allow irregular migrants to depart the country “without penalty,” after which authorities extended the grace period in coordination with international organizations. In September the Ministry of Interior stated more than 1.77 million foreign nationals were arrested between November 2017 and September 2018 for violating work, residence, and entry rules. Approximately 449,220 violators were deported during the cited period, according to the ministry. The Human Rights Committee reported that law enforcement agencies had been trained in screening vulnerable populations for human trafficking indicators and the campaign was being carried out in accordance with protections against trafficking in persons.

The monthly minimum wage for public-sector employees was 3,000 riyals ($800) which is above the estimated poverty income level. There was no private-sector minimum wage for foreign workers; as of November 2017, the government did not mandate a general minimum private-sector wage for citizens.

By law a standard workday is eight hours. A standard workweek is 48 hours but can extend to 60 hours, subject to payment of overtime, which is 50 percent more than the basic wage.

An estimated 10 million noncitizens, including approximately 947,000 noncitizen women, made up approximately 76 percent of the labor force, according to the General Authority for Statistics first-quarter Labor Market Report. Legal workers generally negotiated and agreed to work conditions prior to their arrival in the country, in accordance with the contract requirements contained in the labor law.

The law provides penalties of between 500 and 1,000 riyals ($133 and $267) for bringing foreigners into the country to work in any service, including domestic service, without following the required procedures and obtaining a permit.

The labor law provides for regular safety inspections and enables ministry-appointed inspectors to examine materials used or handled in industrial and other operations and to submit samples of suspected hazardous materials or substances to government laboratories. The Ministry of Health’s Occupational Health Service Directorate worked with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development on health and safety matters. Regulations require employers to protect some workers from job-related hazards and disease, although some violations occurred. These regulations did not cover farmers, herdsmen, domestic servants, or workers in family-operated businesses. Foreign nationals privately reported frequent failures to enforce health and safety standards. The ministry employed nearly 1,000 labor inspectors.

The law requires that a citizen or business must sponsor foreign workers in order for them to obtain legal work and residency status, although the requirement exempts Syrian and Yemeni nationals who overstayed their visas. On May 9, however, IOM said 17,000 Yemenis were turned back between January and May due to their immigration status. The ministry-implemented measures allowing noncitizen workers to switch their employer to a new employer or company that employed a sufficient quota of Saudi nationals. Despite these revised measures, some workers were unaware of the new regulations and had to remain with their sponsor until completion of their contract or to seek the assistance of their embassy to return home. There were also instances in which sponsors bringing noncitizen workers into the country failed to provide them with a residency permit, which undermined the workers’ ability to access government services or navigate the court system in the event of grievances. Sponsors with commercial or labor disputes with foreign employees also could ask authorities to prohibit employees from departing the country until the dispute was resolved; however, authorities would not jail or forcibly return fleeing workers who sought to exit the country within a 72-hour period or to coordinate with their embassy for repatriation as long as the employees did not have criminal charges or outstanding fines pending against them.

Bilateral labor agreements set conditions on foreign workers’ minimum wage, housing, benefits including leave and medical care, and other topics. These provisions were not drafted in line with international standards, and they varied depending on the sending country’s relative bargaining power. The labor law and the law against trafficking provide penalties for abuse of such workers.

The government engaged in news campaigns highlighting the plight of abused workers, trained law enforcement and other officials to combat trafficking in persons, and worked with the embassies of labor-sending countries to disseminate information about labor rights to foreign workers. As in previous years, during Ramadan the HRC broadcast a public awareness program on television emphasizing the Islamic injunction to treat employees well.

The government did not always enforce the laws protecting migrant workers effectively. There were credible reports that some migrant workers were employed on terms to which they had not agreed and experienced problems, such as delays in the payment of wages, changes in employer, or changed working hours and conditions. Migrant workers, especially domestic workers, were vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and conditions contravening labor laws, including nonpayment of wages, working for periods in excess of the 48-hour workweek, working for periods longer than the prescribed eight-hour workday, and restrictions on movement due to passport confiscation. There were also reports of physical and verbal abuse. On July 15, local media reported that approximately 50 percent of the companies in the construction sector, which employs an estimated 3.5 million expatriates, failed to pay salaries due to stalled projects dating back to 2016, in addition to the government’s failure to pay money it owed to the companies working on government projects.

There were credible reports that some noncitizen workers, particularly domestic employees, were unable to exercise their right to remove themselves from dangerous situations. Some employers physically prevented workers from leaving or threatened them with nonpayment of wages if they left. Sponsoring employers, who controlled foreign workers’ ability to remain employed and in the country, usually held foreign workers’ passports, a practice prohibited by law. In some contract disputes, a sponsor asked authorities to prevent the employee from leaving the country until resolution of the dispute to coerce the employee into accepting a disadvantageous settlement or risking deportation without any settlement.

On July 18, the ESOHR called on authorities to resolve a five-year labor dispute between Tunisian citizen Jannat bint Shubail bin Nahila and the Ministry of Health and allow her and her family to leave the country. According to ESOHR, the ministry arbitrarily fired Bin Nahila from her job as a nurse at a government health-care center in al-Baha Province, withheld her passport, and banned her from travel until the labor dispute was resolved.

Foreign workers could contact the labor offices of their embassies for assistance. During the year hundreds of domestic workers, the majority of whom were female, sought shelter at their embassies, some fleeing sexual abuse or other violence by their employers. Some embassies maintained safe houses for citizens fleeing situations that amounted to bondage. The workers usually sought legal help from embassies and government agencies to obtain end-of-service benefits and exit visas.

In addition to their embassies, domestic servants could contact the NSHR, HRC, governmental Inter-ministerial General Secretariat to Combat Human Trafficking, and Migrant Workers’ Welfare Department, which provided services to safeguard migrant workers’ rights and protect them from abuse. Workers could also apply to the offices of regional governors and lodge an appeal with the Board of Grievances against decisions by those authorities.

Sierra Leone

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law allows workers in both the public and private sectors to join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, but it prohibits police and members of the armed services from joining unions or engaging in strike actions. The law allows workers to organize but does not prohibit discrimination against union members or prohibit employer interference in the establishment of unions. The government can require that workers provide written notice to police of intent to strike at least 21 days before the planned strike. The law prohibits workers at certain specified public utilities from going on strike. Labor union officials, however, pointed out that public utility workers frequently went on strike (and were in fact among those union employees most likely to strike), the legal prohibition notwithstanding.

The government generally protected the right to collectively bargain. Collective bargaining was widespread in the formal sector, and most enterprises were covered by collective bargaining agreements on wages and working conditions. Although the law protects collective bargaining activity, the law required that it must take place in trade group negotiating councils, each of which must have an equal number of employer and worker representatives. There were no other limits on the scope of collective bargaining or legal exclusions of other particular groups of workers from legal protections.

While labor unions reported that the government generally protected the right of workers in the private sector to form or join unions, the government has never been called upon to enforce applicable laws through regulatory or judicial action.

The government generally respected freedom of association. All unions were independent of political parties and the government. In some cases, however, such as the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union, the union and government had a close working relationship, and the Sierra Leone Labor Congress enjoyed a cordial relationship with the government.

The government did not adopt provisions with sufficiently effective penalties for the protection of workers and workers’ organizations against acts of antiunion discrimination and acts of interference.

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor, including by children. Penalties for both sex and labor trafficking include fines and imprisonment, but enforcement was insufficient to deter violations. Under a provision of the Chiefdom Councils Act, individual chiefs may impose forced labor (compulsory cultivation) as punishment and have done so in the past. Chiefs also required villagers to contribute to the improvement of common areas. There is no penalty for noncompliance.

The government did not effectively enforce the antitrafficking in persons law, hindered by judicial inefficiencies and procedural delays.

Men, women, and child victims of forced labor originated largely from rural provinces within the country and were recruited to urban areas for artisanal and granite mining, petty trading, rock breaking, and begging (see also section 7.c. and section 6, Sexual Exploitation of Children). The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs reported it was aware of trafficking, domestic service, mining, or other activities, but it had no specific data on these forms of forced or compulsory labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law limits child labor, allowing light work at age 13; however, it does not specify the conditions or hours for “light work,” full-time nonhazardous work at 15, and hazardous work at 18. The law states that children younger than age 13 should not be employed in any capacity. Provided they have finished schooling, children age 15 may be apprenticed and employed full time in nonhazardous work. A government policy, however, continues to prohibit girls who were pregnant from attending public school, making them more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. The law also proscribes work by any child younger than age 18 between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.; the law does not limit the number of hours of light work. While the law does not stipulate specific conditions of work, such as health and safety standards, it prohibits children younger than age 18 from being engaged in hazardous work, that is, work that poses a danger to the health, safety, and “morals” of a person, including going to sea; mining and quarrying; porterage of heavy loads; chemicals manufacturing; work in places where machines are used; and work in places such as bars, hotels, and places of entertainment where a child may be exposed to “immoral behavior.” The SLP Criminal Investigations Department reported the arrest of 31 Chinese nationals in northern part of the country for illegal gold mining and for systematically using minors as sex slaves and subjecting boys and men to inhuman working conditions. The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The prohibitions on hazardous work for children do not adequately cover the sectors where child labor is known to occur.

In remote villages, children were forced to carry heavy loads as porters, which contributed to stunted growth and development. There were reports that children whose parents sent them to friends or relatives in urban areas for education were forced to work on the street, where they were involved in street vending, stealing, and begging.

Through August neither the Ministry of Labor and Social Security nor the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources provided training for labor inspectors to monitor child labor. The government did not effectively enforce applicable child labor-related laws, in part due to lack of funding and limited numbers of labor inspectors in areas where child labor is prevalent. The penalty for employing children in hazardous work or violating the age restrictions under the Child Rights Act was not sufficient to deter violations.

Child labor remained a widespread problem and law enforcement was weak. According to the NGO Global Trade Unionist, 71.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working, either in paid or unpaid labor. Children could be found on the streets selling water, groundnuts, cucumbers, and other items. Child labor in the country increased every day. Children engaged in exploitive labor activities, including petty trading, carrying heavy loads, breaking rocks, harvesting sand, begging, diamond mining, deep-sea fishing, agriculture (production of coffee, cocoa, and palm oil), domestic work, commercial sexual exploitation, scavenging for scrap metal and other recyclables, and other age-inappropriate forms of labor under hazardous conditions. Larger companies enforced strict rules against child labor, but it remained a pressing issue in small-scale informal artisanal diamond and gold mining.

As in previous years, many children worked alongside parents or relatives and abandoned educational or vocational training. In rural areas children worked seasonally on family subsistence farms. Children also routinely assisted in family businesses and worked as petty vendors. There were reports that adults asked orphanages for children to work as household help. Because the adult unemployment rate remained high, few children were involved in the industrial sector or elsewhere in the formal economy.

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 most discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, age, language, HIV status or that of other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, or gender identity. NGOs at times expressed concerns that discrimination appeared to occur based on sex, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity with respect to employment and occupation.

As of August 31, there was no information available on whether the government enforced the applicable provisions regarding combatting discrimination at workplaces.

There is a national minimum wage, including in the informal sector, of 500,000 leones ($68) per month, which falls below the basic poverty line in the country. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcing labor laws, including the minimum wage, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

Although not stipulated by law, the standard workweek was 40 hours (60 hours for security personnel). There is no statutory definition of overtime wages to be paid if an employee’s work hours exceeded the standard workweek. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime or a requirement for paid leave or holidays.

Initially, a union can make a formal complaint about a hazardous working condition; if the complaint is rejected, the union may issue a 21-day strike notice. The law also requires employers to provide protective clothing and safety devices to employees whose work involves “risk of personal safety or potential health hazard.” The law protects both foreign and domestic workers. The law does not provide workers with the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and the government took no steps to protect employees who so acted.

The occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations were outdated and under review by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The government did not effectively enforce these standards in all sectors. Although the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with an OSH expert and not the worker, the small number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, labor laws and standards continued to be violated primarily due to lack of resources, corruption, and lack of law enforcement, rather than the deterrent effect, or lack thereof, of the penalties. Minimum wage compliance was particularly difficult to monitor in the informal sector. Most workers supported an extended family. It was common to pool incomes and to supplement wages with subsistence farming and child labor.

Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards were most frequent within the artisanal diamond-mining sector. Violations were common in the case of street vendors and market-stall workers, rock crushers, and day laborers, many of whom migrated to Freetown to seek employment and were vulnerable to exploitation. There were numerous complaints of unpaid wages and lack of attention to injuries sustained on the job, but victims often did not know where to turn for recourse and as a result their complaints went unresolved.

Solomon Islands

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not specifically provide for reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity. The law permits strikes in both the public and private sectors. A notice to the government 28 days prior to a strike is required for strikes to be legal. The government prohibits strikes by civil servants in essential services, but there are procedures in place to provide these workers due process and protect their rights. The government defines essential services as including, but not limited to, the health, public security, aviation, marine, immigration, and disaster-relief sectors. The law does not provide for the rights of workers in the informal sector to organize or to collective bargaining.

Government enforcement of the law was inconsistent; the small penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The penalty for antiunion discrimination was not effective, for example, because employers could afford to pay the fine and easily replace workers. Penalties for illegal strikes, on the other hand, served as a deterrent for employees to strike.

Collective bargaining agreements determined wages and conditions of employment in the formal economy. Disputes between labor and management not settled between the two sides were referred to the Trade Disputes Panel for arbitration, either before or during a strike. While the panel deliberates, employees have protection from arbitrary dismissal or lockout. The three-member panel, composed of a chairperson appointed by the judiciary, a labor representative, and a business representative, is independent and neutral. The panel’s decisions are binding on the parties. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

Workers exercised their rights to associate and bargain collectively, although employers did not always respect these rights. Since only a small percentage of the workforce was in formal-sector employment, employers could easily replace workers if disputes were not resolved quickly.

In February the Solomon Islands Nurses Association issued a strike notice to the government for not honoring a 2008 agreement to improve working conditions. The government agreed to review the agreement, and the union withdrew the strike notice. The Workers Union of Solomon Islands actively negotiated with private employers during the year.

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except as part of a court sentence or order. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The immigration act prohibits transnational forced labor, and the penal code prohibits internal forced labor and prescribes a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment (or 20 years if the victim is a child).

The government typically relied on labor inspectors to report on any instances of forced or compulsory labor during regularly scheduled routine inspections; however, there were not enough inspectors or resources to enforce the laws effectively. The government continued its efforts to monitor and investigate operations at logging companies, although it did not initiate any prosecutions.

There were reports of adults forced to work in logging camps and of children in domestic servitude or service industries. Fishermen have reported situations indicative of labor trafficking, including nonpayment of wages, severe living conditions, violence, and limited food supply on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels in the Solomon Islands’ territorial waters and ports.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits labor by children younger than age 12 years, except light agricultural or domestic work performed in the company of parents, or other labor approved by the commissioner of labor. Children younger than age 18 may not work at night in any industry without specific written permission from the labor commissioner. Girls younger than age 18 may not work on a ship or underground in mines; boys may work on a ship or underground in a mine if they are at least 16 years old, provided they have a medical certificate attesting they are fit for such work. The law bars children younger than age 15 from work in industry or on ships, except aboard training ships for educational purposes. The law does not limit the number of hours a child can work, nor does it clearly set forth a minimum age for hazardous work or delineate the type of work considered hazardous for all children.

The commissioner of labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the resources devoted to investigating child labor cases were inadequate to investigate or deter violations. The law provides for penalties of SBD 5,000 ($605) for any person who contravenes or fails to comply with the law on the employment of children and young persons; there was no information available on the application of such penalties.

Children worked in agriculture, fishing, alluvia mining, as domestic servants, cooks, and in logging camps where conditions often were poor. For example, young girls worked long hours and in isolation as domestic workers in mining camps. In some cases these conditions could amount to forced labor (see section 7.b.). There were reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children (see section 6, Children). Children also assisted in cultivating, distributing, and selling local drugs such as betel nut or marijuana. They were at risk of physical abuse, mental illness, addiction, sexual abuse, and robbery.

According to the Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey, 2 percent of children age five to 11 years and 12 percent of children age 12 to 14 were engaged in paid labor. Paid child labor was more common among female children in urban areas and all children living in rural 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/ .

No laws regarding employment and occupation prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation. Under the Public Service Code of Conduct, public officers have a responsibility to ensure their workplace is “free from harassment, including sexual harassment.” Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV-positive status.

Women experienced discrimination especially in the attainment of managerial positions. Employed women were predominantly engaged in low-paying and low-skilled jobs. A 2013 government report, the most recent data available, presented evidence of a significant gender gap in senior positions, using public service as an example. According to the report, women continued to dominate the lower administrative level on the public service workforce, but very few women held senior management positions. A shortage of jobs compounded the limited entry and opportunities of women in the workforce. A program funded by the International Finance Corporation and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children, and Family Affairs worked with businesses for four years to provide tools to recruit, retain, and promote women throughout domestic companies. The ministry is also responsible for implementation of the National Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy, which aims to remove barriers to women’s participation in formal employment.

The minimum wage was SBD 4.00 ($0.48) per hour for all workers except those in the fishing and agricultural sectors, who received SBD 3.50 ($0.42). The official estimate for the extreme poverty level in the country was SBD 9.74 ($1.18) per day. The proportion of the population living below the food poverty line was 4.4 percent. The standard workweek is 45 hours and is limited to six days per week.

Occupational safety and health laws require employers to provide a safe working environment and forbid retribution against any employee who seeks protection under labor regulations. These laws are current and appropriate for main industries. Laws on working conditions and safety standards apply equally to foreign workers and citizens. Some workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety, particularly in the fishing and logging industries, without jeopardy to their employment.

The commissioner of labor in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labor and Immigration, the public prosecutor, and police are responsible for enforcing labor laws; however, they usually reacted to complaints rather than routinely monitoring adherence to the law. The government’s minimal human and financial resources limited its ability to enforce the law in smaller establishments, the informal economy, and the subsistence sector. The number of labor inspectors was, moreover, insufficient to monitor labor practices routinely, particularly in extractive sectors outside of the capital. An active labor movement and an independent judiciary, however, helped provide effective oversight of labor law enforcement in major state and private enterprises. The law does not specify penalties for violations, significantly weakening effective enforcement.

Workers in the logging, construction, and manufacturing industries were subject to hazardous and exploitative work. Accidents were largely due to negligence or failure to adhere to safety practices by employees and employers.

Somalia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The provisional federal constitution provides for the right of every worker to form and join a trade union, participate in the activities of a trade union, conduct legal strikes, and engage in collective bargaining. No specific legal restrictions exist that limit these rights. The law does not provide limits on the scope of collective bargaining. The provisional federal constitution does not address antiunion discrimination or the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Legal protections did not exclude any particular groups of workers. While penalties for violating the provisions of the 1972 labor code included six months in jail, the government lacked the capacity to enforce applicable laws effectively.

Government and employers did not respect freedom of association or collective bargaining rights. The government interfered in union activities. In June the FGS transmitted a memorandum of understanding signed between the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) agreeing to develop a shared set of enforceable principles, noting that FESTU is the most representative national trade union organization in the country, that the FGS and FESTU should establish a tripartite dialogue, and that the head of FESTU represents as worker delegate for the country. Two affiliated unions claimed that in February government officials called the hotels where they were holding meetings and asked the hotels to cancel the reservations for the unions.

In June FESTU became accredited to the International Labor Organization (ILO’s) International Labor Conference to represent Somali workers after the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) submitted an objection against government-accredited persons who attended as workers’ delegates. The delegates were not trade union representatives and not genuine officials of FESTU. The FGS had accredited representatives over the past four years who FESTU argued were not genuine trade unionists. The ILO’s Credentials Committee agreed with the objection of ITUC and revoked the credentials of individuals accredited by the government as workers representatives, allowing FESTU leaders to be accredited as official delegation, representing workers of Somalia at the conference.

The provisional federal constitution prohibits slavery, servitude, trafficking, or forced labor for any purpose. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Under the pre-1991 penal code, applicable at the federal and regional levels, the penalty for slavery is imprisonment for five to 20 years. The penalty for using forced labor is imprisonment for six months to five years. Although the penalties appeared sufficiently stringent, they were rarely enforced. There were no known efforts by the government to prevent or eliminate forced labor in the country. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs did not have an inspectorate and did not conduct any labor-related inspections.

Forced labor occurred. Children and minority clan members were reportedly used as porters to transport the mild narcotic khat (or “miraa”) and in farming and animal herding, crushing stones, and construction. Al-Shabaab forced persons in their camps to move to the countryside, reportedly to raise cash crops for the organization.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

It was unclear whether there was a minimum age for employment. The pre-1991 labor code prohibits child labor, provides a legal minimum age of 15 for most employment, prescribes different minimum ages for certain hazardous activities, and prohibits those younger than 18 from night work in the industrial, commercial, and agricultural sectors, apart from work that engages family members only. The provisional federal constitution states, “No child may perform work or provide services that are not suitable for the child’s age or create a risk to the child’s health or development in any way.” The provisional federal constitution defines a child as any person younger than 18.

The federal Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs and of Women and Human Rights Development, as well as the Somali National Police, are responsible for enforcing child labor laws. The ministries, however, did not enforce these laws. Many of the laws related to the commercial exploitation of children are included in the 1962 penal code. These laws were not adequate to prevent child labor, as many of the fines were negligible due to inflation. The government participated in campaigns to remove children from participation in armed conflict (see section 1.g.).

Child labor was widespread. The recruitment and use of child soldiers remained a problem (see section 1.g.). Youths commonly worked in herding, agriculture, household labor, and forced begging from an early age. Children broke rocks into gravel and worked as vendors and transporters of cigarettes and khat on the streets. UNICEF estimated that 49 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 were in the workforce between 2009 and 2015.

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 and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, disability, political opinion, color, language, or social status, but the government did not effectively enforce those laws and regulations. The labor code requires equal pay for equal work. According to the 1972 labor code, penalties included imprisonment up to six months and/or a fine of not more than 1,000 Somali shillings (less than one dollar). Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, age, national origin, social origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, or HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases.

Bantu communities, primarily living between the Juba and Shabelle rivers in southern Somalia, continued to face discrimination, including verbal abuse, and being forced to adopt Arabic names. The discrimination was renewed in IDP camps, where Bantu women were not protected by traditional clan structure. Ethnic Bantu Federal Parliamentarian Mohamed Nur spoke before the Parliament about his experiences confronting prejudice in the country.

There was no national minimum wage. According to the World Bank, 69 percent of the population covered by the Somali High Frequency Survey Wave Two lived in poverty.

The labor code provides for a standard workweek of 48 hours and at least nine paid national holidays and 15 days’ annual leave, requires premium pay for overtime, and limits overtime to a maximum of 12 hours per week. The law sets occupational health and safety standards. The law does not specifically address whether workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

There was no organized effort to monitor working conditions. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible at the federal level for establishing occupational safety and health standards and enforcement, although it was not effective. There were no labor inspectors.

Wages and working conditions were established largely through arrangements based on supply, demand, and the influence of workers’ clans. There was no information on the existence or status of foreign or migrant workers in the country. Most workers worked in the informal sector.

Authorities did not have the capacity to protect workers who wished to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety, although no such cases were reported.

South Africa

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law allows all workers, with the exception of members of the National Intelligence Agency and the Secret Service, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. According to Statistics South Africa’s2018 Second Quarter Labor Force Survey, 4.15 million workers reported themselves as belonging to unions. According to the Department of Labor, as of July there were 196 registered unions. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for the right to strike, but it prohibits workers in essential services from striking, and employers are prohibited from locking out essential service providers. The government characterizes essential services as: (a) a service, the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population; (b) the parliamentary service; or (c) members of SAPS.

The law allows workers to strike due to matters of mutual interest, such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, socioeconomic interests of workers, and similar measures. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. Labor rights NGOs operated freely.

The law protects collective bargaining and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants on the basis of past, present, or potential union membership or participation in lawful union activities. The law provides for automatic reinstatement of workers dismissed unfairly for conducting union activities. The law provides a code of good practices for dismissals that includes procedures for determining the “substantive fairness” and “procedural fairness” of dismissal. The law includes all groups of workers, including illegal and legally resident foreign workers.

The government respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Labor courts and labor appeals courts effectively enforced the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 Second Quarter Labor Force Survey, unions negotiated salary increments for 75 percent of workers in sectors where unions organized. Employers solely determined the salary increments for 55 percent of workers surveyed, and 6.2 percent of workers had no regular salary increment.

Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, although the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country’s largest labor federation, is a member of a tripartite alliance with the governing ANC party and the South African Communist Party. Some COSATU union affiliates lobbied COSATU to break its alliance with the ANC, arguing the alliance had done little to advance workers’ rights and wages. In April 2017 COSATU’s breakaway unions, unhappy with the ANC alliance, launched an independent labor federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions.

The minister of labor has the authority to extend agreements by majority employers (one or more registered employers’ organizations that represent 50 percent plus one of workers in a sector) and labor representatives in sector-specific bargaining councils to the entire sector, even if companies or employees in the sector were not represented at negotiations. Companies not party to bargaining disputed this provision in court. Employers often filed for and received labor department exemptions from collective bargaining agreements.

If not resolved through collective bargaining, independent mediation, or conciliation, disputes between workers in essential services and their employers were referred to arbitration or the labor courts.

Workers frequently exercised their right to strike. Trade unions generally followed the legal process of declaring a dispute (notifying employers) before initiating a strike. Sectors affected by strikes during the year included transportation, health care, academia, municipal services, and mining. Strikes were sometimes violent and disruptive. For example, in June union members at Eskom, the country’s national electricity company, engaged in unlawful industrial actions, including sabotage to power plants and intimidation of nonparticipants, which resulted in a significant disruption to the country’s power grid and rolling nationwide blackouts. In August, Eskom signed a three-year wage agreement with the unions.

In March 2017 the government announced it had set aside 1.1 billion rand ($83 million at the time) to compensate surviving family members and victims of the 2012 Marikana Massacre in labor protests at a platinum mine. As of August only 67 million rand ($5.2 million) had been paid, according to the Government Communication and Information System.

During the year there were no credible cases of antiunion discrimination or employer interference in union functions, although anecdotal evidence suggested farmers routinely hampered the activities of unions on farms.

Rivalry and intolerance between unions were common. From mid-2017 to year’s end, a succession of killings and attacks of union leaders of both the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and NUM occurred (most likely born of rivalries between the two main unions in the platinum sector). The killings were considered violent aftershocks of the 2012 police killings of 34 striking platinum miners in Marikana. On January 18, the NUM leader at a Lonmin mine was shot and subsequently died in the hospital. In 2017 at least five AMCU members were killed in the platinum belt.

The law prohibits forced labor and provides for penalties ranging from fines to three years in prison for perpetrators convicted of forced labor. The penalties were insufficient to deter violations, in part because inspectors typically levied fines and required payment of back wages in lieu of meeting evidentiary standards of criminal prosecution. The Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 increased maximum fines for forced labor to 100,000 rand ($7,720) and the maximum criminal sentence to life in prison.

The government did not always effectively enforce the law. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were reportedly forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture (see section 7.c.). Women from Asia and neighboring African countries were recruited for legitimate work, but some were subjected to domestic servitude or forced labor in the service sector. There was also evidence of forced labor in the agricultural sector.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits employment of children under age 15 and prohibits anyone from requiring or permitting a child under age 15 to work. The law allows children under age 15 to work in the performing arts, but only if their employers receive permission from the Department of Labor and agree to follow specific guidelines. The law also prohibits children between ages 15 and 18 from work that threatens a child’s wellbeing, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development. Children may not work more than eight hours a day or before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. A child not enrolled in school may not work more than 40 hours in any week, and a child attending school may not work more than 20 hours in any week.

The law prohibits children from performing hazardous duties, including lifting heavy weights, meat or seafood processing, underground mining, deep-sea fishing, commercial diving, electrical work, working with hazardous chemicals or explosives, in manufacturing, rock and stone crushing, and work in casinos or other gambling and alcohol-serving establishments. Employers may not require a child to work in a confined space or to perform piecework and task work. Conviction of violation of child labor law is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of six years and a fine of 15,000 rand ($1,160).

The government enforced child labor laws in the formal sector of the economy that strong and well organized unions monitored, but enforcement in the informal and agricultural sectors was inconsistent. The Department of Labor deployed specialized child labor experts in integrated teams of child labor intersectoral support groups to each province and labor center.

