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The Bahamas

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, participate in collective bargaining, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. By law, employers may be compelled to reinstate workers illegally fired for union activity. Members of the police force, defense force, fire brigade, and prison guards may not organize or join unions, although police used professional associations to advocate on their behalf in pay disputes. Unions can exist without a majority vote from workers, but to be recognized by the government and act as an “agency shop,” a union must represent 50 percent plus one of the affected workers.

There was no information on the adequacy of enforcement resources. Fines varied widely by case and were not sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. The government did not provide updated statistics during the year. By law, labor disputes must first be filed with the Ministry of Labor and National Insurance. If not resolved, they are transferred to an industrial tribunal, which determines penalties (fines) and remedies, up to a maximum of 26 weeks of an employee’s pay. The tribunal’s decision is final and may be appealed in court only on a strict question of law. Authorities reported a case backlog of up to three years at the tribunal.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and most employers in the private sector did as well. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future