In September 2017 Department of Labor inspectors opened 22 cases of child labor against a broker who recruited seasonal workers from poverty-stricken villages in North West Province on behalf of farmers in Wesselsbron, Free State Province. Prosecution of the broker was pending at year’s end. Cases of the worst forms of child labor were rare and difficult to detect, and neither the Department of Labor nor NGOs confirmed any cases during the year. The Department of Labor investigated a number of complaints but was unable to develop enough evidence to file charges. According to the department, the government made significant progress in eradicating the worst forms of child labor by raising awareness, putting strict legal measures in place, and increasing penalties for suspected labor violators.

Children were found working in domestic work, street work, and garbage scavenging for food items and recyclable items. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were reportedly forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. The government had yet to collect comprehensive data on child labor, but NGOs and inspectors considered it rare in the formal sectors of the economy.

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 Employment Equity Act protects all workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The legal standard used to judge discrimination in all cases is whether the terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially similar work, or work of equal value, differ directly or indirectly based on any of the grounds listed above. Employees have the burden of proving such discrimination. The amendment increases fines incrementally for noncompliance to 2 percent of company revenue, or 1.5 million rand ($116,000), for a first offense. Authorities may fine up to 10 percent of company revenue, or 2.7 million rand ($208,000), for a fourth offense on the same provision within three years. The government has a regulated code of conduct to assist employers, workers, and unions to develop and implement comprehensive, gender-sensitive, and HIV/AIDS-compliant workplace policies and programs.

The government did not consistently enforce the law and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV status, and country of origin (see section 6).

Discrimination cases were frequently taken to court or the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration, and Mediation.

In its 2017-18 annual report containing the results of 27,163 employment equity reports submitted by designated employers (representing almost half of the country’s employed), the Commission for Employment Equity cited data indicating discrimination by ethnicity, gender, age, and disability in all sectors of the economy. According to the report, whites–who constituted only 9.9 percent of the economically viable population–held 67 percent of top management positions in the private sector. Blacks–who constituted 77 percent–held only 14 percent of top management positions in the private sector. The implementation of the Black Economic Empowerment law, which aims to promote economic transformation and enhance participation of blacks in the economy, continued. The public sector better reflected the country’s ethnic and gender demographics. Traditional gender stereotypes, such as “mining is a man’s job” and “women should be nurses” persisted. Bias against foreign nationals was common in society and the workplace. In 2016-17 labor department officials reportedly reviewed 849 companies for compliance with the employment equity law. The Department of Labor inspected 4,747 employers for compliance with the employment equity law. It found and “dealt with” (the official term) violations at 877 locations. No further information was provided as to the nature of the violation or enforcement.

There is no legally mandated national minimum wage, although the law gives the Department of Labor authority to set wages by sector, which it has done in approximately 13 employment sectors. For example, effective in March the department increased the minimum wage for farm workers to 16.25 rand ($1.25) per hour. The minimum hourly wage for domestic workers employed more than 27 hours per week was raised to 13.05 rand ($1.00) per hour for employees in the urban areas and to 11.8 rand ($0.91) for employees in semiurban and rural areas. Established minimum wages exceeded the poverty level. The government provided free housing for some employees earning less than 3,500 rand ($270) per month, free health care, and, in some areas, no-fee schooling to assist the children of low-income earners. The law protects migrant workers, and they are entitled to all benefits and equal pay.

The law establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. No employer may require or permit an employee to work overtime except by agreement, and overtime may not be more than 10 hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers could apply for variances from the law by showing good cause. The law applies to all workers, including workers in informal sectors, foreign nationals, and migrant workers, but the government did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy.

The government set appropriate occupational health and safety standards through the Department of Mineral Resources for the mining industry and through the Department of Labor for all other industries.

There are harsh penalties for violations of occupational health laws in the mining sector. Employers are subject to heavy fines or imprisonment for serious injury, illness, or the death of employees due to unsafe mine conditions. The law allows mine inspectors to enter any mine at any time to interview employees and audit records. The law provides for the right of mine employees to remove themselves from work deemed dangerous to health or safety. The law prohibits discrimination against a mining employee who asserts a right granted by law and requires mine owners to file annual reports providing statistics on health and safety incidents for each mine. Conviction of violation of the mining health and safety law is punishable by two years’ imprisonment, and the law empowers the courts to determine a fine or penalty applicable for perjury. The Department of Mineral Resources was responsible for enforcing the mining health and safety law.

The government set separate standards for compensation of occupational diseases for the mining industry and for other industries. The Department of Health’s fund related to the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act reported that only 33,045 former mineworkers were certified as having silicosis as of 2014, but the final figure could be between 50,000 and 100,000. The fund has set aside 3.7 billion rand ($286 million) to deal with the backlog and compensate former mineworkers. Additionally, in 2016 the Johannesburg High Court certified class action against 32 gold-mining companies operating in the country from 1965 to the present by mineworkers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis contracted at the companies’ mines. The companies were accused of insufficiently protecting black workers in particular from contracting lung-related diseases. The class-action certification paved the way for nearly 500,000 existing and former mineworkers to receive compensation from mining companies. In May, six major mining companies and their workers agreed on a five billion rand ($386 million) settlement. Beneficiaries are to receive between 70,000 rand ($5,400) each for claimants in early stages of silicosis and 500,000 rand ($38,600) each for those with a “special aggravated medical condition.”

Outside the mining industry, no laws or regulations permit workers to remove themselves from work situations deemed dangerous to their health or safety without risking loss of employment, although the law provides that employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose dangerous workplace conditions. Employees were also able to report unsafe conditions to the labor department, which used employee complaints as a basis for prioritizing labor inspections. Conviction of violation of health and safety regulations outside the mining sector is punishable by a fine of 100,000 rand ($7,720), imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both. The Department of Labor was responsible for enforcing safety laws outside the mining sector.

The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing wage standards outside the mining sector, and a tripartite Mine Health and Safety Council and an Inspectorate of Mine Health and Safety enforced such standards in the mining sector. Penalties for violations of wages and work-hour laws outside the mining sector were not sufficient to deter abuses.

The Department of Labor employed 1,295 labor inspectors, an insufficient number to enforce compliance. For example, 107 government labor inspectors in Western Cape Province had responsibility for more than 6,600 farms as well as other businesses and sectors. Labor inspectors conducted routine and unannounced inspections at various workplaces that employed vulnerable workers. Labor inspectors investigated workplaces in both the formal and informal sectors. Labor inspectors and unions reported having difficulty visiting workers on private farms.

In 2016-17 the Department of Labor reported it conducted 144,061 labor inspections and identified 20,515 cases of noncompliance. The department issued violation notices and referred cases for prosecution. In 2016-17 officials audited 22,967 workplaces to determine their compliance with occupational and safety laws; 15,929 were in compliance.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors. Occupational safety and health regulations were frequently violated in the mining sector, and compensation for injuries was erratic and slow. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Unions in the agriculture sector noted their repeated attempts to have the Labor Department fine farms that failed to shield workers from hazardous chemicals sprayed on crops. Although labor conditions improved on large commercial farms, COSATU and leading agricultural NGOs reported that labor conditions on small farms remained harsh. Underpayment of wages and poor living conditions for workers, most of whom were black, were common. Many owners of small farms did not measure working hours accurately, 12-hour workdays were common during harvest time, and few farmers provided overtime benefits. Amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act attempted to address some labor abuses at farms. For example, changes prohibited farms from selling farm employees’ goods from farm-operated stores on credit at inflated prices.

Farm workers also reported health and sanitation concerns. In a 2017 report, the NGO Women on Farms Project reported that 63 percent of the female farm workers surveyed did not have access to bathroom facilities and were forced to seek a bush or a secluded spot. The report also included the responses of female farm workers and their children who reported suffering from health problems such as skin rashes, cholinesterase depression, poisoning, harmful effects on the nervous system, and asthma due to pesticides to which they were exposed.

Mining accidents were common. Mine safety improved over prior decades, however. In 1995, 553 miners lost their lives in the country. As of July only 130 miners had died from accidents during the preceding 18 months.

In June, five miners died of heat and exhaustion after entering an area not being used for mining. Parts of the gold mine, located near Westonaria, were considered unsafe and were supposed to be cordoned off.

South Sudan

Section 7. Worker Rights

The country passed a national labor law in January. The government previously operated on a labor law held over from Sudan. The new labor act was not well disseminated or enforced. Under the law every employee has the right to form and join unions, bargain collectively and strike with restrictions. The law does not explicitly prohibit antiunion discrimination nor provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities. While labor courts adjudicate labor disputes, the minister of labor may refer them to compulsory arbitration.

The 2013 Workers’ Trade Union Act provided a regulatory framework to govern worker trade unions. The largest union, the South Sudan Workers’ Trade Union, had approximately 65,000 members, working mainly in the public sector. Unions were nominally independent of the governing political party.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, with exceptions for compulsory military or community service, or because of a criminal conviction. The law prohibits abduction or transfer of control over a person for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor. Selling a minor for the purpose of prostitution is a crime. The law prescribes punishments of up to seven years’ imprisonment for abduction and transfer of control over a person for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor. The law prescribes punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment for compulsory labor without aggravating circumstances. These penalties were not sufficient to deter violations since they were not enforced.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking offenses. Forced labor occurred in domestic servitude, in agricultural labor on family farms and at cattle camps, and in prisons. Most of those in situations of forced labor in cattle camps and agricultural activities were family members. Employers subjected women, migrants, and children (see section 7.c.) to forced labor in mines, restaurants, street begging, criminal activities, and sexual exploitation.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for paid employment is 12 for “light work” or 16 years for “hazardous work.” The law defines light work as work that does not harm the health or development of a child and does not affect the child’s school attendance or capacity to benefit from such. The law provides that the government may issue regulations prescribing limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children, but these regulations were not available. The law uses international standards (ILO Convention 182) to specify the “worst forms of child labor” and prohibits any person from engaging or permitting the engagement of a child under the age of 18 in these practices.

The law provides penalties of up to five years imprisonment for any breach of the labor act, which was insufficient to deter violations. The government did not enforce child labor laws. The National Steering Committee on Child Labor, led by the Ministry of Labor, was charged with coordinating efforts across government ministries to combat child labor; it did not convene during the year. In addition to the Ministry of Labor, the committee included representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry; Health; Gender; General Education; Culture, Youth, and Sports; Animal Resources and Fisheries; and Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, as well as the International Labor Organization (ILO) and union representatives.

Only one of the Ministry of Labor’s five labor investigators was specifically trained to address child labor. Although charged with removing children engaged in work, the investigators did not have the necessary resources and did not conduct proper investigations. Of children between the ages of 10 and 14, 46 percent were engaged in some form of child labor, largely in cattle herding or subsistence farming with family members. Girls rescued from brothels in Juba reported police provided security for the brothels, and SPLA soldiers and government officials were frequent clients of child victims of sexual exploitation.

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

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race, tribe, national extraction, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, disability, age, or HIV/AIDS-positive status. It does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Discrimination occurred on all the bases listed above. Discrimination in employment and occupation led to less hiring of particular ethnic groups such as the Murle, who were under-represented in both the public and private sector. Dinka and Nuer occupied most leadership positions within the national government. Persons from Equatoria were historically over-represented in the civil service at lower ranks. Across the country, local authorities often manipulated the hiring practices of NGOs to favor fellow tribesmen and fire rivals. Disabled persons faced discrimination in hiring and access to work sites. Women had fewer economic opportunities due to employer discrimination and traditional practices.

The new labor act specifies the ministry may establish and publish a minimum wage, or wages for different categories of employees. There was no public information that this occurred. The law specifies normal working hours should not exceed eight hours per day and 40 hours per week and should provide for overtime.

The Ministry of Labor, Public Service, and Human Resource Development has a new Occupational Safety Branch, which only has one staff member, who is also the office director. There are no occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. Workers cannot remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

A Civil Service Provisional Order applies to the public sector and outlines the rights and obligations of public-sector workers, including benefits, salaries, and overtime. The law provides the Ministry of Labor, Public Service, and Human Resources with authority to issue the schedule of salary rates, according to which all civil servants, officials, and employees are to be paid. This pay scale has not been adjusted for several years, and now, due to rapid depreciation of the South Sudanese pound, most civil servants did not receive enough income to support themselves, even when their salaries were delivered on time and in full, which was infrequent. Under the law, only unskilled workers are eligible for overtime pay for work in excess of 40 hours per week. Civil servants, officials, and employees working at higher pay grades were expected to work necessary hours beyond the standard workweek without overtime pay. When exceptional additional hours were demanded, the department head could grant time off in lieu of reimbursement.

The government did not enforce the law. The government neither investigated nor prosecuted cases of violations of wage and OSH standards. Penalties for violations of laws on wages and working conditions were not sufficient to deter violations. Eight employees serve as both labor inspectors and adjudicators of work permits, which was not sufficient to enforce the law.

According to the 2008 census, the latest data on working conditions available, 84 percent of those employed were in nonwage work. Most small businesses operated in the informal economy and widely ignored labor laws and regulations. According to the ILO, less than 12 percent of workers were in the formal sector. The formal sector included security companies, banks, telecommunications companies, a brewery, and other private companies. The majority of workers in the country were agricultural workers, of whom 70 percent were agropastoralists and 30 percent farmers. Fifty-three percent of agricultural workers engaged in unpaid subsistence family farming.

Sri Lanka

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions of their choice. Exceptions include members of the armed forces, police officers, judicial officers, and prison officers. Workers in nonessential services industries, except for workers in public-service unions, have the legal right to bargain collectively. The law does not explicitly recognize the right to strike, but courts have recognized an implied right to strike based on the Trade Unions Ordinance and the Industrial Disputes Act. Nonunion worker councils tended to represent labor in export processing zone (EPZ) enterprises, although several unions operated in the zones. According to the Board of Investment, which operates the EPZs, if both a recognized trade union with bargaining power and a nonunion worker council exist in an enterprise, the trade union would have the power to represent the employees in collective bargaining.

Under Emergency Regulations of the Public Security Ordinance, the president has broad discretion to declare sectors “essential” to national security, the life of the community, or the preservation of public order, and to revoke those workers’ rights to conduct legal strikes. In addition to the Public Security Ordinance, the Essential Public Services Act of 1979 allows the president to declare services provided by government agencies as “essential” public services. In 2017 the government began using the essential public-services act to declare the Sri Lankan Railway and petroleum sector as essential sectors, thus deterring the workers from striking.

The law prohibits retribution against striking workers in nonessential sectors. Seven workers may form a union, adopt a charter, elect leaders, and publicize their views, but a union must represent 40 percent of workers at a given enterprise before the law obligates the employer to bargain with the union. The law does not permit public-sector unions to form federations or represent workers from more than one branch or department of government. The Labor Ministry may cancel a union’s registration if it fails to submit an annual report for three years.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Labor laws do not cover domestic workers employed in the homes of others or informal-sector workers.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, but the government enforced the law unevenly. Violations for antiunion discrimination may result in a fine of 100,000 Rs ($578). The law requires an employer found guilty of antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers fired for union activities, but it may transfer them to different locations. In general these penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Only the Labor Ministry has legal standing to pursue an unfair labor practice case, including for antiunion discrimination.

Since 1999 the Labor Ministry had filed only 10 cases against companies for unfair labor practices under the Industrial Disputes Act. The ministry did not file any new unfair labor practices cases during the year. The courts issued rulings on two cases and continued to try the other eight. Citing routine government inaction on alleged violations of labor rights, some unions pressed for standing to sue, while some smaller unions did not want that ability because of the cost of filing cases. Workers brought some labor violations to court under the Termination of Employment and Workmen Act and the Payment of Gratuity Act. Lengthy delays hindered judicial procedures. The Industrial Dispute Act does not apply to the public sector, and public-sector unions had no formal dispute resolution mechanism.

The government generally respected the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Public-sector unions staged numerous work stoppages on a number of issues, ranging from government moves to privatize state-owned enterprises to wage issues.

While some unions in the public sector were politically independent, most large unions affiliated with political parties and played a prominent role in the political process.

Unions alleged that employers often indefinitely delayed recognition of unions to avoid collective bargaining, decrease support for unionization, or identify, terminate, and sometimes assault or threaten union activists. The Ministry of Labor requires labor commissioners to hold union certification elections within 30 working days of an application for registration if there was no objection or within 45 working days if there was an objection. The commissioner general of labor held five union certification elections in 2017. No union certification elections were held from January to September.

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor, but penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The government generally enforced the laws, but resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were not always adequate. Labor Ministry inspections did not extend to domestic workers. The government sporadically prosecuted labor agents who fraudulently recruited migrant workers yet appeared to sustain its monthly meetings to improve interministerial coordination.

Children between the ages of 14 and 18 and women working as live-in domestic workers in some homes were vulnerable to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 14, although the law permits the employment of younger children by their parents or guardians in limited family agricultural work or technical training. The government increased the compulsory age of education from 14 years to 16 years in 2016. The law prohibits hazardous work for persons younger than 18. The law limits the working hours of children ages 14 and 15 to nine hours per day and of ages 16 and 17 to 10 hours per day. The government estimated less than 1 percent of children–approximately 40,000–were working, although employment was often in hazardous occupations.

The government did not effectively enforce all laws, and existing penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

The Labor Ministry made some progress in implementing its plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government appointed district coordinators with responsibility of reducing child labor in all 25 districts and provided new guidelines for district officials. The Department of Labor continued its efforts to monitor workplaces on the list of hazardous work for children.

According to the Child Activity Survey of 2016 published in February, industries and services were the largest sectors employing child labor. Within these sectors children worked in the construction, manufacturing, mining, and fishing industries, and as cleaners and helpers, domestic workers, and street vendors. Children also worked in agriculture during harvest periods. Children displaced by the war were especially vulnerable to employment in hazardous labor.

The list of hazardous work prohibited for children younger than 18 does not include domestic labor. This left children employed as child domestic workers vulnerable to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Family enterprises, such as family farms, crafts, small trade establishments, restaurants, and repair shops, commonly employed children. Criminals reportedly exploited children, especially boys, for prostitution in coastal areas catering to sex tourists (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 constitution prohibits discrimination, including with respect to employment and occupation, on the basis of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, or place of birth. The law did not prohibit employment or occupational discrimination on the basis of color, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, age, HIV-positive status, or status with regard to other communicable diseases.

The government did not always effectively enforce these laws, and discrimination based on the above categories occurred with respect to employment and occupation. For example, some employers specified particular positions as requiring male or female applicants, and women sometimes earned less than men for equal work.

The parliament passed its first-ever national minimum wage law in 2016, mandating a wage of 10,000 Rs ($58) per month and 400 Rs ($2.31) per day. In addition the Department of Labor’s 44 wage boards continued to set minimum wages and working conditions by sector and industry in consultation with unions and employers. The minimum wage in the public sector remained unchanged at 32,040 Rs ($185) between 2016 and 2018. The official estimate of the threshold poverty level was 4,659 Rs ($26.90) per person per month.

The law prohibits most full-time workers from regularly working more than 45 hours per week (a five and one-half-day workweek). In addition the law stipulates a rest period of one hour per day. Regulations limit the maximum overtime hours to 15 per week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times the basic wage and is paid for work beyond 45 hours per week and work on Sundays or holidays. The provision limiting basic work hours is not applicable to managers and executives in public institutions. The law provides for paid annual holidays.

The government sets occupational health and safety standards. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, but many workers had no knowledge of such rights or feared that they would lose their jobs if they did so.

Authorities did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health standards in all sectors. The Labor Ministry’s resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were sometimes inadequate. Occupational health and safety standards in the rapidly growing construction sector, including on infrastructure development projects, such as port, airport, and road construction, as well as high-rise buildings, were insufficient. Employers, particularly those in the construction industry, increasingly used contract employment for work of a regular nature, and contract workers had fewer safeguards.

Labor Ministry inspectors verified whether employers fully paid employees and contributed to pension funds as required by law. Unions questioned, however, whether the ministry’s inspections were effective. The Labor Department used a computerized Labor Information System Application designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inspections. The financial punishment for nonpayment of wages is negligible, with fines ranging from 100 Rs ($0.58) to 250 Rs ($1.44) for the first offense, 250 Rs ($1.44) to 500 Rs ($2.89) for the second offense, to 1,000 Rs ($5.78) or incarceration for a term not exceeding six months, or both, for the third offense. Under the Shop and Office Act, the penalties for violating hours of work laws are a fine of 500 Rs ($2.89), six months’ imprisonment, or both. The law charges a fine of 50 Rs ($0.29) per day if the offense continues after conviction. These penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Labor inspectors did not monitor wages or working conditions or provide programs or social protections for informal sector workers.

No reliable sources of data covered the informal sector.

Sudan

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that employees of companies with more than 100 workers can form and join independent unions. Other employees can join nearby, preexisting unions. The law establishes a single national trade union federation and excludes police, military personnel, prison employees, legal advisers in the Justice Ministry, and judges from membership. In some cases membership in international unions was not officially recognized.

The Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation, a government-controlled federation of 18 state unions and 22 industry unions, is the only official umbrella organization for unions. There were no NGOs that specialized in broad advocacy for labor rights. There were unrecognized “shadow unions” for most professions. For example, the government recognized only the Sudan Journalists Union, whose membership included all journalists, including the spokesperson of the Sudan Air Force, as well as NISS media-censorship officials. Most independent journalists, however, were members of the nonregistered Sudan Journalist Network, which organized advocacy activities on behalf of journalists.

The law denies trade unions autonomy to exercise the right to organize or to bargain collectively. It defines the objectives, terms of office, scope of activities, and organizational structures and alliances for labor unions. The government’s auditor general supervised union funds because they are considered public money. The law regulates unions’ right to conduct strikes. Some unions have by-laws that self-restrict their right to strike. Labor observers believed some of these self-restrictions were imposed to maintain favor with the government. The law requires all strikes in nonessential sectors to receive prior approval from the government after satisfying a set of legal requirements. Specialized labor courts adjudicate standard labor disputes, but the Ministry of Labor has the authority to refer a dispute to compulsory arbitration. Disputes also may be referred to arbitration if indicated in the work contract. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination by employers.

Police could break up any strike conducted without prior government approval. There were several cases of strikes reported during the year.

Bureaucratic steps mandated by law to resolve disputes between labor and management within companies may be lengthy. Court sessions may involve additional significant delays and costs when labor grievances are appealed.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not respected. There were credible reports the government routinely intervened to manipulate professional, trade, and student union elections.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation, in oil-producing regions police and secret service agents, in collusion with oil companies, closely monitored workers’ activities.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government, however, did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, and penalties for violations in the form of fines were rarely imposed and insufficient to deter violations. Most of the violations existed in the farming and pastoral sectors. Enforcement proved difficult in rural areas and areas undergoing conflict.

The government stated it investigated and prosecuted cases of forced labor, but it did not compile comprehensive statistics on the subject. Some government officials claimed that forced labor had been eradicated and denied reports that citizens engaged in this practice.

There were reports some children were engaged in forced labor, especially in the informal mining sector. Some domestic workers were believed to work without pay. Women refugees were especially prone to labor violations.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The Interim National Constitution mandates that the state protect the rights of children as provided in international and regional conventions ratified by the country. The law defines children as persons younger than 18 years old and prohibits children younger than 14 from working, except in agricultural work that is not dangerous or harmful to their health. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, and Child Affairs is responsible for enforcing child labor laws.

The Child Act goes on to define working children as persons between 14 and 18 years old. The law also prohibits the employment of such persons between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The law allows minors to work for seven hours a day broken by a paid hour of rest. It is illegal to compel minors to work more than four consecutive hours, work overtime, or work during weekly periods of rest or on official holidays. The law prohibits employers from waiving, postponing, or reducing annual leave entitlements for minors. The government did not always enforce such laws due to inadequate resources and societal complicity.

Child labor was a serious problem, particularly in the agricultural sector where the practice was common. Most other child labor occurred in the informal urban sector, including in menial jobs for which the government lacked the resources to monitor comprehensively. Children were engaged in shining shoes, washing and repairing cars, collecting medical and other resalable waste, street vending, begging, construction, and other menial labor.

The International Labor Organization monitored forced child labor in gold mining. UNICEF received unverified reports revealing the dangerous conditions under which children were working in gold mining, including requirements to carry heavy loads and to work at night and within confined spaces and exposure to mercury and high temperatures. There were reports children as young as 10 years old were used in artisanal gold mining throughout the country. According to multiple reputable sources, thousands of children worked in artisanal gold mining, particularly in River Nile, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and North Darfur States, resulting in large numbers of students dropping out of school.

There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers were difficult to verify (see section 1.g.).

Law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, tribe, and language, but they are unevenly applied. There is no legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, HIVor other communicable disease status, political opinion, social or national origin, age, or social status. The law does provide protection based on religion or ethnicity, but provides for accommodations based on Islamic practices, including reduced working hours during the month of Ramadan and paid leave to perform Hajj pilgrimage. Labor laws apply to migrant workers with legal contracts, but foreign workers who are not considered to have legal status also are not provided legal protections from abuse and exploitation.

The government did not effectively enforce antidiscrimination laws and regulations in the workplace; penalties in the form of fines were rarely imposed and were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on gender, religion, and ethnic, tribal, or party affiliation. Ethnic minorities often complained that government hiring practices discriminated against them in favor of “riverine” Arabs from northern Sudan. Ethiopians, Eritreans, and other refugees or migrants were often exposed to exploitative work conditions.

There were reports that some female refugees and migrants working as domestic workers or tea sellers were not compensated for their work, required to pay “kettle taxes” to police, sexually exploited, or trafficked. More than 10,000 women in the informal sector depended on selling tea on the streets of Khartoum State for their livelihoods, most after having fled conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas. Despite the collective activism of many tea sellers, harassment of tea sellers and confiscation of their belongings continued as in previous years.

Due to their uncertain legal status, many refugees and migrants did not report discrimination or abuse due to fear of imprisonment or repatriation.

Migrant workers and some ethnic minorities were unaware of their legal rights, suffered from discrimination, and lacked ready access to judicial remedies. The International Organization of Migration established a migrants’ reception center in Khartoum that included workshops on workers’ rights and the hazards of migration.

The minimum monthly wage for public-sector workers was 425 SDG ($9), set by the High Council of Salary in the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs. The minimum monthly salary in the private sector is set by agreements made between individual industries and the High Council of Salary, and it varied among industries. An estimated 46 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line of 12 SDG ($0.25) per person per day. Most public-sector employees received wages below the poverty line.

The law limits the workweek to 40 hours (five eight-hour days, not including a 30-minute to one-hour daily break), with days of rest on Friday and Saturday. Overtime should not exceed 12 hours per week or four hours per day. The law provides for paid annual leave after one year of continuous employment and paid holidays after three months.

The laws prescribe occupational safety and health standards. Any industrial company with 30-150 employees must have an industrial safety officer. A larger company is required to have an industrial safety committee that includes management and employees. Committees and officers are required to report safety incidents to the Ministry of Labor. The law requires the owner of an industrial company to inform workers of occupational hazards and provide means for protection against such hazards. Management is also required to take necessary precautions to protect workers against industrial accidents and occupational diseases, but the law does not recognize the right of workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without loss of employment. Some heavy industry and artisanal mining operations, notably gold extraction, reportedly lacked sufficient safety regulations.

Safety laws do not apply to domestic servants; casual workers; agricultural workers other than those employed in the operation, repair, and maintenance of agricultural machinery; enterprises that process or market agricultural products such as cotton gins or dairy-product factories; jobs related to the administration of agricultural projects, including office work, accounting, storage, gardening, and livestock husbandry; or to family members of an employee who live with the employee and who are completely or partially dependent on the employee for their living.

Representatives of the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Khartoum stated undocumented migrants in the capital were subjected to abusive work conditions. They also reported many undocumented workers did not report abuse due to fear authorities might deport them to Eritrea because of their illegal status.

The Ministry of Labor, which maintained field offices in most major cities, is responsible for enforcing these standards. Various types of labor inspectors included specialists on labor relations, labor conflicts, and vocational, health, and recruitment practices. They operated on both federal and state levels.

Standards were not uniformly enforced. Although employers generally respected the minimum wage law in the formal sector, in the informal sector wages could be significantly below the official rate. Since enforcement by the Ministry of Labor was minimal, working conditions generally were poor. Inspections and enforcement were generally minimal in both the formal and informal sectors.

Suriname

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, requires that workers terminated for union activity be reinstated, and prohibits employer interference in union activities. Labor laws do not cover undocumented foreign workers.

The government is effectively responsible for enforcing laws related to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Penalties for violations of these rights range from six months’ imprisonment to fines of SRD 100,000 ($13,300) and were generally sufficient to deter violations.

Workers formed and joined unions freely and exercised their right to strike. During the year there were several strikes of government workers to either force implementation of contracts already agreed upon with the government or to demand wage increases.

The majority of trade unions have some affiliation with a political party. Some trade union leaders held high-level positions in the coalition government, while another trade union was associated with an opposition party.

In isolated cases private employers refused to bargain or recognize collective bargaining rights, but the unions usually pressured the employers to negotiate. There were some reports that companies exploited legislative gaps and hired more contract employees than direct-hire staff to perform core business functions in order to cut costs.

The government passed several laws to protect employees from various forms of discrimination and set restrictions on the ability to fire employees. The government itself (the largest employer in the country) was not bound by these laws, however, since it deemed labor laws applicable only to private employees, not civil servants.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Administrative penalties for violations include imprisonment and fines insufficient to deter violations. Criminal penalties for violations range from five to 20 years’ imprisonment. Labor inspectors received training on detecting forced labor. During the year the Labor Inspectorate reported that it investigated at least three alleged forced labor cases. Labor inspectors trained to identify trafficking victims were legally authorized to conduct inspections outside formal workplaces but lacked the manpower and capacity to do so.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and sets the minimum age for most types of employment at 14 and restricts working hours for minors younger than 14 to day shifts, but it does not limit the number of hours minors can work. The law permits children younger than 14 to work only in a family-owned business, small-scale agriculture, and special vocational work. The law requires children to attend school until they are at least age 12, but this leaves children between ages 12 and 14 particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, as they are no longer required to attend school, but they are not yet legally permitted to work. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from doing hazardous work, defined as work dangerous to life, health, and decency. The law does not permit children younger than 15 to work on boats. Authorities may prosecute parents who permit their children to work in violation of labor laws. Employing a child younger than 14 is punishable by fines and imprisonment. While such penalties generally were sufficient to deter violations, authorities rarely enforced them, typically responding only when a report was filed with Youth Police.

The Ministry of Labor’s Department of Labor Inspection did not identify any cases of child labor in the formal business sector during the year. The police are responsible for enforcement in the informal sector and enforced the minimum working age law sporadically. Resources, such as vehicles and manpower, to enforce the laws also remained inadequate.

Child labor remained a problem in the informal sector and, according to newspaper reports, grew during the year due to lack of economic opportunities in the country. Historically, child labor occurred in agriculture, logging, fisheries, and the construction sector, as well as in street vending. Isolated cases of child labor occurred in the informal gold-mining sector in the interior, informal urban sectors, and in commercial sexual exploitation (see also section 6, Children).

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on birth, sex, race, language, religious origin, education, political beliefs, economic position, or any other status. The penal code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Enforcement of the law was selective as there was reported discrimination in employment with regard to disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV/AIDS status. Women’s pay lagged behind men’s pay. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in access to the workplace and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in hiring.

The law provides for a national minimum wage. The minimum wage was SRD 6.14 ($0.82), which was below the World Bank poverty income level. In the private sector, most unions were able to negotiate wage increases.

Approximately 41,000 of the estimated 133,000 total formal workforce were employed by the government. Government employees frequently supplemented their salaries with second or third jobs, often in the informal sector.

Work in excess of 45 hours per week on a regular basis requires special government permission, which was routinely granted. The law requires premium pay for such overtime work, prohibits excessive overtime, requires a 24-hour rest period per week, and stipulates paid annual holidays. Overtime is generally limited to four hours per day, for a maximum 12-hour workday. During the holiday season, the retail sector has a blanket permit allowing for work up to 15 hours a day, including seven hours of overtime. The government sets occupational health and safety standards, which generally are current and appropriate for the main industries in the country.

Laws were effectively enforced only in the formal sectors. Inspectors in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Ministry of Labor are responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health regulations, but they did not make regular occupational safety and health inspections. The Department of Labor Inspection is responsible for enforcing labor laws. Penalties for violating the labor laws vary from fines to suspension of business licenses, depending on the severity of the case, and were sufficient to deter the worst violations.

An estimated 15 percent of the working-age population worked in the informal economy, where there was limited enforcement of labor laws. Workers in the informal sector, particularly in small-scale mining, often were exposed to dangerous conditions and hazardous substances, such as mercury.

Limited data were available on workplace accidents. The International Labor Organization, however, noted an increasing number of serious or fatal occupational accidents, as well as steps by labor inspectors to begin occupational safety and health training in mines, construction, and public service. The majority of fatal occupational accidents took place in the mining sector.

Workers in the formal sector can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Workers in the informal sector did not enjoy the same protection.

Syria

Section 7. Worker Rights

While the law provides for the right to form and join unions, conduct legal labor strikes, and bargain collectively, there were excessive restrictions on these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but also allows employers to fire workers at will.

The law requires all unions to belong to the government-affiliated General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). The law prohibits strikes involving more than 20 workers in certain sectors, including transportation and telecommunications, or strike actions resembling public demonstrations. Restrictions on freedom of association also included fines and prison sentences for illegal strikes.

The law requires that government representatives be part of the bargaining process in the public sector, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor could object to, and refuse to register, any agreements concluded. The law and relevant labor protections do not apply to workers covered under civil service provisions, under which employees neither have nor considered to need collective bargaining rights. The law does not apply to foreign domestic servants, agricultural workers, NGO employees, or informal-sector workers. There are no legal protections for self-employed workers, although they constituted a significant proportion of the total workforce. Foreign workers may join the syndicate representing their profession but may not run for elected positions, with the exception of Palestinians, who may serve as elected officials in unions.

The government did not enforce applicable laws effectively or make any serious attempt to do so during the year. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

The Baath Party dominated the GFTU, and Baath Party doctrine stipulates that its quasi-official constituent unions protect worker rights. The GFTU president was a senior member of the Baath Party, and he and his deputy could attend cabinet meetings on economic affairs. In previous years the GFTU controlled most aspects of union activity, including which sectors or industries could have unions. It also had the power to disband union governing bodies. Union elections were generally free of direct GFTU interference, but successful campaigns usually required membership in the Baath Party. Because of the GFTU’s close ties to the government, the right to bargain collectively did not exist in practical terms. Although the law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector, past government repression dissuaded most workers from exercising this right.

There was little information available on employer practices with regard to antiunion discrimination. Unrest and economic decline during the year caused many workers to lose their private-sector jobs, giving employers the stronger hand in disputes.

The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and such practices existed. The Syrian Penal Code does not define forced labor. The code states, “Those sentenced to forced labor will be strictly required to do work with difficulty on par with their sex, age, and may be inside or outside of the prison.” The Penal Code allows for forced labor as a mandatory or optional sentence for numerous crimes, such as treason. Authorities may sentence convicted prisoners to hard labor, although according to the International Labor Organization, authorities seldom enforced such a sentence. There was little information available on government efforts to enforce relevant laws during the year or on the effectiveness of penalties to deter violations.

Terrorist groups, including ISIS and HTS, reportedly forced, coerced, or fraudulently recruited some foreigners, including migrants from Central Asia, children, and western women to join them. Thousands of Yezidi women and girl captives of ISIS remained missing and were presumed to have served as sex slaves and in domestic servitude (see section 1.g.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law provides for the protection of children from exploitation in the workplace and prohibits the worst forms of child labor. There was little publicly available information on enforcement of child labor law. The government generally did not make significant efforts to enforce laws that prevent or eliminate child labor. Independent information and audits regarding government enforcement were not available. The minimum age for most types of nonagricultural labor is 15 or the completion of elementary schooling, whichever occurs first, and the minimum age for employment in industries with heavy work is 17. Parental permission is required for children younger than age 16 to work. Children younger than age 18 may work no more than six hours a day and may not work overtime or during night shifts, weekends, or on official holidays. The law specifies that authorities should apply “appropriate penalties” to violators. Restrictions on child labor do not apply to those who work in family businesses and do not receive a salary.

Child labor occurred in the country in both informal sectors, such as begging, domestic work, and agriculture, as well as in positions related to the conflict, such as lookouts, spies, and informants. Conflict-related work subjected children to significant dangers of retaliation and violence.

Various forces, particularly terrorist groups and government-aligned groups, continued to recruit and use child soldiers (see section 1.g.).

Organized begging rings continued to subject children displaced within the country to forced labor. In October UNICEF reported that 5.3 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance. As of October UNICEF also reported that fighting destroyed, damaged, or occupied one in every three schools; 1.75 million children were out of school (more than 2.6 million Syrian children, including refugees and others in the diaspora); another 1.35 million were at risk for leaving school.

The constitution does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, or HIV-positive status. Since the law criminalizes homosexuality, many persons faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation. Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in hiring and access to worksites. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to certain minority groups (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

The law divides the public-sector monthly minimum wage into five levels based on job type or level of education, almost all of which fell below the World Bank’s poverty indicator of almost 1,000 Syrian pounds ($1.90) per day. Benefits included compensation for meals, uniforms, and transportation. Most public-sector employees relied on bribery to supplement their income. Private-sector companies usually paid much higher wages, with lower-end wage rates semi-officially set by the government and employer organizations. Many workers in the public and private sectors took additional manual jobs or relied on their extended families to support them.

The public-sector workweek was 35 hours, and the standard private-sector workweek was 40 hours, excluding meals and rest breaks. Hours of work could increase or decrease based on the industry and associated health hazards. The law provides for at least one meal or rest break totaling no less than one hour per day. Employers must schedule hours of work and rest such that workers do not work more than five consecutive hours or 10 hours per day in total. Employers must provide premium pay for overtime work.

The government set occupational safety and health standards. The law includes provisions mandating that employers take appropriate precautions to protect workers from hazards inherent to the nature of work. The law does not protect workers who chose to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety from losing their employment.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and other regulations pertaining to acceptable conditions of work. The Ministries of Health and of Social Affairs and Labor designated officials to inspect worksites for compliance with health and safety standards. Workers could lodge complaints about health and safety conditions with special committees established to adjudicate such cases. Wage and hour regulations as well as occupational health and safety rules do not apply to migrant workers, rendering them more vulnerable to abuse.

There was little information on government enforcement of labor law or working conditions during the year. There were no health and safety inspections reported, and even previous routine inspections of tourist facilities such as hotels and major restaurants no longer occurred. The enforcement of labor law was lax in both rural and urban areas, since many inspector positions were vacant due to the violence, and their number was insufficient to cover more than 10,000 workplaces. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Foreign workers, especially domestic workers, remained vulnerable to exploitative conditions. For example, the law does not legally entitle foreign female domestic workers to the same wages as Syrian domestic workers. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is in charge of regulating employment agencies responsible for providing safe working conditions for migrant domestic workers, but the scope of oversight was unknown. The continued unrest resulted in the large-scale voluntary departure of foreign workers as demand for services significantly declined, but violence and lawlessness impeded some foreign workers from leaving the country.

Tajikistan

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions but requires registration for all NGOs, including trade unions. The law also provides that union activities, such as collective bargaining, be free from interference except “in cases specified by law,” but the law does not define such cases. Workers have the right to strike, but the law requires that meetings and other mass actions have prior official authorization, limiting trade unions’ ability to organize meetings or demonstrations. The law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively, but it does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination.

Workers joined unions, but the government used informal means to exercise considerable influence over organized labor, including influencing the selection of labor union leaders. The government-controlled umbrella Federation of Trade Unions of Tajikistan did not effectively represent worker interests. There were reports that the government compelled some citizens to join state-endorsed trade unions and impeded formation of independent unions. According to International Labor Organization figures, 1.3 million persons belonged to unions. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination during the year.

Anecdotal reports from multiple in-country sources stated that citizens were reluctant to strike due to fear of government retaliation.

Collective bargaining contracts covered 90 percent of workers in the formal sector. In some cases Chinese workers received preferable treatment to local workers in labor disputes.

The government fully controlled trade unions. There were no reports of threats or violence by government entities toward trade unions; however, unions made only limited demands regarding workers’ rights repeatedly because they feared the government reaction. Most workers’ grievances were resolved with union mediation between employee and employer.

Labor NGOs not designated as labor organizations played a minimal role in worker rights, as they were restricted from operating fully and freely.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including that of children, except in cases defined in law. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape, and sufficient to deter violations.

The government continued to make progress in reducing the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest, although it continued to occur. The Ministry of Labor, together with NGO representatives, conducted monitoring missions of the cotton harvest from 2010 to 2015, but there were no independent monitoring programs or inspections during the 2016 and 2017 cotton harvests.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for children to work is 16 years, although children may work at age 15 with permission from the local trade union. By law children younger than age 18 may work no more than six hours a day and 36 hours per week. Children as young as age seven may participate in household labor and agricultural work, which is separately classified as family assistance. Many children younger than age 10 worked in bazaars or sold goods on the street. The highest incidences of child labor were in the domestic and agricultural sectors.

Enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and appropriate local and regional governmental offices. Unions also are responsible for reporting any violations in the employment of minors. Citizens can bring unresolved cases involving child labor before the prosecutor general for investigation. There were few reports of violations because most children worked under the family assistance exception. There were reports that military recruitment authorities kidnapped children under the age of 18 from public places and subjected them to compulsory military service to fulfill local recruitment quotas.

The government enforced labor laws and worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to prevent the use of forced child labor. Nevertheless, there were isolated reports that some children were exploited in agriculture. The overall instances of forced child labor in the cotton harvest decreased dramatically after 2013; the 2015 IOM annual assessment showed local or national government authorities responded to most cases. During the 2015 harvest, the government levied two fines against employers using child labor and collected a total of 1,800 somoni ($205) from violators.

The Interministerial Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons disseminated a directive to local officials reiterating prohibitions and ordered the Labor Inspector’s Office to conduct a monitoring mission of the cotton-picking season. According to the IOM, however, no independent monitoring of the cotton harvest was conducted during the year.

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 with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, HIV-positive status, other communicable diseases, or social status. The law does not expressly prohibit worker discrimination on the basis of color, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, or age.

In February a dance teacher at a choreography school in Dushanbe was reportedly fired from her job for not listening to President Rahmon’s annual televised address to the nation. Saida Rustamova told the media that the official documents she received stated she lost her job because she was not present in the school auditorium where students and teachers were gathered to listen to the president’s live televised address. Rustamova claims she left the auditorium because there were no available seats. The school principal told reporters that Rustamova was fired because of her poor work performance and her failure to follow her supervisor’s orders.

In June 2017 parliament approved amendments to the Law on Police, which bans persons with dual citizenship, foreign nationals, and stateless persons from serving in the police force. In 2016 lawmakers approved amendments to the law banning individuals with dual citizenship from serving in the country’s security services and requiring knowledge of the Tajik (state) language. In March 2017 the Council of Majlisi Namoyandagon, the lower house of parliament, approved amendments to the Law on Public Service prohibiting dual citizenship for any persons in public service.

Employers discriminated against individuals based on sexual orientation and HIV-positive status, and police generally did not enforce the laws. LGBTI persons and HIV-positive individuals opted not to file complaints due to fear of harassment from law enforcement personnel and the belief that police would not take action.

The law provides that women receive equal pay for equal work, but cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. Employers often forced women to work overtime without additional pay.

The government has not declared a formal poverty line. The monthly minimum wage is 400 somoni ($42).

The State Inspectorate for Supervision of Labor, Migration, and Employment under the Ministry of Labor is responsible for the overall supervision of enforcing labor law in the country. The Ministry of Finance enforces financial aspects of the labor law, and the Agency of Financial Control of the presidential administration oversees other aspects of the law. There is no legal prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime. The law mandates overtime payment, with the first two hours paid at a time-and-a-half rate and the remainder at double the rate. Resources, inspections, and remediation to enforce the law were inadequate. The State Inspectorate conducts inspections once every two years. Penalties for violations, including fines of 800 to 1,200 somoni ($90 to $140) were adequate, but the regulation was not enforced, and the government did not pay its employees for overtime work. Overtime payment was inconsistent in all sectors of the labor force.

The State Inspectorate for Supervision of Labor, Migration, and Employment is also responsible for enforcing occupational health and safety standards. The government did not fully comply with these standards, partly because of corruption and the low salaries paid to inspectors. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from hazardous working conditions without fear of loss of employment, but workers seldom exercised this right.

Farmers and agricultural workers, accounting for more than 60 percent of employment in the country, continued to work under difficult circumstances. There was no system to monitor or regulate working conditions in the agricultural and informal sectors. Wages in the agricultural sector were the lowest among all sectors, and many workers received payment in kind. The government’s failure to ensure and protect land tenure rights continued to limit its ability to protect agricultural workers’ rights.

Tanzania

Section 7. Worker Rights

The mainland and Zanzibari governments have separate labor laws. Workers on the mainland, except for workers in the categories of “national service” and prison guards, have the right to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The government nevertheless restricted these rights. Reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity is not mandatory.

Trade unions in the private sector must consist of more than 20 members and register with the government, while public-sector unions need 30 members. Five organizations are required to form a federation. Trade union affiliation with nonunion organizations can be annulled by the Labor Court if it was obtained without government approval, or if the union is considered an organization whose remit is broader than just employer-worker relations. A trade union or employers association must file for registration with the Registrar of Trade Unions in the Ministry of Labor within six months of establishment. The law, however, does not provide for specific time limits within which the government must register an organization, and the registrar has the power to refuse registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The government prescribes the terms of office of trade union leaders. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

The law requires unions to submit financial records and a membership list to the registrar annually and to obtain government approval for association with international trade unions. The registrar can apply to the Labor Court to deregister or suspend unions if there is overlap within an enterprise or if it is determined the union violated the law or endangered public security.

Collective bargaining agreements must be registered with the Labor Commission. Public service employees, except for limited exceptions, such as workers involved in “national service” and prison guards, may also engage in collective bargaining.

Employers have the right to initiate a lockout provided they comply with certain legal requirements and procedures. For a strike to be declared legal, the law requires three separate notifications of intent, a waiting period of at least 92 days, and a union vote in the presence of a Ministry of Labor official that garners approval by at least 75 percent of the members voting. All parties to a dispute may be bound by an agreement to arbitrate, and neither party may then engage in a strike or a lockout until that process has been completed. Disputes regarding adjustments to or the terms of signed contracts must be addressed through arbitration and are not subject to strikes.

The law restricts the right to strike when a strike would endanger the life and health of the population. Picketing in support of a strike or in opposition to a lawful lockout is prohibited. Workers in sectors defined as “essential” (water and sanitation, electricity, health services and associated laboratory services, firefighting, air traffic control, civil aviation, telecommunications, and any transport services required for the provision of these services) may not strike without a pre-existing agreement to maintain “minimum services.” Workers in other sectors may also be subject to this limitation as determined by the Essential Services Committee, a tripartite committee composed of employers, workers, and government representatives with the authority periodically to deem which services are essential.

According to the 2004 Labor Relations Act, an employer may not legally terminate an employee for participating in a lawful strike or terminate an employee who accedes to the demands of an employer during a lockout.

Penalties for violations include fines up to TZS five million ($2,180), imprisonment up to one year, or both, but these penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Disputes on the grounds of antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration, a governmental department affiliated with the Ministry of Labor. There was no public information available regarding cases of antiunion discrimination.

There were no reports of sector-wide strikes or any other major strikes in the country.

In Zanzibar the law requires any union with 50 or more members to be registered, a threshold few companies could meet. The law sets literacy standards for trade union officers. The law provides the registrar considerable powers to restrict registration by setting forth criteria for determining whether an organization’s constitution contains suitable provisions to protect its members’ interests. The law applies to both public- and private-sector workers and bans Zanzibari workers from joining labor unions on the mainland. The law prohibits a union’s use of its funds, directly or indirectly, to pay any fines or penalties incurred by trade union officials in the discharge of their official duties. In Zanzibar both government and private sector workers have the right to strike as long as they follow procedures outlined in the labor law. For example, workers in essential sectors may not strike; others must give mediation authorities at least 30 days to resolve the issue in dispute and provide a 14-day advance notice of any proposed strike action.

The law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector. Public-sector employees also have the right to bargain collectively through the Trade Union of Government and Health Employees; however, members of the police force and prison service, and high-level public officials (for example, the head of an executive agency) are barred from joining a trade union. Zanzibar’s Dispute Handling Unit addresses labor disputes. In Zanzibar judges and all judicial officers, members of special departments, and employees of the House of Representatives are excluded from labor law protection.

In Zanzibar the courts are the only venue in which labor disputes can be heard. According to the Commission of Labor in Zanzibar, 16 workers used the courts for labor disputes.

The government did not consistently enforce the law protecting the right to collective bargaining. On both the mainland and in Zanzibar, private-sector employers adopted antiunion policies or tactics, although discriminatory activities by an employer against union members are illegal. The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA)’s 2018 annual report claimed that international mining interests bribed government officials to ignore workers’ complaints and write false favorable reports on work conditions in mines. TUCTA also reported that employers discouraged workers from collective bargaining and retaliated against workers’ rights activists via termination of employment and other measures.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows prisoners to work without pay on construction and agriculture projects within prisons. The law deems such work acceptable as long as a public authority ensures the work is not for the benefit of any private party. The law also allows work carried out as part of compulsory national service in certain limited circumstances. The constitution provides that no work shall be considered forced labor if such work forms part of compulsory national service in accordance with the law, or “the national endeavor at the mobilization of human resources for the enhancement of society and the national economy and to ensure development and national productivity.”

The law establishes criminal penalties for employers using forced labor. Offenders may be fined up to TZS five million ($2,180), sentenced to one year in prison, or both. The government did not consistently enforce the law. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported unspecified instances of forced labor, including those involving children from the southern highlands forced into domestic service or labor on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.c.).

Prisoners provided labor on projects outside of the prison, such as road repair and government construction projects. According to the 2018 budget speech delivered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, prisoners provide labor at the government-owned Mbigiri Sugar Industry in Morogoro Region and planted 1976 acres of sugar cane.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the exploitation of children in the workplace. By law the minimum age for contractual employment is 14 on the mainland; in Zanzibar the minimum age is 15. Children older than age 14 but younger than 18 may be employed to do only light work unlikely to harm their health, development, or attendance at school. In addition, the government published regulations to define hazardous work for children in several sectors, including in agriculture, fishery, mining, and quarrying, construction, service, informal operations, and the transport sectors. The law specifically limits working hours for children to three hours a day. Fines ranging from TZS 100,000 to TZS 500 million ($44 to $218,000) and imprisonment ranging from three months to 20 years, or both, may be imposed for violations of the law. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations, and there were no reported cases of prosecutions under this law.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The lack of enforcement left children vulnerable to exploitation and with few protections. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, approximately 29 percent of all children were engaged in child labor. Child labor was prevalent in agriculture, mining, industry, fishing, and domestic work. The ILO previously worked with the government to train labor inspectors on the problem of child labor, but during the year no reported child labor cases were brought to court. During the year’s budget speech, the minister of health reported 6,393 child labor cases (1,528 female and 4,865 male). Officials reported that their authority was limited to the formal economy, and most child labor took place in the family and informal economy.

Government measures to ameliorate child labor included verifying that children of school age attended school, imposing penalties on parents who did not enroll their children in school, and pressing employers in the formal sector not to employ children younger than 18. Ministry of Labor officials reported, however, enforcement of child labor laws was difficult because many children worked in private homes or rural areas. A combination of factors, including distance from urban-based labor inspectors and a lack of understanding by children on how to report the conditions of their employment and when to do so, complicated inspections. Officials reported the problem of child labor was particularly acute among orphans. In cooperation with the government, Plan International operated programs in the mining sector to combat child labor.

In mainland Tanzania, children worked as domestic workers, street vendors, and shopkeepers as well as in small-scale agriculture, family-based businesses, fishing, construction, and artisanal mining of gold and tanzanite. According to Human Rights Watch, children as young as eight worked in mining. In Zanzibar children worked primarily in transportation, fishing, clove picking, domestic labor, small businesses, and gravel making.

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 employment and labor relations law prohibits workplace discrimination, directly or indirectly, against an employee based on color, nationality, tribe, or place of origin, race, national extraction, social origin, political opinion or religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status or family responsibility, disability, HIV/AIDS, age, or station in life. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, language, citizenship, or other communicable disease status. The law distinguishes between discrimination and an employer hiring or promoting based on affirmative action measures consistent with the promotion of equality, or hiring based on an inherent requirement of the job. The government in general did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to TUCTA, gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2015 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. They often faced difficulties in seeking documented employment outside of the informal sector. The Noncitizens Employment Regulation Act of 2015 gives the labor commissioner authority to deny work permits if a Tanzanian worker with the same skills is available. During the year foreign professionals, including senior management of international corporations, frequently faced difficulties obtaining or renewing work permits. Because refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few worked in the formal sector. While efforts by nongovernment and government actors had been made to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population still lived in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities. The LHRC also stated that persons with disabilities also faced discrimination in seeking employment and access to the workplace.

The government established minimum wage standards in 2015 for employees in both the public and private sectors on the mainland, and it divided those standards into nine employment sectors. The lowest minimum wage was TZS 40,000 ($17.50) per month for the lowest-paid category of domestic workers residing in the household of the employer, who were not addressed in previous legislation. The highest was TZS 400,000 ($175) per month for workers in the telecommunications and multinational mining, energy, and financial sectors. The law allows employers to apply to the Ministry of Labor for an exemption from paying the minimum wage. These monthly wages were above the basic-needs poverty line of TZS 36,482 ($16) per month per person and the food poverty line of TZS 26,085 ($11.30) per month, which had not changed since being established by the 2011/12 Household Budget Survey. The labor laws cover all workers, including foreign and migrant workers and those in the informal sector. The minimum wage on Zanzibar was TZS 300,000 ($130) per month.

The labor standards laws derive from the international convention on labor standards. According to the law, the ordinary workweek is 45 hours, with a maximum of nine hours per day or six days per week. Any work in excess of these limits should be compensated with overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular wage. Under most circumstances, it is illegal to schedule pregnant or breast-feeding women for work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., although employers frequently ignored this restriction.

The law states employees with 12 months of employment are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave, and it requires employee compensation for national holidays. The law prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime, and it restricts required overtime to 50 hours in a four-week period or in accordance with previously negotiated work contracts. The law requires equal pay for equal work.

Several laws regulate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in the workplace. According to TUCTA, OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries and enforcement of these standards had been improving, but challenges remained in the private sector. In March the National Audit Office released a follow-up report on a 2013 performance audit on the management of occupational health and safety in the country. The report found that of 27 audit recommendations, 20 had been fully implemented, six had been partially implemented, and only one had not been implemented. OSH standards, however, were not effectively enforced in the informal economy. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority had offices in 25 of the 31 regions and 201 staff members. In Zanzibar the government employed five labor inspectors for the islands and conducted 120 inspections between January and June. The inspection system’s effectiveness was limited due to lack of resources and the insufficient number of labor officers available to conduct inspections. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively enforce this protection.

Workers may sue an employer if their working conditions do not comply with the Ministry of Labor’s health and environmental standards. Disputes were generally resolved through the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. There were no exceptions for foreign or migrant workers.

Many workers did not have employment contracts and lacked legal protections. The LHRC reported that approximately 38 percent of workers did not have contracts, and of those who did, an estimated 38 percent only had oral contracts. The LHRC also reported that employees who signed written contracts were often not provided copies of the contract, contracts held by employees differed from those maintained by employers, many contracts did not include job descriptions, and companies frequently used short-term contracts of six months or less to avoid hiring organized workers with labor protections.

The government did not effectively enforce labor standards, particularly in the informal sector. According to the 2014 Integrated Labor Force Survey (the latest available), of an active labor force of 22 million, 66 percent worked in the informal sector (including agriculture).

In dangerous industries such as construction, employees often worked without protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, or harnesses. According to a 2008 Accident Notification Survey (latest available), the sectors with the highest rates of fatal accidents were construction and building, transport, and mining and quarrying. Domestic workers were reportedly frequent victims of abuse.

Thailand

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution provides that a person shall enjoy the liberty to unite and form an association, cooperative, union, organization, community, or any other group. The Labor Relations Act (LRA) and State Enterprise Labor Relations Act (SELRA) remained in effect. The LRA allows private-sector workers to form and join trade unions of their choosing without prior authorization, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes with a number of restrictions. Workers seeking to demonstrate or strike were subject to limits on assembly of more than five people under the 2015 Public Assembly Act and NCPO order No. 7/2014.

Legal definitions of who may join a union and requirements that the union represent at least one-fifth of the workforce hampered collective bargaining efforts. Under the law, only workers who are in the same industry may form a union. For example, despite working in the same factory, contract workers performing a manufacturing job function may be classified under the “service industry” may not join the same union as full-time workers who are classified under the “manufacturing industry.” This restriction often diminished the ability to bargain collectively as a larger group. Labor advocates claimed companies exploited this required ratio to avoid unionization by hiring substantial numbers of temporary contract workers. The law also restricts formal affiliations between unions of state-owned enterprises (SOE) and private-sector unions because two separate laws govern them. Therefore, workers in state-owned aviation, banking, transportation, and education enterprises may not affiliate formally with workers in similar jobs in private sector enterprises.

The law allows employees to submit collective demands if at least 15 percent of employees are listed as supporting that demand. The law allows employees in private enterprises with more than 50 workers to establish “employee committees” to represent workers’ collective requests and to negotiate with employers and “welfare committees” to represent workers’ welfare-related collective requests. Employee and welfare committees may give suggestions to employers, but the law bars them from submitting labor demands or conducting legal strikes. The law prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against workers for their participation in these committees and from obstructing the work of the committees. Therefore, union leaders often join employee or welfare committees.

The SELRA allows one union per SOE. SOEs in the country included state banks, trains, airlines, airports, marine ports, and postal services. Under the law civil servants, including teachers at public and private schools, university professors, soldiers, and police, do not have the right to form or register a union; however, civil servants (including teachers, police, and nurses), and self-employed persons (such as farmers and fishers) may form and register associations to represent member interests. If a SOE union’s membership falls below 25 percent of the eligible workforce, regulations require dissolution of the union.

The law forbids strikes and lockouts in the public sector and at SOEs. The government has authority to restrict private-sector strikes that would affect national security or cause severe negative repercussions for the population at large, but it did not invoke this provision during the year.

Noncitizen migrant workers, whether registered or undocumented, do not have the right to form unions or serve as union officials. Registered migrants may be members of unions organized and led by citizens. Migrant worker participation in unions was limited due to language barriers, weak understanding of rights under the law, frequent changes in employment, membership fees, restrictive labor union regulations, and segregation of citizen workers from migrant workers by industry and by zones (particularly in border and coastal areas). In practice thousands of migrant workers formed unregistered associations, community-based organizations, or religious groups to represent member interests.

The law does not protect union members against antiunion actions by employers until their union is registered. To register a union, at least 10 workers must submit their names to the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DLPW). The verification process of vetting the names and employment status with the employer exposes the workers to potential retaliation before registration is complete. Moreover, the law requires that union officials be full-time employees of the company or SOE and prohibits permanent union staff.

The law protects employees and union members from criminal or civil liability for participating in negotiations with employers, initiating a strike, organizing a rally, or explaining labor disputes to the public. The law does not protect employees and union members from criminal charges for endangering the public or for causing loss of life or bodily injury, property damage, and reputational damage. The law does not prohibit lawsuits intended to censor, intimidate, or silence critics through costly legal defense.

The law prohibits termination of employment of legal strikers but permits employers to hire workers or use subcontract workers to replace strikers. The legal requirement to call a general meeting of trade union members and obtain strike approval by at least 50 percent of union members constrained strike action, particularly in the face of the common manufacturing practice of shift work at most factories, made it more difficult to achieve a quorum of union members. The law provides for penalties, including imprisonment, a fine, or both, for strikers in SOEs.

Labor law enforcement was inconsistent, and in some instances ineffective, in protecting workers who participated in union activities. Employers may dismiss workers for any reason except participation in union activities, provided the employer pays severance. There were reports of workers dismissed for engaging in union activities, both before and after registration, and, in some cases, labor courts ordered workers reinstated. Labor courts or the Labor Relations Committee may make determinations on complaints of unfair dismissals or labor practices and may require compensation or reinstatement of workers or union leaders with wages and benefits equal to those received prior to dismissal. The Labor Relations Committee is comprised of representatives of employers, government, and workers groups, and there are associate labor court judges who represent workers and employers. There were reports employers attempted to negotiate terms of reinstatement after orders were issued, offering severance packages for voluntary resignation, denying reinstated union leaders access to work, or demoting workers to jobs with lower wages and benefits.

In some cases judges awarded compensation in lieu of reinstatement when employers or employees claimed they could not work together peacefully; however, authorities rarely applied penalties for conviction of labor violations, which include imprisonment, a fine, or both. International organizations reported DLPW leadership increasingly promoted good industrial relations and enforcement during inspector training across the country. Labor inspection increasingly focused on high-risk workplaces and the use of intelligence from civil society partners. Trade union leaders suggested that inspectors should move beyond perfunctory document reviews toward more proactive work site inspections. Rights advocates reported that provincial-level labor inspectors often attempted to mediate cases, even when there was a finding that labor rights violations requiring penalties occurred.

There were reports employers used various techniques to weaken labor union association and collective bargaining efforts. These included replacing striking workers with subcontractors, which the law permits when strikers continue to receive wages; delaying negotiations by failing to show up at Labor Relations Committee meetings or sending nondecision makers to negotiate; threatening union leaders and striking workers; pressuring union leaders and striking workers to resign; dismissing union leaders, citing business reasons; violation of company rules, or negative attitudes toward the company; prohibiting workers from demonstrating in work zones; and inciting violence to get a court warrant to prohibit protests. For example, an automotive company, upon reinstating nine union members who had been locked out since 2014, transferred the workers to distant work locations and reduced their pay to the minimum wage. There were reports that a firm and union workers reached impasse on collective bargaining arbitration with the Ministry of Labor and locked out workers after they went on strike. After workers conceded to most of the company’s proposals, the company forced the locked-out workers to attend a four-day camp at a military base to “learn discipline and order,” undergo five days of training by an external human resources firm, where they were expected to “reflect on their wrongdoing,” one day of cleaning old people’s homes to “earn merit,” and three days at a Buddhist temple, with no regard for their religious beliefs. The workers were also made to post apologies to the company on their personal social media accounts.

In some cases employers filed lawsuits against union leaders and strikers for trespassing, defamation, and vandalism. For example, during the year private companies pursued civil and criminal lawsuits against union leaders, including civil damages for allegations of disruption of production lines due to illegal strikes, trespassing, and civil and criminal defamation. Human rights defenders said these lawsuits, along with unfair dismissal of union leaders, and were used by employers to attempt to camouflage or justify antiunion activities or other efforts to promote workers’ rights; such tactics had a chilling effect on freedoms of expression and association (also see section 7.b.).

During the year there were reports some employers transferred union leaders to other branches to render them ineligible to participate in employee or welfare committees and then dismissed them. Some employers also transferred union leaders and striking workers to different, less desirable positions or inactive management positions (with no management authority) to prevent them from leading union activities. There were reports some employers supported the registration of competing unions to circumvent established unions that refused to accept the terms of agreement proposed by employers.

There were also reports government officers interrupted collective bargaining and association efforts of public hospital and social security office workers who demanded increased wages and welfare benefits for temporary employees.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, except in the case of national emergency, war, martial law, or imminent public calamity. The prescribed penalties for human trafficking were sufficiently stringent to deter violations. Rights groups and international organizations continued to call, however, for a more precise legal definition of forced labor and penalties equivalent to those in the Criminal Code and the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act. They noted a clearer and more comprehensive legal definition of forced labor could address challenges in applying existing anti-human-trafficking laws to forced labor cases, particularly when physical indicators of forced labor are not present.

The government did not effectively enforced the law in all sectors.

Government and NGOs continued to report forced labor in the fishing sector; however, an International Labor Organization (ILO) report published in March found considerable decline in worker claims of abuses such as intimidation and violence on short-haul fishing boats and seafood processing facilities. The study also pointed to declines in some indicators of forced labor, including non- or underpayment of wages, document holding, and lack of contracts. NGOs acknowledged a decline in the most severe forms of labor exploitation in the fishing sector, although they pointed to persistent weaknesses in enforcing labor laws. The government and NGOs noted efforts to regulate the fishing industry, document migrant workers, and improve inspections had contributed to improvements in the sector. There are anecdotal reports that forced labor continued in agriculture, domestic work, and forced begging.

Labor rights groups reported indicators of forced labor among employers who sought to prevent migrant workers from changing jobs through delayed payment of wages, incurred debt, and spurious accusations of stealing or embezzlement.

Private companies pursued civil and criminal lawsuits against labor leaders, including accusing workers of civil and criminal defamation (also see section 7.a.). In July the Bangkok Magistrate Court dismissed criminal defamation charges filed by an employer against 14 Burmese poultry workers. The employer filed the criminal defamation charges in response to the workers filing a complaint with the NHRCT alleging they were victims of forced labor. In 2017 a civil labor court ordered the employer to pay the workers 1.7 million baht ($51,100) in unpaid wages, plus unpaid overtime and holiday pay. In 2017 the Supreme Court upheld the labor court’s decision; as of the end of the year the employer had not yet provided compensation. In December the employer brought new criminal defamation charges against another rights organization, which had raised concerns over the defamation charges against the workers and other rights defenders. In September the Lopburi Provincial Court dismissed related criminal theft charges the employer brought against the workers for alleged theft of the workers’ timecards; the court found the employer failed to provide sufficient evidence that the workers had stolen their timecards.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law regulates the employment of children younger than 18 years and prohibits employment of children younger than 15. Children younger than 18 years are prohibited from work in an activity involving metalwork, hazardous chemicals, poisonous materials, radiation, and harmful temperatures or noise levels; exposure to toxic microorganisms; operation of heavy equipment; and work underground or underwater. The law also prohibits children younger than 18 years from work in hazardous workplaces, such as slaughterhouses, gambling establishments, places where alcohol is sold, massage parlors, entertainment venues, sea fishing vessels, and seafood processing establishments. The law provides limited coverage to child workers in some informal sectors, such as agriculture, domestic work, and home-based businesses. Self-employed children and children working in nonemployment relationships are not protected under national labor law, but they are protected under the Child Protection Act and the third amendment of the Antitrafficking in Persons Act of January.

Penalties for violations of the law may include imprisonment or fines, and were sufficient to deter violations. Parents who the court finds were “driven by unbearable poverty” can be exempt from penalties.

Government and private-sector entities, particularly medium and large manufacturers, advocated against the use of child labor through public awareness campaigns and conducted bone-density checks or dental age to identify potentially underage job applicants. Such tests were not, however, always accurate. Labor inspectors used information from civil society to target inspections for child labor and forced labor. In 2017 the DLPW recorded 103 cases of child labor violations (compared to 71 cases in 2016) and collected approximately 1.5 million baht ($46,000) in fines.

Some civil society and international organizations reported fewer cases of child labor in manufacturing, fishing, shrimping, and seafood processing. They attribute the decline to legal and regulatory changes in 2014 that expanded the number of hazardous job categories in which children younger than 18 years are prohibited from working and in 2017 that increased penalties for employing child laborers.

NGOs reported, however, that some children from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and ethnic minority communities were engaged in labor in informal sectors and small businesses, including farming, home-based businesses, restaurants, street vending, auto services, food processing, construction, domestic work, and begging. Some children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, child pornography, forced child begging, and production and trafficking of drugs (see section 6, Children). The Thailand Internet Crimes against Children task force became a stand-alone unit in 2017 with its own budget and administrative personnel; the number of officers assigned to the task force team increased in an effort to counter the commission of online crimes against children.

The DLPW is the primary agency charged with enforcing child labor laws and policies. In 2017 labor inspectors increased the number of inspections; 84 percent were unannounced and targeted to high-risk sectors for child labor, including seafood processing, garment, manufacturing, agriculture and livestock, construction, gas stations, restaurants, and bars. Violations included employing underage child labor in hazardous work, unlawful working hours, and failure to notify the DLPW of employment of child workers.

Observers noted several limiting factors in effective enforcement of child labor laws, including insufficient number of labor inspectors, insufficient number of interpreters during labor inspections, ineffective inspection procedures for the informal sector or hard-to-reach workplaces (such as private residences, small family-based business units, farms, and fishing boats), and lack of official identity documents or birth certificates among young migrant workers from neighboring countries. Moreover, a lack of public understanding of child labor laws and standards was also an important factor. The government conducted a nationally representative working child survey during the year; the data had not been released at year’s end.

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 did not specifically prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The law does impose penalties of imprisonment, fines, or both for anyone committing gender or gender identity discrimination, including in employment decisions. Another law requires workplaces with more than 100 employees to hire at least one worker with disabilities for every 100 workers.

Discrimination with respect to employment occurred against LGBTI persons, women, and migrant workers (also see section 7.e.). Government regulations require employers to pay equal wages and benefits for equal work, regardless of gender. Union leaders stated the wage differences for men and women were generally minimal and were mostly due to different skills, duration of employment, types of jobs, as well as legal requirements, which prohibit the employment of women in hazardous work. Nonetheless, a 2016 ILO report on migrant women in the country’s construction sector found female migrant workers consistently received less than their male counterparts, and more than one-half were paid less than the official minimum wage, especially for overtime work.

Union leaders reported pregnant women were dismissed unfairly, although reinstatements occurred after unions or NGOs filed complaints. In May, for example, the Eastern Labor Union Group, an affiliate of the Thai Labor Solidarity Committee, helped a pregnant woman to file a grievance with the Rayong provincial labor protection and welfare office alleging that her employer had forced her to resign. She was reinstated.

In September the police cadet academy announced it would no longer admit female cadets. This decision was widely criticized as discriminatory and detrimental to the ability of the police force to identify some labor violations against women. Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in employment, access, and training.

Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities faced frequent discrimination in the workplace, partly due to common prejudices and a lack of protective laws and policies on discrimination. Transgender workers reportedly faced even greater constraints, and their participation in the workforce was often limited to a few professions, such as cosmetology and entertainment.

Effective January 1 there were seven rates of daily minimum wage depending on provincial cost of living, ranging from 308 baht ($9.26) to 330 ($9.93) baht. This daily minimum wage was three times higher than the government-calculated poverty line of 2,667 baht ($80) per month, last calculated in 2016.

The maximum workweek by law is 48 hours, or eight hours per day over six days, with an overtime limit of 36 hours per week. Employees engaged in “dangerous” work, such as chemical, mining, or other industries involving heavy machinery, may work a maximum of 42 hours per week and may not work overtime. Petrochemical industry employees may not work more than 12 hours per day but may work continuously for a maximum period of 28 days.

The law requires safe and healthy workplaces, including for home-based businesses, and prohibits pregnant women and children younger than 18 from working in hazardous conditions. The law also requires the employer to inform employees about hazardous working conditions prior to employment. Workers do not have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Legal protections do not apply equally to all sectors. For example, the daily minimum wage does not apply to employees in the public sector, SOEs, domestic work, nonprofit work, and seasonal agricultural work. Ministerial regulations provide household domestic workers some protections regarding leave, minimum age, and payment of wages, but they do not address minimum wage, regular working hours, social security, or maternity leave.

A large income gap remained between formal and informal employment, with workers in nonagricultural sectors earning an average of three times more than those in the agricultural sector. According to government statistics, 55 percent of the labor force worked in the informal economy, with limited protection under labor laws and the social security system.

There were reports daily minimum wages, overtime, and holiday pay regulations were not well enforced in small enterprises, in some areas (especially rural or border areas), or in some sectors (especially agriculture, construction, and sea fishing). Labor unions estimated 5-10 percent of workers received less than the minimum wage; however, the share of workers who received less than minimum wage was likely higher among unregistered migrant workers. Unregistered migrant workers rarely sought redress under the law due to their lack of legal status to work and live in the country legally and the fear of losing their livelihood.

The DLPW enforces laws related to labor relations and occupational safety and health. The law subjects employers to fines and imprisonment for minimum wage noncompliance, but enforcement was inconsistent. There were reports many cases of minimum wage noncompliance went to mediation in which workers agreed to settlements for owed wages lower than the daily minimum wage.

Convictions for violations of occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations include imprisonment and fines; however, the number of OSH experts and inspections was insufficient, with most inspections taking place in reaction to complaints. Union leaders estimated only 20 percent of workplaces, mostly large factories for international companies, complied with government OSH standards.

Medium and large factories often applied government health and safety standards, but overall enforcement of safety standards was lax, particularly in the informal economy and smaller businesses. NGOs and union leaders noted the main factors for ineffective enforcement as an insufficient number of qualified inspectors, overreliance on document-based inspection (instead of workplace inspection), lack of protection for workers’ complaints, lack of interpreters, and failure to impose effective penalties on noncompliant employers. The Ministry of Labor hired and trained more inspectors and foreign language interpreters. The foreign language interpreters were assigned primarily to fishing port inspection centers and multidisciplinary human-trafficking teams.

The country provides universal health care for all citizens, and social security and workers’ compensation programs to insure employed persons in cases of injury or illness and to provide maternity, disability, death, child allowance, unemployment, and retirement benefits. Registered migrant workers in both the formal and informal labor sectors and their dependents are also eligible to buy health insurance from the Ministry of Public Health.

NGOs reported many construction workers, especially subcontracted workers and migrant workers, were not in the social security system or covered under the workers’ compensation program, despite requirements of the law. While the social security program is mandatory for employed persons, it excludes workers in the informal sector such as domestic work, seasonal agriculture, and fishing. Workers employed in the informal sector, temporary or seasonal employment, or self-employed may also contribute voluntarily to the workers’ compensation program and receive government matching funds.

NGOs reported several cases of denial of government social security and accident benefits to registered migrant workers due to employers’ failure to fulfill mandatory contribution requirements or because of migrant workers’ failure to pass nationality verification. Compensation for work-related illnesses was rarely granted because the connection between some illnesses (such as respiratory disease, anemia, or vitamin B deficiency) and the workplace was often difficult to prove.

Workers in the fishing industry were often deemed seasonal workers and therefore not required by law to have access to social security and workers’ compensation; however, the government requires registered migrant workers to buy health insurance. The lack of sufficient occupational safety and health training, inspections by OSH experts, first aid, and reliable systems to ensure timely delivery of injured workers to hospitals after serious accidents exacerbated the vulnerability of fishery workers. NGOs reported several cases of migrant workers who received only minimal compensation from employers after becoming disabled on the job.

NGOs reported poor working conditions and lack of labor protections for migrant workers, including those near border-crossing points. In July the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment to regulate the employment, recruitment, and protection of migrant workers, went into full effect. The decree provides for civil penalties for employing or sheltering unregistered migrant workers, while strengthening worker protections by prohibiting Thai employment brokers and employers from charging migrant workers additional fees for recruitment. The decree also bans subcontracting and prohibits employers from holding migrant worker documents. It also outlaws those convicted of labor and anti-trafficking-in-persons laws from operating employment agencies. During the first six months of the year, the government worked with the governments of Burma, Cambodia, and Laos to verify identity documents and issue work permits for more than one million migrant workers from those countries.

Labor brokerage firms used a “contract labor system” under which workers sign an annual contract. By law businesses must provide contract laborers “fair benefits and welfare without discrimination”; however, employers often paid contract laborers less and provided fewer or no benefits.

NGOs noted local moneylenders, mostly informal, offered loans at exorbitant interest rates so citizen workers looking for work abroad could pay recruitment fees, some as high as 500,000 baht ($15,000). Department of Employment regulations limit the maximum charges for recruitment fees, but effective enforcement of the rules remained difficult and inadequate; effective enforcement was hindered by workers’ unwillingness to provide information and the lack of legal documentary evidence regarding underground recruitment and documentation fees and migration costs. Exploitative employment service agencies persisted in charging citizens working overseas large, illegal fees that frequently equaled their first- and second-year earnings.

In 2017, the latest year for which data were available, there were 86,278 reported incidents of diseases and injuries from workplace accidents. The Social Security Office reported most serious workplace accidents occurred in manufacturing, wholesale retail trade, construction, transportation, hotels, and restaurants. Observers said workplace accidents in the informal and agricultural sectors and among migrant workers were underreported. Employers rarely diagnosed or compensated occupational diseases, and few doctors or clinics specialized in them.

Togo

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for the right of workers, except security force members (including firefighters and police), to form and join unions and bargain collectively. Supporting regulations allow workers to form and join unions of their choosing.

Workers have the right to strike, although striking health-care workers may be ordered back to work if the government determines it necessary for the security and well-being of the population. While no provisions in the law protect strikers against employer retaliation, the law requires employers to obtain an authorizing judgment from the labor inspectorate before they may fire workers on strike. If employees are fired illegally, including for union activity, they must be reinstated and compensated for lost salary. The law creating the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) allows EPZ workers to form two unions but exempts companies within the EPZ from providing workers with many legal protections, including protection against antiunion discrimination with regard to hiring and firing.

The government generally enforced laws regarding freedom of association and the right to organize, particularly outside the EPZs. While the law provides that violation of the right to organize is a criminal offense, it does not provide for specific penalties or fines.

While the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, the government did not enforce the law effectively. Investigations were infrequent because labor inspectors must pay for their own travel and lodging expenses without reimbursement. Penalties for conviction of violations included 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines; they were sufficiently stringent.

Forced labor occurred. Children were subjected to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 15 in any enterprise or type of work and children younger than age 18 from working at night. It requires a daily rest period of at least 12 hours for all working children. The law does not include corresponding penalties. The minimum age for employment in hazardous work, such as some types of industrial and technical employment, is 18, with two exceptions for children ages 16 and 17. The law prohibits the employment of children in the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and the use of children in armed conflict. The law, however, authorizes the employment of children ages 16 and older in other sectors likely to harm their health, safety, or morals.

The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Administrative Reform is responsible for enforcing the prohibition against the worst forms of child labor. The ministry funded a center for abandoned children and worked with NGOs to combat child trafficking. The ministry continued to hold workshops in collaboration with UNICEF, the International Labor Organization, NGOs, labor unions, police, customs officials, and other partners to raise awareness of child labor in general and forced child labor in particular.

The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws. Legal penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Ministry inspectors enforced age requirements only in the formal sector in urban areas.

Child labor was a problem. Some children started work at age five and typically did not attend school for most of the school year. Children worked in both rural and urban areas, particularly in family-based farming and small-scale trading, and as porters and domestic servants. In some cases children worked in factories. In the agricultural sector, children assisted their parents with the harvesting of cotton, cocoa, and coffee. Children were involved in crop production, such as of beans and corn, for family consumption.

The most dangerous activity involving child labor was in quarries, where children assisted their parents in crushing rock by hand and carrying buckets of gravel on their heads. The government did not sanction such labor, and it occurred only in small, privately owned quarries. Reputable local NGOs reported that, while quarry work was a weekend and holiday activity for most children, some left school to work full time in the quarries.

In both urban and rural areas, particularly in farming and small-scale trading, very young children assisted their families. In rural areas parents sometimes placed young children into domestic work in other households in exchange for one-time fees as low as 12,500 to 17,500 CFA francs ($23 to $32).

Children sometimes were subjected to forced labor, primarily as domestic servants, porters, and roadside sellers. Children were also forced to beg. Employers subjected children to forced labor on coffee, cocoa, and cotton farms, as well as in rock quarries, domestic service, street vending, and begging. Children were trafficked into indentured servitude. Child sexual exploitation occurred (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 occupation based on race, gender, disability, citizenship, national origin, political opinion, and language but does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases. Penalties for violations include a fine of up to one million CFA francs ($1,805) and a sentence of up to six months in prison.

The government, in general, did not effectively enforce the law. Evidence of hiring discrimination ranged from job advertisements that specified gender and age to requiring an applicant’s photograph. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred (see section 6, Women). Although the law requires equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, this provision generally was observed only in the formal sector.

By traditional law, which applies to the vast majority of women, a husband legally may restrict his wife’s freedom to work and may control her earnings.

Societal discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem. Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred.

Representatives of the government, labor unions, and employers negotiate and endorse a nationwide agreement to set nationwide wage standards for all workers in the formal sector. The National Collective Bargaining Agreement sets minimum wages for different labor categories, ranging from unskilled through professional positions. The minimum wage is 35,000 CFA francs ($63) per month. The government set the poverty level at the internationally recognized level of $1.27 per day (equal to 693 CFA francs), the equivalent of $38 per month (equal to 21,052 CFA francs).

Working hours of all employees in any enterprise, except in the agricultural sector, normally are not to exceed 40 hours per week. At least one 24-hour rest period per week is compulsory, and workers are to receive 30 days of paid leave each year. Working hours for employees in the agricultural sector are not to exceed 2,400 hours per year (46 hours per week). The law requires overtime compensation, and there are restrictions on excessive overtime work. The Interprofessional Collective Convention sets minimum rates for overtime work at 120 percent of base salary for the first eight hours, rising to 140 percent for every hour after eight, 165 percent for work at nights and on Sundays and holidays; and double pay for Sunday and holiday nights. This requirement was seldom respected in the private sector.

The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Administrative Reform is responsible for enforcement of all labor laws, especially in the formal private sector. The ministry had 150 labor inspectors for the country, which was insufficient to enforce the law effectively.

A technical consulting committee in the Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Administrative Reform sets workplace health and safety standards. It may levy penalties on employers that do not meet the standards, and workers have the right to complain to labor inspectors concerning unhealthy or unsafe conditions. Penalties for infractions were generally weak, and there was no evidence they deterred violations. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Labor laws also provide protection for legal foreign workers. The laws do not cover EPZ workers or workers in the informal sector, who represented a large, unregistered, nontaxpaying part of the economy. According to the Delegation of the Informal Sector Organization, a government entity, 80 percent of the country’s commercial trade is conducted in the informal sector, both urban and rural, which it defined as revenue-generating activity that produces untaxed or government regulated goods and services.

The law obliges large enterprises to provide medical services for their employees, and large companies usually attempted to respect occupational health and safety rules, while smaller ones often did not.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and formal-sector employers often ignored applicable laws. Employers often paid less than the official minimum wage, mostly to unskilled workers, and the government lacked the resources to investigate and punish violators.

Tonga

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions, but the government has not promulgated regulations on the formation of unions, collective bargaining, or the right to strike. No law specifically prohibits antiunion discrimination or provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. There was no dispute resolution mechanism in place specifically for labor disputes, although persons could take cases to court or refer cases to the Office of the Ombudsman. There were no reports of collective bargaining.

Government enforcement of freedom of association was not entirely effective. Penalties for violations incur criminal fines, which are not sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association. Trade unions and a variety of other worker associations exist. For example, the Friendly Islands Teachers Association and the Tonga Nurses Association were legally incorporated as civil society organizations, and the Friendly Island Seafarer’s Union Incorporated was affiliated with the International Transport Workers Federation. The Public Service Association acted as a de facto union representing all government employees.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Observers generally considered imprisonment penalties sufficient to deter violations. Although the government made some progress in enforcing relevant legal provisions, no data was available on government efforts specifically to address forced labor. There were unconfirmed, anecdotal reports of forced labor among women and children in domestic service (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

No legislation prohibits child labor or specifies a minimum age for employment. There were no reports that child labor existed in the formal wage economy. According to the National Center for Women and Children and other NGOs, some school-age children worked in the informal sector in traditional family activities such as subsistence farming and fishing. There were also reports of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude of some 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 does not prohibit discrimination based on any particular personal characteristic, feature, or group affiliation. Discrimination against women in employment and wages occurred. Women participated in the work force at a lower rate than men, were generally employed in lower-skilled jobs, and earned measurably less than men earn.

There is no minimum wage, but the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation, and Labor sets wage level guidelines. While no recent data was available, relatively few people lived in destitution, but a significant fraction of the population had difficulty paying for more than basic needs, such as education, transportation, and utilities. The law stipulates occupational health and safety standards for each sector, such as fisheries and agriculture. These standards are current and appropriate for main industries. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment.

Enforcement of regulations was inconsistent. The Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation, and Labor sought to enforce these standards in all sectors, including the informal economy; however, there were an insufficient number of inspectors. Penalties for violations took the form of monetary fines, which were adequate to deter violations.

Few industries exposed workers to significant danger.

Tunisia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides workers with the right to organize, form and join unions, and bargain collectively. The law allows workers to protest, provided they give 10 days’ advance notice to their federations and receive Ministry of Interior approval. Workers may strike after giving 10 days’ advance notice. The right to strike extends to civil servants, with the exception of workers in essential services “whose interruption would endanger the lives, safety, or health of all or a section of the population.” The government did not explicitly stipulate which services were “essential.” Authorities largely respected the right to strike in public enterprises and services. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers and retribution against strikers. The government generally enforced applicable laws.

Conciliation panels with equal labor and management representation settled many labor disputes. Otherwise, representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), and the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce, and Handicrafts (UTICA) formed tripartite regional commissions to arbitrate disputes. Observers generally saw the tripartite commissions as effective.

Unions rarely sought advance approval to strike. Wildcat strikes (those not authorized by union leadership) occurred throughout the year but at a level reduced from previous years, according to labor rights organizations. Sector-based unions carried out some strikes and sit-ins, such as those in education and health services and in extractive industries. Even if not authorized, the Ministry of Interior tolerated many strikes if confined to a limited geographic area.

The UGTT alleged antiunion practices among private-sector employers, including firing of union activists and using temporary workers to deter unionization. In certain industries, such as textiles, hotels, and construction, temporary workers continued to account for a significant majority of the workforce. UTICA, along with the government, maintained an exclusive relationship with the UGTT in reaching collective bargaining agreements. The government held organized collective social negotiations only with the UGTT. Representatives from the General Confederation of Tunisian Labor and the Union of Tunisian Workers complained their labor organizations were ignored and excluded from tripartite negotiations.

The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor and provides for penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor. The government effectively enforced most applicable codes dealing with forced labor. While penalties were sufficient to deter many violations, transgressions still occurred in the informal sector.

Some forced labor and forced child labor occurred in the form of domestic work in third-party households, begging, street vending, and seasonal agricultural work (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law generally prohibits the employment of children younger than 16. Persons under 18 are prohibited from working in jobs that present serious threats to their health, security, or morality. The minimum age for light work in the nonindustrial and agricultural sectors during nonschool hours is 13. Workers between the ages of 14 and 18 must have 12 hours of rest per day, which must include the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 may work no more than two hours per day. The total time that children spend at school and work may not exceed seven hours per day. The 2016 law to prevent trafficking in persons provides for penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine if a trafficking-in-person offense is committed against a child. The penalties were adequate to deter violations.

Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Social Affairs monitored compliance with the minimum age law by examining the records of employees. The resources at their disposal lagged behind economic growth. According to ministry officials, the labor inspectorate did not have adequate resources to monitor fully the informal economy, officially estimated to constitute 38 percent of GDP. According to World Bank statistics, the informal sector employed more than 54 percent of the total workforce, more than half of which was women. Occasionally, labor inspectors coordinated spot checks with the UGTT and the Ministry of Education.

Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking.

The Ministries of Employment and Vocational Training, Social Affairs, Education, and Women, Family, and Childhood all have programs in place to discourage children and parents form entering the informal labor market at an early age. These efforts include programs to provide vocational training and to encourage youth to stay in school through secondary school. The Minister of Social Affairs told media in September that between 100,000 and 120,000 students drop out of primary or secondary school each year.

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 and regulations prohibit employment discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-positive status or presence of other communicable diseases, or social status. The government did not always effectively enforce those laws and regulations due to lack of resources and difficulty in identifying when employers’ traditional attitudes toward gender identity or sexual orientation resulted in discriminatory employment practices (see section 6).

The labor code provides for a range of administratively determined minimum wages. In March the UGTT and employers’ union UTICA began talks on private sector wage increases. The UGTT has called for a 10.3 percent increase, equal to inflation and economic growth. In June the government and the UGTT started negotiations on public wage increases through 2021. In July the government raised the guaranteed interprofessional minimum wage by 6 percent for workers with 40 and 48-hour workweeks. The 48-hour regime minimum wage increased to 378 dinars and 560 millimes ($140.20) from 357 dinars and 136 millimes ($132.27). The 40-hour regime minimum wage increased to 323 dinars and 439 millimes ($119.79) from 305 dinars 586 millimes ($113.18). This move also included retroactive pay for private sector retirees covering 2016 and 2017. The minimum wage exceeds the poverty income level of 180 dinars ($66.67) per month.

In 2015 the Ministry of Social Affairs, the UGTT, and the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fishing reached an agreement to improve labor conditions and salaries in agricultural work to match those in the industrial sector. The agreement allows for the protection of rural women against dangerous employment conditions, sets safety standards for handling of hazardous materials, and gives tax incentives for agricultural employers to provide training for workers.

The law sets a maximum standard 48-hour workweek for manual work in the industrial and agricultural sectors and requires one 24-hour rest period per week. For administrative jobs in the private- and public-sectors, the workweek is 40 hours with 125-percent premium pay for overtime. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Depending on years of service, employees are statutorily awarded 18 to 23 days of paid vacation annually. Although there is no standard practice for reporting labor code violations, workers have the right to report violations to regional labor inspectors.

Special government regulations control employment in hazardous occupations, such as mining, petroleum engineering, and construction. Workers were free to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment, and they could take legal action against employers who retaliated against them for exercising this right. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing health and safety standards in the workplace. Under the law, all workers, including those in the informal sector, are afforded the same occupational safety and health protections. UGTT representatives noted that these health and safety standards were not adequately enforced. Regional labor inspectors were also responsible for enforcing standards related to hourly wage regulations. The government did not adequately enforce the minimum-wage law, particularly in nonunionized sectors of the economy. The prohibition against excessive compulsory overtime was not always enforced.

Working conditions and standards generally were better in export-oriented firms, which were mostly foreign owned, than in those firms producing exclusively for the domestic market. According to the government and NGOs, labor laws did not adequately cover the informal sector, where labor violations were reportedly more prevalent. Temporary contract laborers complained they were not afforded the same protections as permanent employees. There were no major industrial accidents during the year. Credible data on workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities were not available.

Turkey

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, but it places significant restrictions on these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity or payment of a fine equal to one year’s salary.

Certain public employees, such as senior officials, magistrates, members of the armed forces, and police, cannot form unions. The law provides for the right to strike but prohibits strikes by public workers engaged in safeguarding life and property and by workers in the coal mining and petroleum industries, hospitals and funeral industries, urban transportation, energy and sanitation services, national defense, banking, and education. For example, authorities in Ankara prohibited protesters, mostly women, affiliated with the 2014 Soma mining disaster that left 301 workers dead, from completing a march protesting the acquittals and lenient sentences for the executives of the mining company. Employees in some of these sectors were able to bargain collectively but were obligated to resolve disputes through binding arbitration rather than strikes.

The law allows the government to deny the right to strike in any situation it determines represents a threat to public health or national security. In May employees of the Soda Sanayii chemical company were suspended for 60 days for striking. According to May press reports, under the state of emergency, authorities banned seven strikes and suspended 15, affecting nearly 200,000 workers. The government maintained a number of restrictions on the right of association and collective bargaining. The law requires unions to notify government officials prior to meetings or rallies, which must be held in officially designated areas and allow government representatives to attend their conventions and record the proceedings. A minimum of seven workers is required to establish a trade union without prior approval. To become a bargaining agent, a union must represent 40 percent of the employees at a given work site and 1 percent of all workers in that particular industry. Labor law prohibits union leaders from becoming officers of or otherwise performing duties for political parties or working for or being involved in the operation of any profit-making enterprise. Nonunionized workers, such as migrants and domestic servants, were not covered by collective bargaining laws.

The government did not enforce laws on collective bargaining and freedom of association effectively in many instances, and penalties (generally monetary fines) were insufficient to deter violations. Labor courts functioned effectively and relatively efficiently. Appeals, however, could often last for years. If a court ruled that an employer had unfairly dismissed a worker and should either reinstate or compensate the individual, the employer generally paid compensation to the employee along with a fine.

Under the state of emergency, dismissed public-sector employees did not have access to adequate recourse to appeal their dismissals (see section 1.e.). The closure of foundations, universities, hospitals, associations, newspapers, television channels, publishing houses, and distributors under state of emergency decrees left employees jobless, without their salaries and severance payments, as part of the seizure of assets by the government. The International Labor Organization found in June that the government had unfairly dismissed or arrested worker representatives in addition to tens of thousands of public sector workers. In a July report, the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers Unions (DISK) asserted that government actions under the state of emergency violated a range of labor rights and reported that 19 unions and confederations were shut down under the state of emergency.

The government and employers interfered with freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Government restrictions and interference limited the ability of some unions to conduct public and other activities. Police were frequently present at union meetings and conventions, and some unions reported that local authorities declined to grant permission for public activities, such as marches and press conferences. Under the state of emergency, the government disallowed a variety of public events by unions and other groups in numerous parts of the country. Authorities again restricted traditional May 1 Labor Day rallies in parts of the country. In Istanbul, police detained 52 persons participating in a May Day rally and placed a security lockdown on the city, including restricting access to the city’s main shopping street, which was the scene of past protest marches.

Workers at the site of Istanbul’s new airport organized a rally on September 14 to protest unsafe working conditions, unpaid wages, and unsanitary living conditions. Official government statistics state 27 workers lost their lives on the project while some union reports alleged the number was much higher. Police broke up the rally and conducted raids on worker housing leading to the detention of approximately 500 workers. While most were released, at year’s end 31 remained in detention and an additional 19 under judicial control facing charges of destruction of property, disrupting the freedom to work, violating the law on public assemblies, and possession of weapons. HRW also reported in a statement that some workers who joined the demonstration were subsequently fired and that the construction site continued to be heavily policed.

According to DISK, under the state of emergency, the government banned seven strikes that it deemed threats to national security and suspended 15 strikes. In August the Constitutional Court ruled that a cabinet decree banning a 2015 strike violated the constitution.

Employers used threats, violence, and layoffs in unionized workplaces. Unions stated that antiunion discrimination occurred regularly across sectors. Service sector union organizers reported that private-sector employers sometimes ignored the law and dismissed workers to discourage union activity. Many employers hired workers on revolving contracts of less than a year’s duration, making them ineligible for equal benefits or bargaining rights. Chiefly female employees in the Flormar cosmetic company called for a boycott of the company’s products and as of December, had maintained an eight-month strike protesting the firing of 132 women who complained of low pay and poor safety conditions.

The law generally prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government enforced such laws unevenly. Penalties (generally monetary fines) were insufficient to deter violations. Forced labor generally did not occur, although some local and refugee families required their children to work on the streets and in the agricultural or industrial sectors to supplement family income (see section 7.c.).

Women, refugees, and migrants were vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers used psychological coercion, threats, and debt bondage to compel victims into sex trafficking. Although government efforts to prevent trafficking continued with mixed effect, it made improvements in identifying trafficking victims nationwide. Penalties for conviction of trafficking violations range from eight to 12 years imprisonment and were sufficiently stringent compared with other serious crimes. The government did not make data on the number of arrests and convictions related to trafficking publicly available.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law allows children to perform light work that does not interfere with their school attendance from age 14 and establishes 15 as the minimum age for regular employment. The law prohibits children younger than 16 from performing arduous or dangerous work. The government prohibited children younger than 18 from working in certain professions or under hazardous conditions.

The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws, but made efforts to address the issue. On February 24, First Lady Emine Erdogan and more than half a dozen ministers attended a ceremony to launch the “Year to Combat Child Labor” initiative. Both ministers and the heads of some of the country’s largest unions signed a declaration pledging to prevent the use of child labor and implement the government’s new child labor strategy, the National Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (2017-2023). Resources and inspections were insufficient to effectively monitor and enforce prohibitions against the use of child labor. In the absence of a complaint, inspectors did not generally visit private agricultural enterprises employing 50 or fewer workers, resulting in enterprises vulnerable to child labor exploitation.

Illicit child labor persisted, including in its worst forms, driven in part by large numbers of Syrian children working in the country. Child labor primarily took place in seasonal agriculture, street work (e.g., begging), and small or medium industry (e.g., textiles, footwear, and garments), although overall numbers remained unclear, according to a wide range of experts, academics, and UN agencies engaged on the issue. Parents and others sent Romani children to work on the streets selling tissues or food, shining shoes, or begging. Such practices were also a significant problem among Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi refugee children. The government implemented a work permit system for registered adult Syrian refugees, but many lacked access to legal employment; some refugee children consequently worked to help support their families, in some cases under exploitative conditions. According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Services, and Family data, in the first five months of the year, 23 workplaces were fined for violating the prohibition of child labor rules.

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 does not explicitly address discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity, color, national origin or citizenship, social origin, communicable disease status, or HIV positive status. The labor code does not apply to discrimination in the recruitment phase. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with regard to sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, and presence of a disability. Sources also reported frequent discrimination based on political affiliation/views. Penalties, generally monetary fines, were insufficient to prevent violations.

Women faced discrimination in employment and generally were underrepresented in managerial-level positions in business, government, and civil society. According to the Turkish Statistics Institute, women’s employment in 2016 was 28 percent, corresponding to 8.4 million women. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017, 33.8 percent of women participated in the labor force.

For companies with more than 50 workers, the law requires that at least 3 percent of the workforce consists of persons with disabilities; in the public sector, the requirement is 4 percent. Despite these government efforts, NGOs reported examples of discrimination in employment of persons with disabilities.

LGBTI individuals faced particular discrimination in employment. Some statutes criminalize the vague practice of “unchastity.” Some employers used these provisions to discriminate against LGBTI individuals in the labor market, although overall numbers remained unclear.

The national minimum wage was greater than the estimated national poverty level.

The law establishes a 45-hour workweek with a weekly rest day. Overtime is limited to three hours per day and 270 hours a year. The law mandates paid holiday/leave and premium pay for overtime but allows for employers and employees to agree to a flexible time schedule. The Labor Ministry’s Labor Inspectorate effectively enforced wage and hour provisions in the unionized industrial, service, and government sectors. Workers in nonunionized sectors had difficulty receiving overtime pay to which they were entitled by law. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. According to the unions, the government-set occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were not always up to date or appropriate for specific industries.

The government did not effectively enforce laws related to minimum wage, working hours, and OSH in all sectors. The law did not cover workers in the informal economy that included an estimated 25 percent of the gross domestic product and more than one-quarter of the workforce. Penalties came in the form of monetary fines but were not adequate to deter violations.

OSH remained a major challenge, particularly in the construction and mining industries, where accidents were common and regulations inconsistently enforced despite government efforts to improve OSH conditions. The Assembly for Worker Health and Safety reported at least 1,640 workplace deaths during the first 10 months of the year. In many sectors, workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities did not effectively protect vulnerable employees. Overall numbers of labor inspectors remained insufficient to enforce compliance with labor laws across the country. During the year police detained several hundred airport workers protesting safety conditions (see section 7.a.).

Unions reported that OSH laws and regulations did not sufficiently protect contract workers or unregistered workers. Migrants and refugees working in the informal sector remained particularly vulnerable to substandard work conditions in a variety of sectors, including seasonal agriculture, industry, and construction.

Turkmenistan

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. The law prohibits workers from striking. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination against union members and organizers. There are no mechanisms for resolving complaints of discrimination, nor does the law provide for reinstatement of workers fired for antiunion activity.

The government did not respect freedom of association or collective bargaining and did not effectively enforce the law. No penalties exist to deter violations. All trade and professional unions were government controlled, and none had an independent voice in its activities. The government did not permit private citizens to form independent unions. There were no labor NGOs in the country.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows for compulsory labor as a punishment for criminal offenses, requiring that convicted persons work in the place and job specified by the administration of the penal institution, potentially including private enterprises. Compulsory labor may also be applied as a punishment for libel and for violation of the established procedure for the organization of assemblies, meetings, or demonstrations.

The law provides for the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of suspected forced labor and other trafficking offenses. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations, including fines of up to 2,000 manat ($570) or suspension of an employer’s operations for up to three months, were inconsistently enforced and insufficient to deter violations. The government reported it conducted investigations and convicted traffickers. Construction workers in the informal sector were vulnerable to forced labor, and there was use of government-compelled forced labor in the cotton industry. To meet government-imposed quotas for the cotton harvest, local authorities required university students, private-sector institution employees, soldiers, and public-sector workers to pick cotton without compensation and under threat of penalty.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

During the year the government amended the labor code to increase the minimum age at which a person can enter into a labor agreement or contract from age 16 to 18. A 15-year-old, however, may work four to six hours per day, up to 24 hours per week, with parental and trade union permission. The law prohibits children between the ages of 16 and 18 from working more than six hours per day, or 36 hours per week. The law also prohibits children from working overtime or between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and protects children from exploitation in the workplace. A presidential decree bans child labor in all sectors and states specifically that children may not participate in the cotton harvest.

Resources, inspections, and remediation were reportedly adequate to enforce the prohibitions on child labor. Penalties for violations, including fines of up to 2,000 manat ($570) or suspension of an employer’s operations for up to three months, were enforced and sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor General’s Office effectively enforced the 2005 presidential decree prohibiting child labor.

The law prohibits discrimination based on nationality, race, gender, origin, language, religion, disability, HIV status or other communicable diseases, political beliefs, and social status. The government did not always effectively enforce the law, which does not specify penalties for discrimination on these grounds, with the exception of disability; discrimination against persons with disabilities is punishable by fines ranging from 203 manat to 2,000 manat ($58 to $570) and suspension for up to three months. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Discrimination in employment and occupation based on gender, language, and disability (see section 6) was widespread across all sectors of the economy and government. Certain government positions required language exams, and all government positions required a family background check going back three generations. Civil society members reported the country retained a strong cultural bias against women in positions of power and leadership, making it difficult for some women to secure managerial positions based on their gender. Although the 2013 Code on the Social Protection of the Population defines social protection policies for persons with disabilities and establishes quotas and work places for persons with disabilities, it was not broadly enforced. Members of the disability rights community reported that persons with disabilities were generally unable to find satisfactory employment due to unofficial discrimination. There was no information on discrimination against internal migrant workers.

In January the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection issued regulations requiring companies to set aside up to 5 percent of job vacancies for persons with disabilities and for single parents with large families whose children were younger than age 18 or have disabilities.

As of January the minimum monthly wage in all sectors was approximately 715 manat ($205). A presidential decree raised wages by 10 percent in January. An official estimate of the poverty-level income was not available. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours with weekends off. The law states overtime or holiday pay should be double the regular wage. Maximum overtime in a year is 120 hours and may not exceed four hours in two consecutive days. The law prohibits pregnant women, women with children up to age three, women with disabled children younger than age 16, and single parents with two or more children from working overtime.

The law grants prenatal and postnatal maternity leave. A mother is entitled up to three years of unpaid maternity leave.

During the year the government did not publish any unemployment data.

The law provides a minimum of 30 days of paid annual leave for state employees, 45 days for teachers at all types of educational institutions, and 55 days for professors. The law permits newlyweds and their parents 10 days of paid leave for the preparation of weddings. Workers also receive 10 days of paid leave to carry out funeral rites and commemoration ceremonies in the event of the death of a close relative. Upon reaching age 62, citizens are entitled to an additional three days of paid leave.

The government did not set comprehensive standards for occupational health and safety. There is no state labor inspectorate. State trade unions, however, employed 14 labor inspectors, who have the right to issue improvement notices to government industries. According to the law, trade union inspectors cannot levy fines, and there are no mechanisms for enforcement of improvement notices.

The government required its workers and many private-sector employees to work 10 hours a day or a sixth day without compensation. Reports indicated many public-sector employees worked at least a half-day on Saturdays. Laws governing overtime and holiday pay were not effectively enforced. There were no defined penalties for violation of wage and hour provisions, and no state agency was designated for enforcement.

Employers did not provide construction workers and industrial workers in older factories proper protective equipment and often made these workers labor in unsafe environments. Some agricultural workers faced environmental health hazards related to the application of defoliants in preparing cotton fields for mechanical harvesting. Workers did not have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment, and authorities did not protect employees in these situations. Statistics regarding work-related injuries and fatalities were not available.

Tuvalu

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not permit public-sector employees such as civil servants, teachers, and nurses to form and join unions. They may join professional associations that have the right to bargain collectively but not the right to strike. No law prohibits antiunion discrimination or requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

In general the government effectively enforced these laws. By law employers who violate laws on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are liable to a maximum fine of AUD 100 ($72), depending on the violation, and in some cases imprisonment for a maximum of six months. These penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The law also provides for voluntary conciliation, arbitration, and settlement procedures in cases of labor disputes. In general these procedures were not subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

Although there are provisions for collective bargaining and the right to strike, the few private-sector employers set their own wage scales. Both the private and public sectors generally used nonconfrontational deliberations to resolve labor disputes. There was only one registered trade union, the Tuvalu Overseas Seamen’s Union. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. Anyone who exacts, procures, or employs forced or compulsory labor is liable to a fine of AUD 100 ($72), which was not sufficient to deter violations. There were no reports of forced labor during the year.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits children younger than 14 years from working in the formal labor market. The law also prohibits children younger than 15 years from industrial employment and prohibits children younger than 18 years from entering into formal contracts, including work contracts. The law does not prohibit the worst forms of child labor, forced labor, or child trafficking, nor does it set a minimum age for hazardous work. A separate provision of law, however, allows children 15 years and older to enter into apprenticeships for a maximum of five years, subject to approval by the commissioner of labor. There are restrictions on the type of work a child apprentice may perform, and he or she must receive a medical examination and be determined physically and mentally fit for employment in the specified occupation. Apprentices may lawfully live away from their families; in such cases, the contract must provide for adequate food, clothing, accommodation, and medical care for the apprentice. No legal restrictions prohibit girls or boys older than 15 years from working aboard ships or during the night.

The government did not have sufficient resources to monitor or enforce child labor laws and depended instead on communities to report offenses. By law anyone found violating provisions on the employment of children is liable to an AUD 50 ($36) fine, which was not sufficient to deter violations. Children rarely engaged in formal employment but did work in subsistence fishing. The government does not collect or publish data on child labor.

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 and regulations do not prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, age, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status, and these persons sometimes experienced discriminatory practices. There were no reports during the year of discrimination in employment and wages. In the wage economy, men held most higher-paying positions. Nonetheless, women increasingly held senior positions in government, particularly in the health and education sectors. Few women could access credit to start businesses. Local agents of foreign companies that hired local seafarers to work abroad also barred persons with HIV/AIDS from employment.

The law provides for the government to set a minimum wage, but the Department of Labor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Environment, Trade, Labor, and Tourism had not done so. The minimum annual salary in the public sector was AUD 5,266 ($3,790). Private-sector wages were reportedly somewhat lower than the minimum public-sector wage rate.

The law sets the workday at eight hours, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Environment, Trade, Labor, and Tourism may specify the days and hours of work for workers in various industries. Although the law provides for premium pay and overtime work, there are no established premium overtime rates or maximum hours of work. The law provides for rudimentary health and safety standards and requires employers to provide adequate potable water, basic sanitary facilities, and medical care. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

Enforcement of standards in all sectors, including the informal economy, was inconsistent. By law penalties for violations of laws related to acceptable conditions of work are liable to a maximum fine of AUD 100 ($72) depending on the violation, or a maximum six months’ imprisonment if the person failed to pay an imposed fine. These penalties were adequate to deter violations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Environment, Trade, Labor, and Tourism is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, health, and safety regulations, but the ministry did not have sufficient resources to formally and regularly conduct inspections of the laws’ application. The Department of Labor had two officers, which was not sufficient to enforce compliance. The labor officers relied on information from the community and conducted inspections when the office received complaints.

Approximately 75 percent of the working-age population lacked permanent employment and worked in the informal and subsistence economy. There was no system for reporting and publishing workplace injuries or deaths.

Ukraine

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution provides for freedom of association as a fundamental right and establishes the right to participate in independent trade unions. The law provides the right for most workers to form and join independent unions, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes. There are no laws or legal mechanisms to prevent antiunion discrimination, although the labor code requires employers to provide justification for layoffs and firings, and union activity is not an acceptable justification. Legal recourse is available for reinstatement, back wages, and punitive damages, although observers describe court enforcement as arbitrary and unpredictable, with damages too low to create incentives for compliance on the part of employers.

The law contains several limits to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. A number of laws that apply to worker organizations are excessively complex and contradictory. For example the status of trade unions under two laws provides they are considered legal entities only after state registration. Under another law, however, a trade union is considered a legal entity upon adoption of its statute. The inherent conflict between these laws creates obstacles for workers seeking to form trade unions. Unions also reported significant bureaucratic hurdles in the registration process, including the payment of notary fees and requirements to visit as many as 10 different offices. Moreover, independent unions have reported multiple incidents of harassment by local law enforcement officials while navigating the registration process, including atypical and irregular requests for documentation and membership information.

The legal procedure to initiate a strike is complex and severely hinders strike action, artificially lowering the numbers of informal industrial actions. The legal process for industrial disputes requires consideration, conciliation, and labor arbitration allowing involved parties to draw out the process for months. Only after completion of this process can workers vote to strike, a decision that courts may still block. The right to strike is further restricted by the requirement that a large percentage of the workforce (two-thirds of general workers’ meeting delegates or 50 percent of workers in an enterprise) must vote in favor of a strike before it may be called. The government is allowed to deny workers the right to strike on national security grounds or to protect the health or “rights and liberties” of citizens. The law prohibits strikes by broad categories of workers, including personnel in the Office of the Prosecutor General, the judiciary, the armed forces, the security services, law enforcement agencies, the transportation sector, and the public service sector.

Legal hurdles made it difficult for independent unions that were not affiliated with the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) to take part in tripartite negotiations, participate in social insurance programs, or represent labor at the national and international levels. The legal hurdles resulting from an obsolete labor code hindered the ability of smaller independent unions to represent their members effectively. Authorities did not enforce labor laws effectively or consistently. Trade unions expressed concern that the labor inspectorate lacked funding, technical capacity, and sufficient professional staffing to conduct independent inspections effectively (see section 7.e.).

Worker rights advocates continued to note concerns for the independence of unions from government or employer control. Independent trade unions alleged that the country’s largest trade union confederation, the FPU, enjoyed a close relationship with employers and members of some political parties. Authorities further denied unions not affiliated with the FPU a share of disputed trade union assets inherited by the FPU from Soviet-era unions, a dispute dating back more than two decades.

Independent union representatives continued to be the subjects of violence and intimidation, and reported that local law enforcement officials frequently ignored or facilitated violations of their rights. Worker advocates reported an increase in retaliation against trade union members involved in anticorruption activities at their workplaces.

In April unidentified assailants assaulted a doctor, who was also a trade union activist and whistleblower, in Kyiv. The assault was the second in a series of attacks that followed the doctor’s official and public statements regarding widespread corruption in the healthcare sector.

Trade unions also reported unidentified assailants assaulted a railway inspector who was a union activist in Kryvyi Rih in April. The Independent Railworker’s Union reported that it believed the attack was related to anticorruption activity by the local union chapter.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for violations were sufficiently stringent to deter violations, but resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate to provide for enforcement.

During the year the IOM responded to numerous instances of compulsory labor, to include pornography, criminal activity, labor exploitation, begging, and sexual and other forms of exploitation. There were also reports of trafficking of women, men, and children for labor in construction, agriculture, manufacturing, services, the lumber industry, nursing, and street begging. Annual reports on government action to prevent the use of forced labor in public procurement indicated that the government has not taken action to investigate its own supply chains for evidence of modern slavery. Traffickers subjected some children to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

According to the IOM, identified victims of trafficking received comprehensive reintegration assistance, including legal aid, medical care, psychological counseling, financial support, vocational training, and other types of assistance based on individual needs.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for most employment is 16, but children who are 14 may perform undefined “light work” with a parent’s consent. While the law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, it does not always provide inspectors sufficient authority to conduct inspections.

From January to August, the State Service on Labor conducted 2,614 inspections to investigate compliance with child labor laws. The inspections identified 72 organizations engaged in child labor activities. Of these, 24 were in the service sector, seven in the industrial sector, six in the agricultural sector, and 35 in other areas. The inspections uncovered 40 cases of undeclared labor, one child working in hazardous conditions, and six minors receiving undeclared wages. Increased child labor in amber mining was a growing problem, according to reports by international labor groups.

The most frequent violations of child labor laws concerned work under hazardous conditions, long workdays, failure to maintain accurate work records, and delayed salary payments. Child labor in illegal mining of coal and amber in the territories controlled by Russia-led forces grew during the year. The government established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor. The exceptionally low number of worksite inspections conducted at the national level, however, impeded the enforcement of child labor laws.

Penalties for violations of the child labor laws ranged from small fines for illegitimate employment to prison sentences for sexual exploitation of a child; as in previous years, some observers believed these punishments were insufficient to deter violations.

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 labor code prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, political, religious and other beliefs, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic, social, and foreign origin, age, health, disability, HIV/AIDS condition, family and property status, or linguistic or other grounds.

The government did not always enforce the law, and employment discrimination reportedly occurred with respect to gender, disability, nationality, race, minority status, sexual orientation or gender identity, and HIV-positive status. The agriculture, construction, mining, heavy industry, and services sectors had the most work-related discrimination. The law provides for civil, administrative, and criminal liability for discrimination in the workplace. Penalties include a fine of up to 50 tax-free minimum incomes, correctional labor for a term of up to two years, restraint of liberty for up to five years, and restriction on engaging in certain activities for a period of up to three years. When accompanied by violence, employment discrimination violations are punishable by correctional labor for a term of up to two years or imprisonment for a term of up to five years if such actions were committed by an organized group of persons or if they caused death or other grave consequences.

Women received lower salaries due to limited opportunities for advancement and the types of industries that employed them. According to the State Statistics Office, men earned on average 26 percent more than women. The gap was not caused by direct discrimination in the setting of wages, but by horizontal and vertical stratification of the labor market: Women were more likely to work in lower-paid sectors of the economy and in lower positions. Women held fewer elected or appointed offices at the national and regional levels (40 percent).

The country’s annual budget establishes a government-mandated national minimum wage. The minimum wage increased to 3,723 hryvnias per month ($133) during the year from 3,200 hryvnias per month ($125) in 2017. The monthly minimum wage is above the poverty income level, which stood at 1,777 hryvnias ($65.80) in July and will rise to 1,853 hryvnias ($66.20) on December 1. Some shadow employees received wages below the established minimum.

The labor law provides for a maximum 40-hour workweek, with a minimum 42-hour period of rest per week and at least 24 days of paid vacation per year. It provides for double pay for overtime work and regulates the number of overtime hours allowed. The law requires agreement between employers and local trade union organization on overtime work and limits overtime to four hours during two consecutive days and 120 hours per year.

The law requires employers to provide workplace safety standards. Employers must meet occupational safety and health standards but at times ignored these regulations due to the lack of enforcement or strict imposition of penalties. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous working conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment. According to one NGO, employers in the metal and mining industries often violated the rule and retaliated against workers by pressuring them to quit.

Wage arrears continued to be a major problem during the year. A lack of legal remedies, bureaucratic wrangling, and corruption in public and private enterprises, blocked efforts to recover overdue wages, leading to significant wage theft. Total wage arrears in the country rose during the year through September 1 to 3.6 billion hryvnias ($97.6 million). The majority of wage arrears occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. The Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine reported that arrears in the coal sector had reached almost 930 million hryvnias ($33.2 million) in September. Arrears and corruption problems exacerbated industrial relations and led to numerous protests.

The government did not always effectively enforce labor law. In 2017 the government adopted a new procedure for state control and supervision of labor law compliance that introduces new forms and rules for oversight of labor law compliance, extends the powers of labor inspectors, amends the procedure for imposing fines for violation of labor law requirements, and introduces specific forms for exercise of control by labor inspectors, namely, inspection visits and remote inspections.

Labor inspectors may assess compliance based on leads or other information regarding possible unreported employment from public sources. This includes information the service learns concerning potential violations from other state agencies. For example, when tax authorities discover a disparity between a company’s workforce and its production volumes as compared to average data for the industry, they may refer the case to labor authorities who will determine compliance with labor laws.

While performing inspection visits to check potential unreported employment, labor inspectors may enter any workplace without prior notice at any hour of day or night. The law also allows labor inspectors to hold an employer liable for certain types of violations (e.g., unreported employment), empowering them to issue an order to cease the restricted activity. Labor inspectors may also visit an employer in order to monitor labor law compliance and inform the company and its employees about labor rights and best practices.

The law provides procedures for imposing fines for violation of labor and employment laws. Municipal authorities may impose fines for labor law violations. In addition, the authority imposing a fine need not be affiliated with Labor Service. For example, a report from an onsite tax audit that reveals labor law violations may result in a fine.

In September the Cabinet of Ministers approved regulation #649, increasing regulatory oversight to monitor and counter “shadow” employment in the informal economy, the widespread practice of paying for labor without an existing employment contract. The regulation compels the State Labor Service, the State Fiscal Service, the State Pension Fund, and the National Police to review their internal regulations to introduce stricter control measures to combat shadow employment. Agencies are also required to conduct public awareness campaigns to inform employers of the new procedures.

Penalties for violations workplace safety standards ranged from 510 to 1,700 hryvnias ($19 to $63), which were insufficient to deter violations. The State Labor Inspectorate was responsible for enforcing labor laws. Inspectors were limited in number, funding, and authority to enforce existing regulations. The absence of a coordination mechanism with other government bodies was also significant. Penalties established for undeclared work, wage arrears, and work-hour violations included fines of 50 to 100 tax-free minimum incomes that could reach 111,690 hryvnias ($4,000). Additional penalties included limitations on the right to occupy positions of responsibility or to engage in some activities for three to five years, correctional labor for up to two years, or arrest for up to six months if the actions committed affected a minor or a pregnant woman.

Labor inspections occurred at a company’s request or upon the formal request of the investigator in the framework of criminal proceedings against a company.

Mineworkers, particularly in the illegal mining sector, faced serious safety and health problems. Operational safety problems and health complaints were common. Lax safety standards and aging equipment caused many injuries on the job. Over the first eight months of the year, authorities reported 2,725 individual injuries, including 254 fatalities; 474 injuries to coal miners, including 14 fatalities; 333 injuries in the agro-industrial sector, including 39 fatalities; and 225 injuries in engineering, including 14 fatalities.

Despite Russian aggression close to industrial areas in the government-controlled areas of the Donbas region, enterprises involved in mining, energy, media, retail, clay production, and transportation continued to operate. Fighting resulted in damage to mines and plants through loss of electricity, destroyed transformers, physical damage from shelling, and alleged intentional flooding of mines by combined Russia-led forces. Miners were especially vulnerable, as loss of electrical power could strand them underground. The loss of electrical power also threatened the operability of mine safety equipment that prevented the buildup of explosive gases.


IN THIS SECTION: Ukraine (ABOVE) |  Crimea

Ukraine (Crimea)

Section 7. Worker Rights

Russian occupation authorities announced the labor laws of Ukraine would no longer be in effect after the start of 2016 and that only the laws of the Russian Federation would apply.

Russian occupation authorities imposed the labor laws and regulations of the Russian Federation on Crimean workers, limited worker rights, and created barriers to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the ability to strike. Trade unions are formally protected under Russian law, but limited in practice. As in both Ukraine and Russia, employers were often able to engage in antiunion discrimination and violate collective bargaining rights. The pro-Russian authorities threatened to nationalize property owned by Ukrainian labor unions in Crimea. Ukrainians who did not accept Russian citizenship faced job discrimination in all sectors of the economy. Only holders of Russian national identification cards were allowed to work in “government” and municipal positions. Labor activists believed that unions were threatened in Crimea to accept “government” policy without question and faced considerable restrictions on advocating for their members.

Although no official data were available, experts estimated there was growing participation in the underground economy in Crimea.


IN THIS SECTION: Ukraine | Crimea (ABOVE)

Uruguay

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, protects the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in practice. Civil servants, employees of state-run enterprises, private-enterprise workers, and legal foreign workers may join unions. The law regulates collective bargaining and grants the government a significant role in adjudicating labor disputes. The law also designates trade unions to negotiate on behalf of workers whose companies are not unionized. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires employers to reinstate workers fired for union activities and pay them an indemnity. In addition, if an employer contracts employees from a third-party firm, the law holds the employer responsible for possible labor infringements committed by the third-party firm. Workers in the informal sector were excluded from these protections. The government respected and effectively enforced labor laws.

The Labor and Social Security Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security investigates discrimination and workplace abuse claims filed by union members. In 2017 the Ministry of Labor received 318 labor-related claims, including 247 claims of harassment in the workplace, 28 claims of sexual abuse in the workplace, and 28 claims of antiunion discrimination. Information on government remedies and penalties for violations was not available. There were generally effective, albeit lengthy, mechanisms for resolving workers’ complaints against employers. The law establishes a conciliatory process before a trial begins and requires that the employer be informed of the reason for a claim and the alleged amount owed to the worker.

Worker organizations operated free of government and political intervention. The governing Frente Amplio coalition provided strong political support to labor unions in general. Labor union leaders were strong advocates for public policies and even foreign policy issues. They remained very active in the political and economic life of the country. In November the International Labor Organization issued a report to the government regarding a complaint by local business chambers of commerce requesting the government change collective bargaining laws.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law establishes penalties of two to 12 years in prison for forced labor crimes. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Labor investigated two cases of forced labor in 2017 involving a total of 21 victims and one case during the year involving one victim. Information on the effectiveness of inspections and governmental remedies was not available. Foreign workers, particularly from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina, were vulnerable to forced labor in agriculture, construction, domestic service, cleaning services, elderly care, wholesale stores, textile industries, agriculture, fishing, and lumber processing. Migrant women were the most vulnerable as they were often exposed to sexual exploitation. Furthermore, North Korean laborers, a population particularly vulnerable to forced labor, were identified as having transited Uruguay to board fishing vessels that operated in international waters off the coast.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15, but INAU may issue work permits for children ages 13 to 15 under circumstances specified by law. In 2017 INAU issued 2,619 of these work permits, of which 57 percent were for work in the country’s interior. Minors ages 15 to 18 must undergo physical exams prior to beginning work and renew the exams yearly to confirm that the work does not exceed the physical capacity of the minor. Children ages 15 to 18 may not work more than six hours per day within a 36-hour workweek and may not work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, and the government maintains a list of hazardous or fatiguing work that minors should not perform and for which it does not grant permits.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for overall compliance with labor regulations, but INAU is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Due to a lack of dedicated resources, enforcement was mixed and particularly poor in the informal economy, where most child labor occurred. Violations of child labor laws by companies and individuals are punishable by fines determined by an adjustable government index. Parents of minors involved in illegal child labor may receive a sentence of three months to four years in prison, according to the penal code. These penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The main child labor activities reported in the interior of the country were work on small farms, maintenance work, animal feeding, fishing, cleaning milking yards, cattle roundup, beauty shops, at summer resorts, and as kitchen aids. In Montevideo the main labor activities were in the food industry (supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and bakeries) and in services, gas stations, customer service, delivery services, cleaning, and kitchen aid activities. Informal-sector child labor continued to be reported in activities such as begging, domestic service, street vending, garbage collection and recycling, construction, and in agriculture and forestry sectors, which were generally less strictly regulated and where children often worked with their families.

INAU worked with the Ministry of Labor and the state-owned insurance company BSE to investigate child labor complaints and worked with the Prosecutor General’s Office to prosecute cases. INAU reported 32 complaints of child labor incidents, a decrease from 55 in the previous year. The government had 22 trained child-labor inspectors (15 at the Ministry of Labor and seven at INAU). INAU completed 2,649 inspections in 2016, the last period for which information was available. INAU continued its efforts to prevent and regulate child labor and provided training on child labor matters.

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV status, or other communicable diseases. The government in general effectively enforced applicable law and regulations, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred mostly with respect to sex, race, and nationality. Foreign workers, regardless of their national origin or citizenship status, were not always welcome and continued to face challenges when seeking employment. The government took steps to prevent and eliminate discrimination (see sections 5 and 6).

The law provides for a national minimum wage, and the monthly minimum wage for all workers was 13,430 pesos ($415). The official per capita poverty income level was approximately 14,550 pesos ($450) per month in the capital and approximately 9,350 pesos ($290) per month in the interior, according to the National Institute of Statistics. The government effectively enforced wage laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Formal-sector workers, including domestic and migrant workers and workers in the agricultural sector, are covered by laws on minimum wage and hours of work. These laws do not cover workers in the informal sector, who accounted for 24 percent of the workforce. Workers in construction and agricultural sectors were more vulnerable to labor rights violations.

The law stipulates that persons cannot work more than eight hours a day and the standard workweek for those in the industrial and retail sectors may not exceed 44 or 48 hours, with daily breaks of 30 minutes to two and one-half hours. The law requires that workers receive premium pay for work in excess of regular work schedule hours. The law entitles all workers to 20 days of paid vacation after one year of employment and to paid annual holidays, and it prohibits compulsory overtime beyond a maximum 50-hour workweek. Employers in the industrial sector are required to give workers either Sunday off or one day off every six days of work (variable workweek). Workers in the retail sector are entitled to a 36-hour block of free time each week. Workers in the rural sector cannot work more than 48 hours in a period of six days.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum monthly wage for both public- and private-sector employees and for enforcing legislation regulating health and safety conditions. The ministry had 120 labor inspectors throughout the country, which was sufficient to enforce compliance. The number of penalties imposed for labor violations was unavailable.

The government monitored wages and other benefits, such as social security and health insurance, through the Social Security Fund and the Internal Revenue Service. The Ministry of Public Health’s Bureau of Environment and Occupational Work is responsible for developing policies to detect, analyze, prevent, and control risk factors that may affect workers’ health. In general authorities effectively enforced these standards in the formal sector but less so in the informal sector.

The Labor Ministry’s Social Security Fund monitored domestic work and may obtain judicial authorization to conduct home inspections to investigate potential labor law violations. Conditions for domestic workers improved, including labor rights, social security benefits, wage increases, and insurance benefits. Although 37 percent of domestic workers were employed in the informal sector, it was half the percentage of 10 years ago.

By law workers may not be exposed to situations that endanger their health or safety and may remove themselves from such situations without jeopardy to their employment. Government authorities and unions protected employees who removed themselves from such activities. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for carrying out safety and health inspections in the agricultural sector.

The Ministry of Labor sets occupational safety and health standards, and the standards were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country.

The state-owned insurance company BSE reported 31,622 labor accidents and 25 labor-related deaths in 2017, compared with 33,000 accidents and 14 deaths in 2016. A total of 3,218 accidents were related to construction work. The National Employment and Professional Development Institute had trained 10,000 workers on occupational safety and labor accident prevention. In some cases workers were not informed of specific hazards or employers did not adequately enforce labor safety measures.

The press reported on a case involving nine construction workers who were injured from a fall into a pit at a site in Montevideo in September. One day prior, the Ministry of Labor had issued an order for the work area to be closed. Neither the closure nor the hazards of the area were communicated to the construction workers. The construction workers union filed a formal complaint. The Ministry of Labor was investigating the incident and reported it would apply the necessary penalties.

Uzbekistan

Section 7. Worker Rights

While the law generally provides the right of workers to form and join independent unions and bargain collectively, these legal rights have not been possible to exercise since there were no independent labor unions operating in the country. The law neither provides for nor prohibits the right to strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The law on trade unions states that workers may not be fired due to trade union membership, but it does not clearly state whether workers fired for union activity must be reinstated. Volunteers in public works and workers employed by individuals without documented contracts do not have legal protection.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Article 200 of the Administrative Responsibility Code and article 217 of the criminal code provide penalties for violating freedom of association laws equal to five to 10 times the minimum salary. In 2016 the country ratified ILO Convention 87 (Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize), which entered into force during the year, and amended the law on “professional unions, rights, and guarantees of their activities,” which improved the legal role of the trade unions in the protection of labor and employees’ social rights. Despite the improvements in legal protections, workers were unable to exercise their right to form and join unions. Workers continued to worry that attempts to create independent alternative unions would be repressed. Unions remained centralized and wholly dependent on the government.

The state-run Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan incorporated more than 35,000 primary organizations and 14 regional trade unions; according to official reports, 60 percent of employees in the country participated in the federation in 2017. Leaders of the federation were appointed by the president’s office rather than elected by the union members or board. All regional and industrial trade unions at the local level were state managed.

Even under the auspices of the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan, union members and their leaders remained unable to conduct activities without interference from employers or government-controlled institutions. These government-organized unions demonstrated minimal bargaining power. For example, government ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture in consultation with the Federation of Trade Unions, continued to set wages for government employees and production quotas in certain sectors. In the emerging private sector, management established wages or negotiated them individually with persons who contracted for employment. There was no state institution responsible for labor arbitration.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except as legal punishment for such offenses as robbery, fraud, or tax evasion, or as specified by law. Certain sections of the criminal code allow for compulsory labor as a punishment for offenses including defamation, and incitement of national, racial, ethnic, or religious enmity.

The government continued its efforts to combat all forms of forced labor. During the year the government informed the public of the prohibition against forced labor, including in the annual cotton harvest. Working closely with the ILO to raise awareness, the government erected 400 roadside billboards and distributed brochures, and oversaw a cotton harvest feedback mechanism that included telephone hotlines and online messaging applications dedicated to reporting labor violations. On September 5, the prime minister chaired a Cabinet of Ministers’ conference, also attended by ILO and media representatives, that served to operationalize the cabinet resolution passed on August 30, “On Measures of Conducting Organized Cotton Harvesting Works in 2018.” The prime minister underlined that the use of forced labor was absolutely forbidden during the cotton harvest and those responsible for forced labor would be punished.

During his visit to Syrdarya Region on April 13, President Mirziyoyev pledged to punish officials if they forced teachers, doctors, or students into cleaning roads or other places prior to presidential visits. This followed the death of a schoolteacher named Diana Enikeyeva in a roadside accident while undertaking compulsory street beautification activities. Meeting with Syrdarya regional activists, the President expressed regret regarding the death of Enikeyeva and emphasized that such instances of forced labor would be regarded as a betrayal of the “policy pursued by the head of the state.”

On April 19, the prime minister chaired a Cabinet of Ministers meeting on the prohibition of forcing students, medical workers, teachers and representatives of other social spheres, to undertake field and landscaping activities.

On May 10, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution forbidding teachers, medical worker, other public workers, and students from recruitment into compulsory labor activities such as landscaping of district and urban areas, seasonal agricultural work as well as metal scrap and waste paper collection. Also in May, the government established specific fines for illegally recruiting students and public workers to this unpaid work. Media reported isolated instances of forced labor compelled by local or regional authorities, including the Fergana regional governor’s order to all members of the Fergana Regional State Customs Committee to participate in public beautification projects. In June local media reported that police officers in Tashkent complained of being forced to clean streets.

While the government formally prohibited the use of forced labor in all sectors of the economy, this prohibition was inconsistently implemented at the local level and there were credible reports of isolated cases in which local or regional authorities compelled forced labor by adults in the cotton sector. The central government continued to impose cotton production quotas, which put pressure on local officials to ensure the quota was met. To incentivize cotton picking by the unemployed, the government raised the basic pay rate from 450 sums per kilo of cotton in 2017 to a range between 650 and 1,000 sums (between 7 and 12 cents) per kilo, depending on the different phases of the harvest. This approach was successful during the first 10 days of the harvest and there were few reports of forced labor. However, by the end of the harvest, pressure to meet the quota led local leaders in some locations to pressure teachers and other government workers to pick. The Uzbek German Forum reported that, on October 13,–late in the harvest–its monitors in seven of Uzbekistan’s 13 regions recorded “forced mobilization to pick cotton or the demand to pay for replacement workers.”

The government pursued complaints of forced labor, even those from independent observers, which resulted in administrative penalties for 169 local officials accused of forcing individuals to work. The government reported approximately 45 convictions for forced labor but did not provide sufficient information to determine if these crimes were related forced labor in the country or of a transnational nature. There were no criminal convictions of government officials for complicity in forced labor.

The government also allows the ILO access in real time to its feedback mechanism for reporting labor violations to see how it responded to complaints. The ILO calculated that the percentage of pickers forced to pick cotton fell from 12 percent in 2017 to 7 percent in 2018. Additionally, the government made important efforts to meet with international organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations, and local activists to discuss the issue of forced labor publicly and to receive feedback including suggestions and criticism to enable it to improve its approach to forced labor in the cotton harvest. The government acknowledged its problem with forced labor and sought assistance to eliminate it.

Local government-compelled forced labor existed in other sectors as well. Local officials forced civil servants and private businesses employees, and others to work in construction and other forms of noncotton agriculture, including to clean parks, streets, and buildings.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum working age at 16 and provides that work must not interfere with the studies of those younger than 18. The law does not allow children younger than age 15 to work at all, but this provision was not always observed. Children aged 15, with permission from their parents, may work a maximum of 24 hours per week when school is not in session and 12 hours per week when school is in session. Children between ages 16 through 18 may work 36 hours per week while school is out of session and 18 hours per week while school is in session. Decrees stipulate a list of hazardous activities forbidden for children younger than age 18 and prohibit employers from using children to work under specified hazardous conditions, including underground, underwater, at dangerous heights, and in the manual harvesting of cotton, including cotton harvesting with dangerous equipment.

Children were employed in agriculture, in family businesses such as bakeries and convenience stores, and as street vendors.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations have authority to enforce laws on child labor and forced labor. However, the lead government organization for child labor is the Prosecutor General’s Office, which works closely with the Ministry Employment and Labor Relations the Ministry of Interior’s general criminal investigators. The Office of the Prime Minister took the lead role in coordinating implementation of labor decrees to keep children from working in cotton fields. Governmental, and international and local organizations representing women, youth, labor, farmers, and employers’ interests participated in national child labor monitoring in the cotton sector. The ILO increased the scope of its Third Party Monitoring during the year to encompass 11,000 individuals (in face-to-face interviews, via telephone calls, and by surveys). This Third Party Monitoring was conducted under the guidance of the ILO and by applying its methodology. The ILO monitoring teams concluded there was no systemic use of child labor in the harvest during the year.

There were isolated reports of children picking cotton, but these were individual occurrences rather than government-compelled, nationwide mobilization. The government prohibition against the use of students remains in force, although a small number of students were found to be working voluntarily to earn extra cash.

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 prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, gender, religion, and language. The labor code states that differences in the treatment of individuals deserving of the state’s protection or requiring special accommodation, including women, children, and persons with disabilities, are not to be considered discriminatory. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, or social origin. HIV-positive individuals are legally prohibited from being employed in certain occupations, including those in the medical field that require direct contact with patients or with blood or blood products, as well as in cosmetology or haircutting. The government generally did not effectively enforce these laws and regulations. There were no reliable data on employment discrimination.

In April, the Uzbek Labor Code was amended to prohibit refusing employment based on an applicant’s criminal record or the criminal record of a close relative.

Foreign migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections as Uzbek workers as long as their employers follow all legal procedures for their employment. The law provides for a number of punishments of Uzbek employers who do not follow all legal procedures. Enforcement of employment law was lax, primarily due to insufficient staffing of relevant entities and endemic corruption.

The national minimum monthly wage, used primarily to calculate salaries in the public sector as well as various taxes and duties, was 149,775 soms ($19) per month in 2017.

A 2013 amendment to the labor code raised the minimum monthly salary for full-time employees in the public sector to 230,000 soms ($29). There were no official statistics concerning the average monthly wage, but most experts estimated in 2017 a figure of 780,000 soms ($98) before taxes. This level did not include wages in the agricultural sector, which were higher in 2018 than in 2017.

Officials defined the poverty level as consumption of fewer than 2,100 calories per day, but the government did not publish any income indicators of poverty. International estimates using a daily dollar average of $2.50 per person–a level four times higher than the minimum daily wage of $0.60–put the percentage of the population living below the poverty level as high as 77 percent.

The law establishes a standard workweek of 40 hours and requires a 24-hour rest period. The law provides for paid annual holidays. The law provides overtime compensation as specified in employment contracts or as agreed with an employee’s trade union. Such compensation may be provided in the form of additional pay or leave. The law states that overtime compensation should not be less than 200 percent of the employee’s average monthly salary rate. Additional leave time should not be less than the length of actual overtime work. An employee may not work more than 120 hours of overtime per year, but this limitation was not generally observed, particularly in the public sector. The law prohibits compulsory overtime.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations establishes and enforces occupational health and safety standards in consultation with unions. According to the law, health and safety standards should be applied in all sectors. Employers are responsible for ensuring compliance of standards, rules, and regulations on labor protection, as well as obligations under collective agreements. The law provides that workers may legally remove themselves from hazardous work if an employer fails to provide adequate safety measures for the job, and the employer must pay the employee during the time of the work stoppage or provide severance pay if the employee chooses to terminate employment. Workers generally did not exercise this right because it was not effectively enforced and employees feared retribution by employers. The law requires employers to insure against civil liability for damage caused to the life or health of an employee in connection with a work injury, occupational disease, or other injury to health caused by the employee’s performance on the job. In addition, the company’s employees have the right to demand, and the administration is obliged to provide them with information on the state of working conditions and safety at work, available personal protection means, benefits and compensations.

Approximately five to eight labor inspectors staffed offices in each of the country’s 14 administrative units, and there were specialized offices for major industries, such as construction, mining, and manufacturing. The Ministry of Labor instituted new protocols requiring investigation into labor complaints within five business days. Labor inspectors usually focused on the private sector, while inspections of state-owned enterprises were considered pro forma. Labor inspectors conducted routine inspections of small and medium-sized businesses once every four years and inspected larger enterprises once every three years. Additionally, the ministry or a local governor’s office could initiate a selective inspection of a business, and special inspections were conducted in response to accidents or complaints. A 2017 presidential decree prohibited unannounced inspections of private businesses, including labor inspections.

Reports suggested that enforcement was uneven. The law remained unenforced in the informal economy, where employment was usually undocumented.

The government continued with the extension of the ILO’s Decent Work Country Program until 2020. The most common labor violations were working without contracts, receiving lower than publicly announced payments, delayed payments, and substandard sanitary or hygienic working conditions.

On September 27, the Oliy Majlis adopted the Law on “Private Employment Agencies”, which provides a definition of “private” employment agency, and set requirements for its management and staffing. The law includes a provision for charging fees to job seekers, which is in contradiction with ILO Convention No 181 on Private Employment Agencies, of 1997.

The government and official media did not publish data on employment in the informal economy. Many employees had official part-time or low-income jobs. There were no effective government programs to provide social protections to workers in the informal economy.

No occupational health and safety violations were reported. Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational health and safety standards were most common in the private sector. Although regulations provide for safeguards, workers in hazardous jobs often lacked protective clothing and equipment. More specific information on sectors in which violations were common and on specific groups of workers who faced hazardous or exploitative working conditions was not available. In July the Ministry of Employment and Labor issued figures stating that during the past three years, 1,214 accidents have been registered at workplaces in Uzbekistan, resulting in 241 deaths.

Vanuatu

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively. This right is not extended to the police force or prison service. While the law does not require union recognition by the employer, it prohibits antiunion discrimination once a union is recognized. Unions are required to register with the government and to submit audited statements of revenue and expenditure to the registrar annually. Unions require government permission to affiliate with international labor federations; the government has not denied any union such permission.

The law prohibits retaliation for legal strikes but does not explicitly require reinstatement for workers fired for union activity. Unions are independent of the government but there were instances of government interference in union activities. The law requires unions to give 30 days’ notice of intent to strike and to provide a list of the names of potential strikers. A union must also show that it has attempted negotiation with the employer and reported the matter to the industrial registrar for possible mediation. The minister of labor may prohibit persons employed in essential services from striking. Under law a court may find any person who fails to comply with such a prohibition guilty of an offense; similarly, for strikes in nonessential services, courts may also find workers failing to comply with procedural requirements guilty of an offense. Convictions for such offenses may result in an obligation to perform compulsory labor in public prisons.

Complaints from private sector workers about violations of freedom of association are referred to the Department of Labor for conciliation and arbitration. The Public Service Commission handles complaints of violations from public sector workers. Complaints of antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Department of Labor. According to the commissioner for labor, the department has a dispute resolution process to manage these grievances.

The government effectively enforced applicable law without lengthy delays or appeals. Resources were limited, and investigations were generally only carried out following complaints. Penalties for violating the law were sufficient to deter violations.

The government and employers respected freedom of association, but the right to collective bargaining was not explicitly laid out in the law. During the year the Airport Workers Union and the Teachers Union both issued strike notices demanding that the government review their working conditions. In both cases, the government and unions were able to come to an agreement before any strike action.

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the law prohibits slavery and human trafficking. The law excludes from the definition of forced labor any work or service that forms part of the national civic obligations of citizens, but the law does not define such work.

The government enforced the law. Penalties for violating the law were sufficient to deter violations. There were no reports that forced labor occurred.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law establishes the minimum age for employment at 14. The law prohibits children younger than 12 from working outside family-owned agricultural production, where many children assisted their parents. Children age 12 through 14 may perform light domestic or agricultural work if a family member works alongside the child, and agricultural work if the community does it collectively. Children younger than 18 generally may not work on ships; however, with the permission of a labor officer, a child age 15 may work on a ship. Although parliament established a minimum age of 15 for hazardous work, the law does not comply with international standards, because it does not prohibit children between 16 and 17 from engaging in hazardous work, such as industrial labor and work on ships.

The government did not release enough information related to its enforcement of child labor law during the reporting period to determine whether the law was effectively enforced. The Labor Department confirmed there were no reported cases of illegal child labor during the year, and department action to address child labor was limited to informal presentations on the topic. There were no reports of government stopping child labor activities or imposing administrative barriers.

According to the National Child Protection Policy, the country has no data to determine the nature and prevalence of child labor. The Department of Labor stated, however, that most child workers were involved in logging activities in the country. Logging activities expose children to hazardous activities including having no proper protective equipment to operate machines, no proper training, and no regular medical checkups. Children were also involved in handling or lifting heavy loads. There were also reports of a lack of regular inspection from forestry and other appropriate government agencies to provide appropriate guidance to the workers.

There were no credible reports of children employed in agriculture illegally, although legal employment of children in hazardous work could constitute a worst form of child labor. There were reports children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (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 constitution prohibits employment discrimination with respect to race, religion, political opinion, traditional beliefs, place of origin or citizenship, language, or sex.

The government did not effectively enforce prohibitions on employment discrimination against women, which was widespread. The penalty for violation of this prohibition is a maximum fee of 10,000 vatu ($89) or a prison term of up to three years.

Discrimination against women was especially common in promotions to management positions. Persons with disabilities also faced discrimination with respect to employment and occupations. The International Labor Organization noted that legislation allowing for the removal of persons with disabilities from some senior positions appeared to reflect an assumption that a person is incapable of holding such a position if they have any form of disability, and encouraged the government to prohibit explicitly discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment.

In January the minimum wage was raised from 170 vatu ($1.50) to 200 vatu ($1.78) per hour. For full-time work, this would total 1,600 vatu per day ($14.20), above the national poverty income level of 370 vatu ($3.30) per day. In April a World Bank report based on the 2010 household income and expenditure survey indicated that 12.7 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

The law provides for a 44-hour maximum workweek, and overtime should not exceed 56 hours per week. Workers must receive more than three days paid annual holidays. The law provides for a premium of 50 to 75 percent more than the normal rate of pay for overtime work.

The law includes provisions for occupational safety standards, which are up-to-date and appropriate for the main sectors. Legal provisions on working conditions and safety standards apply equally to foreign workers and citizens in the formal sector. Application of safety and health provisions were inadequate to protect workers engaged in logging, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. While workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, the government did not protect workers in this situation.

Enforcement of the law was inadequate, especially in the informal sector. The labor commissioner stated that most companies complied with the wage rate and inspectors conducted routine inspections to determine that minimum wages were paid. The government did not receive any formal complaints of violations regarding minimum wage, hours of work, or safety standards during the year.

Many companies in logging, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing did not provide personal safety equipment and standard scaffolding for workers.

Venezuela

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that all private- and public-sector workers (except members of the armed forces) have the right to form and join unions of their choice, and it provides for collective bargaining and the right to strike. The law, however, places several restrictions on these rights, and the government deployed a variety of mechanisms to undercut the rights of independent workers and unions. Minimum membership requirements for unions differ based on the type of union. Forming a company union requires a minimum of 20 workers; forming a professional, industrial, or sectoral union in one jurisdiction requires 40 workers in the same field; and forming a regional or national union requires 150 workers. Ten persons may form an employees association, a parallel type of representation the government endorsed and openly supported.

The law prohibits “any act of discrimination or interference contrary to the exercise” of workers’ right to unionize. The law requires all unions to provide the Ministry of Labor a membership roster that includes the full name, home address, telephone number, and national identification number for each union member. The ministry reviews the registration and determines whether the union fulfilled all requirements. Unions must submit their registration application by December 31 of the year the union forms; if not received by the ministry or if the ministry considers the registration unsatisfactory, the union is denied the ability to exist legally. The law also requires the presence of labor inspectors to witness and legitimize unions’ decisions before the Ministry of Labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) raised concerns about the ministry’s refusal to register trade union organizations.

By law employers may negotiate a collective contract only with the union that represents the majority of its workers. Minority organizations may not jointly negotiate in cases where no union represents an absolute majority. The law also places a number of restrictions on unions’ ability to administer their activities. For example, the CNE has the authority to administer internal elections of labor unions, federations, and confederations. By law elections must be held at least every three years. If CNE-administered and -certified elections are not held within this period, the law prohibits union leaders from representing workers in negotiations or engaging in anything beyond administrative tasks. The ILO repeatedly found cases of interference by the CNE in trade union elections, and in 1999 it began calling for the CNE to be delinked from the union election process.

The law recognizes the right of all public- and private-sector workers to strike, subject to conditions established by law. By law workers participating in legal strikes receive immunity from prosecution, and their time in service may not be reduced by the time engaged in a strike. The law requires that employers reincorporate striking workers and provides for prison terms of six to 15 months for employers who fail to do so. Replacement workers are not permitted during legal strikes. The law prohibits striking workers from paralyzing the production or provision of essential public goods and services, but it defines “essential services” more broadly than ILO standards. The ILO called on the government to amend the law to exclude from the definition of “essential services” activities “that are not essential in the strict sense of the term…so that in no event may criminal sanctions be imposed in cases of peaceful strikes.”

The minister of labor may order public- or private-sector strikers back to work and submit their disputes to arbitration if a strike “puts in immediate danger the lives or security of all or part of the population.” Other legal provisions establish criminal penalties for exercising the right to strike in certain circumstances. For example, the law prohibits specified actions and makes punishable with five to 10 years in prison anyone who “organizes, supports, or instigates the realization of activities within security zones that are intended to disturb or affect the organization and functioning of military installations, public services, industries and basic [mining] enterprises, or the socioeconomic life of the country.” The law also provides for prison terms of two to six years and six to 10 years, respectively, for those who restrict the distribution of goods and for “those…who develop or carry out actions or omissions that impede, either directly or indirectly, the production, manufacture, import, storing, transport, distribution, and commercialization of goods.” There was no information on whether penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The government restricted the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining through administrative and legal mechanisms.

The ILO raised concerns about violence against trade union members and government intimidation of the Associations of Commerce and Production of Venezuela. ILO member countries voted to establish an ILO Commission of Inquiry against Venezuela to investigate longstanding complaints first lodged in 2015 of labor rights violations of ILO Conventions No. 26, 87, and 144, which pertain to minimum-wage fixing, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and tripartite consultation, respectively. The ILO had recommended that the government allow a tripartite delegation to provide technical assistance to mediate unresolved complaints between the government, employers, and workers. The government continued to refuse access to the ILO High-Level Tripartite delegation to address complaints of labor rights violations.

Organized labor activists continued to report that the annual requirement to provide the Ministry of Labor a membership roster was onerous and infringed on freedom of association. They alleged the ministry removed member names from the rosters for political purposes, particularly if members were not registered to vote with the CNE. Labor leaders also criticized the laborious and costly administrative process of requesting CNE approval for elections and subsequent delays in the CNE’s recognition of such union processes. In addition there reportedly was a high turnover of Ministry of Labor contractors, resulting in a lack of timely follow-through on union processes. Labor unions in both the private and public sectors noted long delays in obtaining CNE concurrence to hold elections and in receiving certification of the election results, which hindered unions’ ability to bargain collectively.

The government continued to support many “parallel” unions, which sought to dilute the membership and effectiveness of traditional independent unions. In October, Labor Minister Eduardo Pinate announced the expansion of the ministry’s Youth Worker Program (Chamba Juvenil), which independent union leaders claimed was a government mechanism to displace independent workers with government-aligned workers and also to suppress wages, since youth are paid less than experienced workers. In general these government-supported unions were not subject to the same government scrutiny and requirements regarding leadership elections. The government excluded from consideration other, independent union federations, including the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, General Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, Confederation of Autonomous Unions of Venezuela, and National Union of Workers.

The government continued to refuse to adjudicate or otherwise resolve the cases of 19,000 employees of the state oil company (PDVSA) who were fired during and after the 2002-03 strike. The Ministry of Labor continued to deny registration to the National Union of Oil, Gas, Petrochemical, and Refinery Workers.

The concept of striking, demonized since the 2002 national security law, was used periodically as a political tool to accuse government opponents of coup plotting or other destabilizing activities. Some companies, especially in the public sector, had multiple unions with varying degrees of allegiance to the ruling party’s version of the “socialist revolution,” which could trigger interunion conflict and strife. In August striking regional union leaders of Corpoelec (a state-owned electricity operator) complained national union leaders failed to negotiate in good faith on behalf of striking workers demanding wage increases. Corpoelec regional union leaders alleged national union leaders were progovernment “chavistas” and therefore beholden to the government for political reasons.

In June Maduro provisionally released former University of Carabobo professor Rolman Rojas, former president of the Carabobo College of Nurses Julio Garcia, former president of Fetracarabobo Omar Escalante, and former secretary general of the National Federation of Retirees and Pensioners Omar Vasquez Lagonel but required weekly reports to a judge as a condition of their release. SEBIN detained the group in August 2017 for their participation in the national labor strike against the ANC election.

The law prohibits some forms of forced or compulsory labor but does not provide criminal penalties for certain forms of forced labor. The law prohibits human trafficking by organized crime groups through its law on organized crime, which prescribes 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment for the human trafficking of adults carried out by a member of an organized-crime group of three or more individuals. The organized-crime law, however, fails to prohibit trafficking by any individual not affiliated with such a group. Prosecutors may employ other statutes to prosecute such individuals. The law increases penalties from 25 to 30 years for child trafficking with the purpose of forced labor. There was no comprehensive information available regarding the government’s enforcement of the law. The labor group Autonomous Front in Defense of Employment, Wages, and Unions (FADESS) reported that public-sector worker agreements included provisions requiring service in the armed forces’ reserves.

There were reports of children and adults subjected to human trafficking with the purpose of forced labor, particularly in the informal economic sector and in domestic servitude (see section 7.c.). According to FADESS, more than 60,000 Cubans worked in government social programs (such as the Mission Inside the Barrio) in exchange for the government’s provision of oil resources to the Cuban government. FADESS noted Cubans worked in the Ministries of Education, Registrar, Notary, Telecommunications, and Security. FADESS also cited that the G-2 Cuban security unit was present in the armed forces and in state enterprises. Indicators of forced labor reported by some Cubans included chronic underpayment of wages, mandatory long hours, limitations on movement, and threats of retaliatory actions against workers and their families if they left the program. According to the Global Slavery Index, the estimated absolute number of victims in the country was 174,000.

The law does not sufficiently prohibit the trafficking of boys and requires proof of the use of deception, coercion, force, violence, threats, abduction, or other fraudulent means to carry out the offense of trafficking of girls, including for commercial sexual exploitation.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum employment age at 14. Children younger than 14 may work only if granted special permission by the National Institute for Minors or the Ministry of Labor. Such permission may not be granted to minors who are younger than the legal age for work in hazardous occupations that risk their life or health or could damage their intellectual or moral development. According to the ILO, the government had not made publicly available the list of specific types of work considered hazardous. Children ages 14 to 18 may not work without permission of their legal guardians or in occupations expressly prohibited by law, and they may work no more than six hours per day or 30 hours per week. Minors younger than age 18 may not work outside the normal workday.

Anyone employing children younger than age eight is subject to a prison term of between one and three years. Employers must notify authorities if they hire a minor as a domestic worker.

No information was available on whether or how many employers were sanctioned for violations. The government continued to provide services to vulnerable children, including street children, working children, and children at risk of working. There was no independent accounting of the effectiveness of these and other government-supported programs.

Most child laborers worked in the agricultural sector, street vending, domestic service, or in small and medium-size businesses, most frequently in family-run operations. There continued to be isolated reports of children exploited in domestic servitude, mining, forced begging, and commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6).

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 constitution prohibits employment discrimination for every citizen. The law prohibits discrimination based on age, race, sex, social condition, creed, marital status, union affiliation, political views, nationality, disability, or any condition that could be used to lessen the principle of equality before the law. No law specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV/AIDS status. Media and NGOs, such as PROVEA and the Human Rights Center at the Andres Bello Catholic University, reported the government had a very limited capacity to address complaints and enforce the law in some cases and lacked political will in some cases of active discrimination based on political motivations.

Nominal wages increased 43,273 percent through the first nine months of the year, but accumulated inflation over the same period reached 81,043 percent, according to a monthly study conducted by the National Assembly Finance Committee, which conducted its work without official Central Bank data.

In January workers in the health, petroleum, transportation, and electricity began holding protests, work stoppages, and strikes denouncing “hunger salaries”–wages insufficient to afford the basic food basket and unable to keep pace with hyperinflation. Additionally, they decried the lack of adequate equipment, supplies, and safe working conditions. Emblematic was the nurses’ strike, which began in June and continued as of October. Nurses demanded a salary increase on par with those of military officials: Nurses earned 2.2 million, compared with military officials earning 240 million bolivares, a 100-fold salary disparity. Striking nurses also demanded hospital supplies and medicines to counteract severe shortages, rendering them unable to provide adequate patient care. In response President Maduro unilaterally issued a decree in August raising the national minimum wage to 1,800 bolivares soberanos ($11), a 60-fold increase from the previous minimum wage. Labor experts noted the unilateral nature of the decision countered ILO Convention No. 26 requiring the government to consult with employers and workers prior to enacting wage increases. Legislators noted the decree violated the law, since it supplanted collective bargaining agreements. Union leaders from the petroleum, health, telecommunications, and electricity sectors highlighted that the decree did not include wage adjustments to keep up with hyperinflation and thus remained insufficient to afford the basic food basket. It also violated the law by nullifying previously signed collective bargaining agreements, including wage tables that scaled salaries accounting for seniority and merit pay.

The president of CONINDUSTRIA, the trade union of the industrial sector, stated that of the 15,000 industries existing in 2000, only 3,500 remained as of October.

The law sets the workweek at 40 hours (35 hours for a night shift). The law establishes separate limits for “shift workers,” who may not work more than an average of 42 hours per week during an eight-week period, with overtime capped at 100 hours annually. Managers are prohibited from obligating employees to work additional time, and workers have the right to two consecutive days off each week. Overtime is paid at a 50 percent surcharge if a labor inspector approves the overtime in advance and at a 100 percent surcharge if an inspector does not give advance permission. The law establishes that, after completing one year with an employer, a worker has a right to 15 days of paid vacation annually. A worker has the right to an additional day for every additional year of service, for a maximum of 15 additional days annually.

The law provides for secure, hygienic, and adequate working conditions. Workplaces must maintain “protection for the health and life of the workers against all dangerous working conditions.” The law obligates employers to pay workers specified amounts for workplace injuries or occupational illnesses, ranging from two times the daily salary for missed workdays to several years’ salary for permanent injuries. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The law covers all workers, including temporary, occasional, and domestic workers. There was reportedly some enforcement by the Ministry of Labor of minimum wage rates and hours of work provisions in the formal sector, but 40 percent of the population worked in the informal sector, where labor laws and protections generally were not enforced. The government did not enforce legal protections on safety in the public sector. According to PROVEA, while the National Institute for Prevention, Health, and Labor Security required many private businesses to correct dangerous labor conditions, the government did not enforce such standards in a similar manner in state enterprises and entities. There was no publicly available information regarding the number of inspectors or the frequency of inspections to implement health and safety, minimum wage, or hours of work provisions. Ministry inspectors seldom closed unsafe job sites. There was no information on whether penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Official statistics regarding workplace deaths and injuries were not publicly available.

Vietnam

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution affords the right to association and the right to demonstrate but limits the exercise of these rights, including preventing workers from organizing or joining independent unions of their choice. While workers may choose whether to join a union and at which level (local or “grassroots,” provincial, or national), the law requires every union to be under the legal purview and control of the country’s only trade union confederation, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), a CPV-run organization. Only citizens may form or join labor unions.

The law gives the VGCL exclusive authority to recognize unions and confers on VGCL upper-level trade unions the responsibility to establish workplace unions. The VGCL’s charter establishes the VGCL as the head of the multilevel unitary trade union structure and carries the force of law. The law also stipulates that the VGCL answers directly to the CPV’s VFF, which does not protect trade unions from government interference in or control over union activity.

The law also limits freedom of association by not allowing trade unions full autonomy in administering their affairs. The law confers on the VGCL ownership of all trade-union property, and gives it the right to represent lower-level unions. By law trade union leaders and officials are not elected by union members but are appointed.

The law requires that if a workplace trade union does not exist, an “immediate upper-level trade union” must perform the tasks of a grassroots union, even where workers have not so requested or have voluntarily elected not to organize. For nonunionized workers to organize a strike, they must request that the strike “be organized and led by the upper-level trade union,” and if non-unionized workers wish to bargain collectively, the upper-level VGCL union must represent them.

The law stipulates that trade unions have the right and responsibility to organize and lead strikes, and establishes certain substantive and procedural restrictions on strikes. Strikes that do not arise from a collective labor dispute or do not adhere to the process outlined by law are illegal. Contrary to international standards, the law forbids strikes regarding “rights-based” disputes. This includes strikes arising out of economic and social policy measures that are not a part of a collective negotiation process, as they are both outside the law’s definition of protected “interest-based” strikes.

The law prohibits strikes by workers in businesses that serve the public or that the government considers essential to the national economy, defense, public health, and public order. “Essential services” include electricity production; post and telecommunications; maritime and air transportation, navigation, public works, and oil and gas production. The law also grants the prime minister the right to suspend a strike considered detrimental to the national economy or public safety.

The law prohibits strikes among workers across different employers, resulting in a ban on sector- and industry-level protests and prohibits workers and unions from calling for strikes in support of multiemployer contracts.

The law states that the executive committee of a trade union may issue a decision to go on strike only when at least 50 percent of workers support it.

Laws stipulate an extensive and cumbersome process of mediation and arbitration before a lawful strike over an interest-based collective dispute may occur. Unions or workers’ representatives may either appeal decisions of provincial arbitration councils to provincial people’s courts or strike. The law stipulates strikers may not be paid wages while they are not at work. The law prohibits retribution against strikers. By law individuals participating in strikes declared illegal by a people’s court and found to have caused damage to their employer are liable for damages.

The laws include provisions that prohibit antiunion discrimination and interference in union activities while imposing administrative sanctions and fines for violations. The laws do not distinguish between workers and managers, however, and fail to prohibit employers’ agents, such as managers who represent the interests of the employer, from participating or interfering in union activity. Penalties were not adequate to deter violations.

According to the VGCL, more than 73 percent of the 189 strikes that occurred in the first eight months of the year occurred in foreign direct-investment companies (mainly Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Chinese companies), and nearly 40 percent occurred in the southern economic zone area in Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Ba Ria Vung Tau provinces and Ho Chi Minh City. None of the strikes followed the authorized conciliation and arbitration process, and thus authorities considered them illegal “wildcat” strikes. The government, however, took no action against the strikers and, on occasion, actively mediated agreements in the workers’ favor. In some cases the government imposed heavy fines on employers, especially of foreign-owned companies, that engaged in illegal practices that led to strikes.

Because it is illegal to establish or seek to establish independent labor unions, there were no government-sanctioned domestic labor NGOs involved in labor organizing. Local labor NGOs, however, supported efforts to raise awareness of worker rights and occupational safety and health issues and to support internal and external migrant workers. Multiple international labor NGOs collaborated with the VGCL to provide training to VGCL-affiliated union representatives on labor organizing, collective bargaining, and other trade union issues. The International Labor Organization (ILO)-International Finance Corporation (IFC) Better Work project reported management interference in the activities of the trade union was one of the most significant issues in garment factories in the country.

Labor activists and representatives of independent (non-VGCL) worker organizations faced antiunion discrimination. Independent labor activists seeking to form unions separate from the VGCL or inform workers of their labor rights sometimes faced government harassment. In February a court convicted and sentenced peaceful labor and environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh to 14 years’ imprisonment under vague articles of the penal code. Binh, who was arrested in 2017, advocated for compensation for fishermen affected by the 2016 Formosa spill, and posted online content about the government’s response to the spill that significantly affected workers (also see section 1.d.). In July a crowd attacked the house of Do Thi Minh Hanh, chairwoman of the independent Viet Labor Movement, pelting it with stones, fish sauce, and petrol bombs. In addition authorities continued to use foreign travel prohibitions against labor activists, including Do Thi Minh Hanh (also see section 2.d.).

The constitution and law prohibit forced or compulsory labor. The labor code’s definition of forced labor, however, does not explicitly include debt bondage. In January penal code amendments entered into effect that criminalized all forms of labor trafficking of adults and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 20 to 100 million VND. The amendments also criminalized labor trafficking of children younger than age 16 and prescribed penalties of seven to 12 years’ imprisonment and fines of 50 to 200 million VND. The law does not provide any penalty for violation of the labor code provisions prohibiting forced labor. ,NGOs continued to report the occurrence of forced labor of men, women, and children within the country (see also section 7.c.).

Labor recruitment firms, most of which were affiliated with state-owned enterprises, and unlicensed brokers reportedly charged workers seeking international employment higher fees than the law allows, and they did so with impunity. Those workers incurred high debts and were thus more vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The constitution prohibits “the employment of persons below the minimum working age.” The law defines underage employees as anyone younger than age 18. The law prohibits children under 18 from working heavy, hazardous, and dangerous jobs. The law limits children between ages 15 and 18 to working a maximum of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. Children between ages 13 and 15 may work only in light jobs, as defined by the Ministry of Labor, and considerations must be made for schooling, working conditions, labor safety, and hygiene. The law permits children to register at trade training centers, a form of vocational training, from age 14 without parental consent. While the law generally prohibits the employment of children under 13, it allows those under 13 to engage in sectors not deemed to be harmful as regulated by the ministry.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies. Government officials may fine and, in cases of criminal violations, prosecute employers who violate child labor laws. As part of the government’s 2016-20 National Plan of Action for Children and National Program for Child Protection, the government continued efforts to prevent child labor and specifically targeted children in rural areas, disadvantaged children, and children at risk of exposure to hazardous work conditions.

Per the Vietnam National Child Labor Survey 2012, the most recent data available, 1.75 million working children were categorized as “child laborers”, accounting for 9.6 percent of the national child population or 62 percent of children engaged in economic activities. Of child laborers, 40 percent were girls, nearly 85 percent of these children lived in the rural areas and 60 percent belonged to the 15-17 age group. Some children started work as young as age 12 and nearly 55 percent did not attend school (5 percent of whom would never attend school). Agriculture was the most common field for child laborers, with 67 percent of the total population, while 15.7 percent worked in construction/manufacturing and 16.7 percent in services.

There were reports of children between ages 10 and 18–and some as young as six–producing garments under conditions of forced labor. The most recently available information from government raids, NGOs, and media reports indicated that groups of children were laboring in small, privately owned garment factories and informal garment workshops. Reports indicated that these employers were beating or threatening the children with physical violence. In addition, there was evidence that children as young as 12 were working while confined in government-run rehabilitation centers. Employers forced these children to sew garments without pay under threat of physical or other punishments.

International and domestic NGOs noted successful partnerships with provincial governments to implement national-level policies combatting child labor.

The law prohibits discrimination in employment, labor relationships, and work but not explicitly in all aspects of employment and occupation. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, disability, color, social class, marital status, belief, religion, HIV status, and membership in a trade union or participation in trade union activities. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on political opinion, age, language, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

No laws prohibit employers from asking about family or marital status during job interviews.

The government did not effectively enforce laws related to employment discrimination. The government took some action to address employment discrimination against persons with disabilities. Companies with a workforce composed of at least 51 percent employees with disabilities may qualify for special government-subsidized loans.

Discriminatory hiring practices existed, including discrimination related to gender, age, disability, and marital status. Women in the public sector were expected to retire at age 55, compared with age 60 for men, affecting women’s ability to rise to managerial ranks and have higher incomes and pensions.

Women-led enterprises continued to have limited access to credit and international markets. A 2017 report by Oxfam estimated male workers earned on average 33 percent more than their female counterparts. Skilled female workers with university degrees earned 80 percent of male university graduates’ wages. Many women older than age 35 found it difficult to find a job, and there were reports of women receiving termination letters at age 35. The VGCL’s Institute of Workers and Trade Unions noted that women older than age 35 accounted for roughly half of all unemployed workers in the country.

Social and attitudinal barriers and limited access to the workplace remained problems in the employment of persons with disabilities.

The minimum wage for enterprises ranged from 2.76 million VND ($117) per month to 3.98 million VND ($170) per month, depending on the region. In August the National Wages Council agreed to a 5.3 percent increase in the minimum wage, to take effect in 2019, raising the minimum wage range to 2.92 million VND ($124) – 4.18 million VND ($178). The minimum wage exceeds the General Statistics Office-World Bank official poverty income level.

The law limits overtime to 50 percent of normal working hours per day, 30 hours per month, and 200 hours per year, but it provides for an exception in special cases, with a maximum of 300 overtime hours annually, subject to stipulation by the government after consulting with the VGCL and employer representatives.

The law provides for occupational safety and health standards, describes procedures for persons who are victims of labor accidents and occupational diseases, and delineates the responsibilities of organizations and individuals in the occupational safety and health fields. The law provides for the right of workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law protects “labor subleasing”, a pattern of employment, and thus extends protection to part-time and domestic workers.

The Ministry of Labor is the principal labor authority, and it oversees the enforcement of the labor law, administers labor relations policy, and promotes job creation. The Labor Inspections Department is responsible for workplace inspections to confirm compliance with labor laws and occupational safety and health standards. Inspectors may use sanctions, fines, withdrawal of operating licenses or registrations, closures of enterprises, and mandatory training. Inspectors may take immediate measures where they have reason to believe there is an imminent and serious danger to the health or safety of workers, including temporarily suspending operations, although such measures were rare. The ministry acknowledged shortcomings in its labor inspection system and emphasized the number of labor inspectors countrywide was insufficient.

Government enforcement of labor laws and standards, including in the informal economy, was irregular for many reasons, including low funding and a shortage of trained enforcement personnel.

Credible reports, including from the ILO-IFC Better Work 2017 Annual Report, indicated that factories exceeded legal overtime thresholds and did not meet legal requirements for rest days. The ILO-IFC report stated that, while a majority of factories in the program complied with the daily limit of four hours overtime, 77 percent still failed to meet monthly limits (30 hours) and 72 percent exceeded annual limits (300 hours). In addition and due to the high prevalence of Sunday work, 44 percent of factories failed to provide at least four days of rest per month to all workers.

Migrant workers, including internal economic migrants, were among the most vulnerable workers, and employers routinely subjected them to hazardous working conditions. Members of ethnic minority groups often worked in the informal economy and, according to the ILO, informal workers typically had low and irregular incomes, endured long working hours, and lacked protection by labor market institutions. On-the-job injuries due to poor health and safety conditions and inadequate employee training remained a problem. In 2017, the government reported 8,956 occupational accidents with 9,173 victims, including 898 fatal incidents with 928 deaths.

Yemen

Section 7. Worker Rights

Government enforcement of labor law was weak to nonexistent due to the continuing conflict. Labor laws were still in effect, but Houthis controlled the ministries responsible for their implementation.

The labor code provides for the right of salaried private-sector employees to join unions and bargain collectively. These protections do not apply to public servants, day laborers, domestic servants, foreign workers, and other groups who together made up the majority of the work force. The civil service code covers public servants. The law generally prohibits antiunion discrimination, including prohibiting dismissal for union activities.

While unions may negotiate wage settlements for their members and may conduct strikes or other actions to achieve their demands, workers have the right to strike only if prior attempts at negotiation and arbitration fail. They must give advance notice to the employer and government and receive prior written approval from the executive office of the General Federation of Yemen Workers’ Trade Unions (GFYWTU). Strikes may not be carried out for “political purposes.” The proposal to strike must be put to at least 60 percent of all workers concerned, of whom 25 percent must vote in favor for a strike to be conducted.

The government did not enforce laws on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

While not formally affiliated with the government, the GFYWTU was the only official federation and worked with the government to resolve labor disputes. In practical terms, a union’s ability to strike depended on its political strength. Under the transitional government, authorities often accused unions and associations of being linked to a political party.

The penal code prescribes up to 10 years’ imprisonment for any person who “buys, sells, gives [a human being] as a present, or deals in human beings.” This statute’s narrow focus on transactions and movement means the law does not criminalize many forms of forced labor.

The ROYG did not effectively enforce the law due to the continuing conflict, lack of resources, and interests of the elite, many of whom supported such forms of labor.

Although information was limited, in the past there have been numerous reports of forced labor in both urban and rural areas. Some sources reported that the practice of chattel slavery in which human beings were traded as property continued. No official statistics existed detailing this practice. Sources reported there could be several hundred other men, women, and children sold or inherited as slaves in the al-Hudaydah and al-Mahwit Governorates. In some instances employers forced children into domestic servitude and agricultural work (see section 7.c.) and women into domestic servitude or prostitution.

Migrant workers and refugees were vulnerable to forced labor. For example, some Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis were forced to work on khat farms (khat is a flowering plant that contains stimulants); some women and children among this population may also have been exploited in domestic servitude.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits child labor, but the government did not implement its regulations effectively. The Combating Child Labor Unit (CCLU) within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor was responsible for implementing and enforcing child labor laws and regulations.

The country’s minimum employment age is 14 or not lower than the age of completion of compulsory education, which is generally 15.

Children under 18 with formal contracts may work no longer than six hours a day, with a one-hour break after four consecutive hours, on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Child labor was common, including its worst forms. According to a 2013 International Labor Organization study, the latest available such data, more than 1.3 million children participated in the workforce.

In rural areas, family poverty and traditional practice led many children to work in subsistence farming. In urban areas, children worked in stores and workshops, sold goods, and begged on the streets. Children also worked in some industries and construction. Continued weak economic conditions forced hundreds of children to seek work in the hazardous fishery, construction, and mining sectors. Children also reportedly worked in dangerous conditions in waste dumps. According to HRW, nearly one-third of all combatants in the country were under 18 years of age (see section 1.g., Child Soldiers).

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 labor law does not address employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, political opinion, national origin, social origin, gender identity, HIV status, or other communicable diseases. Discrimination based on race, gender, and disability remained a serious problem in employment and occupation.

Racial and employment discrimination against the Muhamasheen was a problem. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and limited access to the workplace (see section 6). Foreign workers may join unions but may not be elected to office. Women were almost absent from the formal labor market, with a labor force participation rate as low as 6 percent.

There was no established minimum wage in the private sector. The minimum civil service wage was more than the estimated poverty income level; however, civil servant salaries, which ranged from approximately 27,000 YER ($39) per month to 120,000 YER ($171) per month, have not been not paid consistently for several years, and most were too low to provide for a large family.

The law specifies a maximum 48-hour workweek with a maximum eight-hour workday, although many workshops and stores operated 10- to 12-hour shifts without penalty. The 35-hour workweek for government employees was nominally seven hours per day from Sunday through Thursday. The law requires overtime pay and paid holidays and leave and prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime.

The law prescribes occupational safety and health standards. It states every employer must provide industry-appropriate safe and healthy conditions for workers. The law recognizes the right of workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations, and workers may challenge dismissals based on such actions in court. The safety law does not apply to domestic servants, casual workers, or agricultural workers.

Government enforcement of labor law was weak to nonexistent; penalties, if enforced, were insufficient to deter violations. Working conditions generally were poor, and wage and overtime violations were common. Foreign migrant workers, youth, and female workers typically faced the most exploitative working conditions. Working conditions were poor in the informal sector, which included an estimated 89 percent of the workforce. There was no credible information available regarding work-related accidents or fatalities during the year.

Zambia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Statutory restrictions regulate these rights; the government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers from unionizing, including prison staff, judges, court registrars, magistrates, and local court justices. The law also requires the registration of a trade union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which may take up to six months. The ministry has the power to refuse official registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.

No organization may be registered as a trade union unless its application to register is signed by not less than 50 supporters or such lesser number as may be prescribed by the minister, and, with some exceptions, no trade union may be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. Unions may be deregistered under certain circumstances, but the law provides for notice, reconsideration, and right of appeal to an industrial relations court.

The government, through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, brokers labor disputes between employers and employees. The law provides the right of employees not to be prevented, dismissed, penalized, victimized, or discriminated against or deterred from exercising their rights conferred on them under the law, and it provides remedies for dismissals for union activities. Casualization and unjustifiable termination of employment contracts is illegal; the law defines a casual employee as an employee whose terms of employment contract provide for his or her payment at the end of each day and is engaged for a period of not more than six months.

In cases involving the unjustified dismissal of employees, the ministry settles disputes through social dialogue, and any unresolved cases are sent to the Industrial Relations Court. The law also provides a platform for employers, workers, and government to dialogue on matters of mutual interest through the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council.

The law provides for collective bargaining. In certain cases, however, either party may refer a labor dispute to a court or for arbitration; the International Labor Organization (ILO) raised concerns the law did not require the consent of both parties involved in the dispute for arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year for a court to consider the complaint and issue its ruling. Collective agreements must be filed with the commissioner and approved by the minister before becoming binding on the signatory parties.

With the exception of workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services, the law provides for the right to strike if recourse to all legal options is first exhausted. The law defines essential services as any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity; the supply and distribution of water and sewage removal; fire departments; and the mining sector. Employees in the defense force and judiciary as well as police, prison, and ZSIS personnel are also considered essential. The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also requires a union to notify employers 10 days in advance of strike action and limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days. If the dispute remains unresolved, it is referred to the court. The government may stop a strike if the court finds it is not “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers. An employee or trade union that takes part in a strike that has not been authorized by a valid strike ballot is liable to a fine of up to 50,000 kwacha ($4,250) for a trade union or 20,000 kwacha ($1,700) for an employee.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides for reinstatement and other remedies for workers fired for union activity. Except for workers in “essential services” and those in the above-mentioned categories, no other groups of workers were excluded from relevant legal protections. Administrative judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Government enforcement of laws providing for freedom of association and collective bargaining was not effective. Penalties for employers were not sufficient and could not be effectively enforced to deter violations. Other challenges that constrained effective enforcement included unaligned pieces of legislation, lack of financial capacity to implement programs, and lack of trained officers to enforce legislation.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not always respected. Unions suffered from political interference and fracturing and were no longer seen as influential. Most unions chose to strike illegally, either to circumvent lengthy procedural requirements for approval or when other legal avenues were exhausted. There were reports of antiunion discrimination; for example, the ILO noted there were allegations of antiunion dismissals in the mining industry as well as harassment of unionized university staff members and reportedly systematic nonrenewal of contracts for academic staff from certain ethnic groups. Disputes arising from such actions were often settled by workers’ representatives and employers, with the government acting as an arbiter. NGOs advocated for worker rights throughout the year without government restriction.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law authorizes the government to call upon citizens to perform labor in specific instances, such as during national emergencies or disasters. The government also may require citizens to perform labor associated with traditional, civil, or communal obligations.

Penalties for conviction of forced labor violations range from 25 to 35 years’ imprisonment. Data were insufficient to determine whether these penalties were sufficient to deter violations. There were no prosecutions for forced labor during the year.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. While the government investigated cases involving a small number of victims, it lacked the resources to investigate more organized trafficking operations potentially involving forced labor in the mining, construction, and agricultural sectors.

Gangs of illegal miners called “jerabos” at times forced children into illegal mining and loading stolen copper ore onto trucks in Copperbelt Province. Women and children from rural areas were exploited in urban domestic servitude and subjected to forced labor in the agricultural, textile, mining, and construction sectors, and other small businesses. While orphans and street children were the most vulnerable, children sent to live in urban areas were also vulnerable to forced labor.

During the year the DRC, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Somalia were source countries of victims of forced labor. Additionally, with the continued increase in Chinese investment in the construction and mining sectors, there were increased reports of Chinese nationals being brought into the country, both legally and illegally, and working under forced labor conditions.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children under age 15 at any commercial, agricultural, or domestic worksite or engaging a child in the worst forms of child labor. While the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act sets the minimum age for hazardous work at 18, it is not clear regarding the definition of a child. Various pieces of legislation define a child differently, which has implications on employment and education of children. Restrictions on child labor prohibit work that harms a child’s health and development or that prevents a child’s attendance at school; government regulations list 31 types of hazardous work prohibited to children and young persons. The law also prohibits the procurement or offering of a child for illicit activities.

The government did not effectively enforce the law outside of the industrial sector. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Secondary education is not compulsory, and children who are not enrolled are vulnerable to child labor.

While the labor commissioner effectively enforced minimum age requirements in the industrial sector, where there was little demand for child labor, the government seldom enforced minimum age standards in the informal sector, particularly in artisanal mining, agriculture, and domestic service. Although the government reported it had a National Child Labor Steering Committee, which oversaw child labor activities and was comprised of government ministries, the Zambian Federation for Employers, the Zambia Congress for Trade Unions, civil society, and other stakeholders, the committee was not active during the year. The government collaborated with local and international organizations to implement programs combatting child labor. Because more than 92 percent of child labor occurred in the agricultural sector, most often on family farms or with the consent of families, inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security focused on counseling and educating families that employed children. In some cases such work also exposed children to hazardous conditions. Authorities did not refer any cases of child labor for prosecution during the year. Due to the scarcity of transportation, labor inspectors frequently found it difficult to conduct inspections in rural areas.

Child labor was a problem in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, domestic service, construction, farming, transportation, commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children), quarrying, mining, and other sectors where children under age 15 often were employed. According to UNICEF there was a high prevalence of child labor, mostly in domestic and agricultural sectors and mainly in rural areas. UNICEF noted discrepancies between the right to education and child labor laws in the country. Although the law sets the minimum age of employment at 15, the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act states children ages 13 and 14 may be lawfully engaged in employment, as long as the work involved is not harmful to their health or development or prejudicial to their education. The Employment Act also permits the employment of children under age 15 receiving full-time education during school vacations, those who have failed to secure admission to a suitable school, or those whose enrollment has been cancelled or terminated by the school authorities or for good cause by a parent.

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 employment discrimination on several basis (for example, sex, disability) but does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Various organizations had policies that protected individuals with HIV/AIDS. The NGOCC noted that although the Employment Act provides for maternity leave, the requirement a worker be continuously employed for two years before being eligible for such leave was discriminatory. The law prohibits termination or imposition of any other penalty or disadvantage an employee due to pregnancy.

Generally, the government effectively enforced the law. There were reports, however, of discrimination against minority groups. Undocumented migrant workers are not protected by the law and faced discrimination in wages and working conditions.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. LGBTI persons were at times dismissed from employment or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Women’s wages lagged behind men’s, and training opportunities were less available for women. Women were much less likely to occupy managerial positions. Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.

The law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Security authority to set wages by sector; the category of employment determines the minimum wage and conditions of employment. The revised minimum wage categories announced by the ministry during the year ranged from 1,050 kwacha ($89) to 2,481 kwacha ($211) per month for “protected employees,” such as general workers with low bargaining power, which at the low end was slightly above World Bank poverty estimates for a lower-middle income country.

Wage laws were effectively enforced, and the law prescribes penalties for violations of labor laws. Every employer negotiates with employees their standard minimum wage. For unionized workers, wage scales and maximum workweek hours were established through collective bargaining. Almost all unionized workers received salaries considerably higher than the nonunionized minimum wage.

According to the law, the normal workweek should not exceed 48 hours. The standard workweek is 40 hours for office workers and 45 hours for factory workers. There are limits on excessive compulsory overtime, depending on the category of work. The law provides for overtime pay. Employers must pay employees who work more than 48 hours in one week (45 hours in some categories) for overtime hours at a rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate. Workers receive double the rate of their hourly pay for work done on a Sunday or public holiday. The law requires that workers earn two days of annual leave per month without limit.

The law regulates minimum occupational safety and health standards in industry. Both the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security stated that existing government occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries. The law places on both workers and experts the duty to identify unsafe situations in a work environment. The WCFCB conducted joint safety inspections with the Ministry of Labor to prevent violations. During the year the inspections targeted retail workers, mines, construction companies, and some manufacturing companies, as well as mining contractor firms. These inspections generally showed that manufacturing entities had no health and safety policies, workers did not have adequate personal safety equipment and in many cases endured extended working hours, leading to fatigue. According to the WCFCB a risk assessment on dangerous work activities and pre-employment medical examinations of new employees–especially in Chinese-run mining operations–was nonexistent. The WCFCB also separately conducted 59 site safety inspections, which aimed to help employers and employees manage risks at their work places.

The work hour law and the safety and health standards were not effectively enforced in all sectors, including in the informal sector. Workers at some mines faced poor health and safety conditions and threats by managers if they tried to assert their rights. Miners developed serious lung disease, such as silicosis, due to poor ventilation and constant exposure to dust and chemicals.

The government engaged with mining companies and took some steps to improve working conditions in the mines. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Despite legal protections workers did not exercise the right to remove themselves from work situations that endangered their safety or health, and workers who protested working conditions often jeopardized their employment.

Violations of wage, overtime, or OSH standards were most common in the construction and mining sectors–particularly in Chinese-owned companies–and among domestic workers. Major industrial accidents during the year occurred in the mining, transport, agriculture, and commercial sectors. According to the Central Statistical Office, approximately 27 percent of the labor force was employed in the formal sector, and approximately 60 percent, or approximately 2.2 million people, were in informal employment. The National Pension Scheme Authority implemented a program that extended social security to workers in the informal sector in five priority sectors: domestic workers, bus and taxi drivers, saw millers, marketers and traders, and small-scale farmers in the first phase of the project.

According to the WCFCB, the highest number of accidents occurred in the agriculture, forestry, building and construction, and mining sectors. On June 20, 10 small-scale miners known as jerabos died in an accident at a copper slag dumpsite popularly known as “Black Mountain” in Copperbelt Province. The WCFCB noted 62 of 788 accidents recorded during the year were fatal.

Zimbabwe

Section 7. Worker Rights

While the law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, other provisions of law and economic realities (i.e., lack of ability to pay dues) abrogated these rights. Public-sector workers may not form or join trade unions but may form associations that bargain collectively and strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, provides that the labor court handle complaints of such discrimination, and may direct reinstatement of workers fired due to such discrimination.

The law provides for the registrar of the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to supervise the election of officers of workers’ and employers’ organizations, to cancel or postpone elections, and to change the venue of an election. The law also grants the minister extensive powers to regulate union activities such as collecting dues and paying staff salaries, and making decisions concerning the equipment and property that may be purchased by trade unions. The minister has the authority to veto collective bargaining agreements perceived to be harmful to the economy as well as to appoint an investigator who may, without prior notice, enter trade union premises, question any employee, and inspect and copy any books, records, or other documents. The Labor Amendment Act empowers the minister to order an investigation of a trade union or employers’ organization and to appoint an administrator to run its affairs.

The law strictly regulates the right to strike. Strikes are limited to disputes regarding work issues. The law provides that a majority of the employees must agree to strike by voting in a secret ballot. Strike procedure requirements include a mandatory 30-day reconciliation period and referral to binding arbitration (in essential services and in nonessential services where the parties agree or where the dispute involves rights). Following an attempt to conciliate a dispute of interest and a labor officer’s issuance of a certificate of no settlement, the party proposing a collective job action must provide 14 days’ written notice of intent to resort to such action, including specifying the grounds for the intended action, in order legally to call a strike. No provisions prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike.

Police and army members are the only legally recognized essential services employees and may not strike, but the law allows the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to declare any nonessential service an essential service if a strike is deemed a danger to the population. No provisions prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike. The law also allows employers to sue workers for liability during unlawful strikes, with penalties for conviction that include fines, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both. The constitution does not extend the right of collective bargaining to security forces. In late 2014 the government, employer organizations, and union representatives, according to the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), signed an agreement detailing how government security forces should conduct themselves in the event of a strike or other collective action.

Collective bargaining agreements applied to all workers in an industry, not just union members. Collective bargaining takes place at the enterprise and industry levels. At the enterprise level, work councils negotiate collective agreements, which become binding if approved by 50 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit. Industry-level bargaining takes place within the framework of the National Employment Councils (NEC). Unions representing at least 50 percent of the workers may bargain with the authorization of the Minister of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare. The law encourages the creation of workers’ committees in enterprises where less than 50 percent of workers are unionized.

To go into effect, the ministry must announce collective bargaining agreements, thus giving the minister the power to veto the agreement. The Labor Amendment Act expands the minister’s power to veto a collective bargaining agreement if the minister deems it to be “contrary to public interest.” Workers and employers at the enterprise level also may come to a binding agreement outside of the official framework. Despite this provision, the ministry could block indefinitely any collective bargaining agreement if it was not announced officially.

Although the law does not permit national civil servants to collectively bargain, the Apex Council, a group of public service associations, represented civil servants in job-related negotiations with the Public Service Commission.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties for conviction of violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining laws range from a fine to imprisonment for a period not to exceed two years but were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures often were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

The government did not respect the workers’ right to form or join unions, strike, and bargain collectively. Worker organizations were loosely affiliated with political parties, and the leading opposition party MDC-T rose out of the labor movement.

Government interference with trade union activity was common. Authorities frequently withheld or delayed the registration certificate for a number of unions. Police and state intelligence services regularly attended and monitored trade union activities such as meetings. Police or ZANU-PF supporters sometimes prevented unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. The International Labor Organization noted that the government took some steps to address the concerns raised by a 2010 commission of inquiry. The inquiry found the government responsible for serious violations of fundamental rights by its security forces, including a clear pattern of intimidation that included arrests, detentions, violence, and torture against members nationwide of the ZCTU–an umbrella group of unions with historical ties to the opposition MDC-T. The ZFTU has historical ties to the ruling ZANU-PF.

Although the law does not require unions to notify police of public gatherings, police required such notification. If the ZCTU attempted to hold an event not authorized by police, the ZRP attended and dispersed participants, telling them the event was not authorized and then might post armed police officers around ZCTU’s offices–even if the event was not ZCTU-organized (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly).

Although the ministry conducted training for security forces on the Public Order and Security Act, the training did not change security-sector attitudes. By law, the government could fine and imprison union members for organizing an illegal strike, and unions risked a 12-month suspension of their registration for minor infractions.

Unions exercised their right to strike. Mnangagwa’s government faced its first major labor dispute when junior doctors at public hospitals went on a month-long crippling strike in March demanding better pay and working conditions. In mid-April the government fired 16,000 nurses after they went on strike for better working conditions a day after junior doctors ended their strike.

Teachers unions, including the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union (Artuz), threatened to go on strike in May citing the government’s proposed 10 percent public sector pay increase as insufficient. Based in part on the actions of the teachers unions, the government agreed to increase the raise to 17.5 percent. Artuz and others viewed the raise as insufficient and petitioned the government in October to pay their teachers in U.S. dollars.

There were reports that some ZCTU affiliates were able to engage in collective bargaining with employers without interference from the government. Nevertheless, members of the ZCTU stated employers did not recognize their affiliates within the NECs. Workers’ committees existed in parallel with trade unions. Their role was to negotiate shop floor grievances, while that of the trade unions was to negotiate industry-level problems, notably wages. Trade unions regarded the existence of such a parallel body as an arrangement that employers potentially could use to undermine the role of the unions.

According to International Trade Union Confederation reports, employers frequently abused institutional weakness by creating a deadlock in the bargaining process, i.e., by forcing the referral of the dispute to arbitration and then to court, forestalling a decision within a reasonable timeframe. Agricultural workers experienced verbal and physical attacks by employers during negotiations. Due to the criminalization of informal economy workers and politicization of their operating spaces, reports described attacks and harassments. Police in September, citing a cholera outbreak, relocated street vendors to a designated area in the city. Police forcibly removed those vendors who refused to leave their stalls. In some cases vendors reported police stole their wares or stood by and allowed others to loot their goods. The ZCTU reported cases against Chinese employers that did not follow labor law regarding protective clothing. These same employers also denied labor unions access to job sites to provide education to their employees.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, with exceptions for work for the national youth service and forced prison labor. The Labor Amendment Act defines forced labor as “any work or services which a person is required to perform against his or her will under the threat of some form of punishment.” Forced prison labor includes “any labor required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court” as well as what “is reasonably necessary in the interests of hygiene or for the maintenance or management of the place at which he is detained.”

Conviction of forced labor is punishable by a fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both; such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. A 2014 law prescribes punishment of not less than 10 years’ imprisonment and, with aggravating circumstances, up to imprisonment for life, for conviction of human trafficking–including labor trafficking. The law does not clearly define the crime of trafficking in persons and requires transportation of the victim, which further limits the cases in which the regulation could be applied.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports the government attempted to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year. There were no data on the numbers of adult victims removed from forced labor, if any. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations reported cases of workers fired without compensation and, specifically in the farming sector, workers forced to work without wages or other compensation. Most workers did not receive regular wages and in some cases, only part of their allowances, such as a transportation allowance to facilitate the commute to work.

Forced labor, including by children, occurred, although the extent of the problem was unknown. Adults and children were subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude in cities and towns (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The Labor Amendment Act of 2015 sets the minimum age for general labor at ages 13 to 16. The law increases the minimum age for apprenticeship from 15 to 16 and declares void and unenforceable formal apprenticeship contracts entered into by children younger than age 18 without the assistance of a guardian. The law further states that no person younger than age 18 shall perform any work likely to jeopardize that person’s health, safety, or morals.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the department lacked personnel and commitment to carry out inspections or other monitoring. Penalties, including fines and imprisonment, were not sufficient to deter violations. The government took limited steps to combat child labor during the year, mostly involving encouragement and monitoring of children’s school attendance.

Despite the government’s National Action Plan, child labor remained endemic. Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sectors. Inspectors received no training addressing child labor and did not closely monitor it. Forced labor by children occurred in the agricultural, street vending, herding, forestry, fishing, artisanal gold and chrome mining, and domestic sectors. Children also were used in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling.

Although it is mandated by the 2013 constitution, there was a lack of free basic education for children, increasing the risk of children’s involvement in child labor. Children were required to attend school only up to age 12 which made children ages 12 through 15 particularly vulnerable to child labor as they were not required to attend school and not legally permitted to work. In a 2018 Human Rights Watch report on child labor on tobacco farms, many child workers cited the need to pay school fees or buy basic necessities as reasons why they worked. Teachers interviewed in the report noted that children missed school in order to raise funds for the next set of school fees. The Coalition Against Child Labor in Zimbabwe (CACLAZ) and the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children set up Child Labor Free Zones in 28 schools in three wards in the Chipinge region, known for its tea plantations. The purpose of these Child Labor Free Zones was to create areas free of child labor by taking children out of labor and integrating them into schools. The PTUZ and the CACLAZ served 92 former child laborers through such schools in 2017. In 2017 the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare conducted investigations that resulted in removing 73 children from commercial sexual exploitation.

“Street children,” meaning children who live or work on the streets, were commonplace in urban areas. Some children escorted parents with disabilities to elicit sympathy while begging, but many had parents without disabilities who used the children to generate additional income.

Children often faced hazards to their health and safety and lacked necessary equipment and training. Working on farms, in particular tea plantations, exposed children to bad weather, dangerous chemicals, and the use of heavy machinery. Most children involved in mining worked for themselves, a family member, or someone in the community. Exposure to hazardous materials, particularly mercury, was on the rise in the informal mining sector. The ZCTU and CACLAZ have reached out to teachers unions as teachers regularly interacted with children and could be among the first to notice signs of abuse.

Some employers did not pay wages to child domestic workers, claiming they were assisting a child from a rural home by providing room and board. Some employers paid with goods instead of cash while others paid the parents for a child’s work. 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 employment or occupational discrimination based on race, color, gender, tribe, political opinion, creed, place of origin, disability, HIV status, and pregnancy. The law does not expressly prohibit employment discrimination regarding age, language, citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or non-HIV-related communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation (see section 6), and political affiliation for civil servants.

The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Labor legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and an employer may be held liable for civil remedies if found to be in violation of provisions against “unfair labor practices,” including sexual harassment. The law does not specify penalties for conviction of such violations. Women commonly faced sexual harassment in the workplace (see section 6).

There were no formal complaints of wage discrimination filed with the Ministry of Labor; however, women’s salaries lagged behind those of men in most sectors, and women faced discrimination on the basis of gender, when seeking maternity leave provided for by law, and other gender-based benefits. Unions expressed their concern regarding wage disparity between management and employees.

There was a relative lack of women in decision-making positions, despite a constitutional requirement that both genders be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level. In 2014 the share of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector was 37 percent, while their share in senior and middle management was 24 percent.

Employment discrimination against migrant workers occurred, especially those employed in the informal sector. Discrimination with respect to political affiliation also occurred.

Banks targeted union workers for dismissal, according to the ZCTU. Persons with HIV/AIDS and albinism and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment. Employers discriminated against members of minority ethnic groups who they often perceived as opposition supporters. Disabled persons faced social and employment discrimination and lack of access to many workplaces. Members of trade unions and workers committees often perceived they were targeted specifically for adverse employment action and that workers themselves feared the consequences of participating in trade unions or workers committees.

The NECs set the minimum wage for all industrial sectors through a bipartite agreement between employers and labor unions. The minimum wage seldom exceeded the poverty line, when it was followed.

The law does not provide for a standard workweek, but it prescribes a minimum of one 24-hour continuous rest period a week. The maximum legal workweek is negotiated between unions and employers in each sector. No worker is allowed to work more than 12 continuous hours. The law prescribes that workers receive not less than twice their standard remuneration for working on a public holiday or on their rest day. The law provides workers paid public holidays and annual leave upon one year of service with an employer. The government sets safety and health standards on an industry-specific basis. The public service commission sets conditions of employment in the public sector.

Labor law does not differentiate among workers based on sector or industry. The labor law does not apply to the informal sector, which includes a large majority of the labor force. The law applies to migrant laborers if they are in the formal sector. There were no reports of discrimination against migrant laborers in the formal sector.

Occupational safety and health standards were up-to-date and appropriate for the main industries in the country. In 2015 the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) commissioned an occupational health center in the capital and a mobile clinic to monitor the health of miners and industrial workers. The law provides for workers to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector, but the standards were not enforced effectively due to inadequate monitoring systems and a labor inspector shortage. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce labor laws, including those covering children. The Zimbabwe Occupational Safety Council, a quasi-governmental advisory body to the NSSA, regulated working conditions. Budgetary constraints and staffing shortages, as well as its status as an advisory council, made it largely ineffective. Penalties for violations of wage or hours-of-work restrictions range from a fine to imprisonment but were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were not harmonized and fall within the jurisdiction of numerous ministries.

Most injuries and deaths occurred in the mining sector. The ZFTU reported that workers at iron smelters often suffered burns due to a lack of protective clothing. Lack of adequate protective clothing was also an issue for workers in the informal sector. The NSSA attributed the high injury and fatality rates to low investment in occupational safety and health, noncompliance with rules and regulations, and low levels of awareness of occupational safety and health matters.

Employers paid many agricultural and domestic workers below the minimum wage. The ZCTU reported many agricultural workers earned $72 per month. Many public servants also earned less than the poverty line. During the year there was pervasive partial payment or nonpayment of salaries in both the public and private sectors. According to a report by the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe that analyzed data from ZCTU-affiliated union representatives at 442 companies, 54 percent of employees had gone at least 13 months without pay. All employees went at least three months without pay, and 16 percent had gone 25 or more months without pay.

There was little or no enforcement of the workhours law, particularly for agricultural and domestic workers. According to the 2014 Labor Force Survey, 28 percent of the employed population worked excessive hours, defined as more than 48 hours per week. Although workers were generally unlikely to complain to authorities of violations due to fear of losing their jobs, some exceptions occurred.

Poor health and safety standards in the workplace were common problems faced by workers in both the formal and informal sectors due to lack of enforcement. Abuses by the management at certain foreign-owned enterprises and companies owned by well-connected politicians were common, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of workers; poor working conditions; underpayment or nonpayment of wages; unfair dismissal; and firing without notice. Workers’ committee members of a foreign-owned mining company reported fear and serious victimization, including arbitrary nonrenewal of contracts, dismissals without charges, late payment of salaries, and insufficient provision of protective clothing. The ZCTU’s Health and Social Welfare Department engaged employers on occupational health and safety-related workplace needs. No information was available on the treatment of foreign and migrant workers. The government considered many commercial farm workers to be foreigners because one or both parents were born in another country.

Due to the growth of the informal mining sector, artisanal miners, including children, were increasingly exposed to chemicals and environmental waste. An estimated 1.5 million persons were engaged in artisanal mining, defined as mining activities carried out using low technology or with minimal machinery, according to the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-scale Miners Council.