Caribbean Industrial Relations

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LABOUR PRINCIPLES AT CARICOM AND THE CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES

Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Convention N° 87: Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organize 1948

This Convention provides explicitly that workers and employers without distinction shall have the right to establish and join organizations of their choice without previous authorization. This includes the right to establish rules and systems of governance within these organizations. Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention expressly enjoin a government from “any interference which would restrict or impede the lawful exercise thereof”, and these organizations “shall not be liable to be dissolved by administrative authority.” [1]

Article 11 commits the government to “take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that workers and employers may exercise freely the right to organize.”

In all the Constitutions of the region, there is the guarantee of this basic right of freedom of association. For example, Sections 13 and 23 of the Jamaican Constitution establishes the “right peacefully to assembly freely with others and in particular, to form or belong to trade unions or other associations.” There is no penalty provided in the Constitution for its breach. However, the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) of 1975, provides in Section 4, that persons who prevent individuals from freely associating may be fined or imprisoned. Antigua and Barbuda’s Constitution also guarantees these rights. It also includes the freedom from forced labour. Haiti’s Constitution also has these guarantees. It actually goes beyond most of the Anglophone Constitutions by including the right to an education and the freedom to work.

Notwithstanding the similarities in the constitutional provisions across the nations, there is some degree of unevenness regarding subsidiary legislation, which along with the principal statute Constitutions, are intended to give effect to the Convention. Much of this is evident from a primary examination of the various statutes as well as a secondary reviewing of the annual Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. Given the standardized set of rules and procedural guidelines, the Report is seen as very instructive for the purposes of this study.

Deviations from the Convention

Barbados

The Better Security Act of 1920 provides that where an individual induces another to breach a contract of employment, where this breach may present a danger to real or personal property, such person may be liable to a fine or imprisonment up to three months. For in excess of a decade and a half, the Committee has being impressing on the government to make the necessary amendments since, in the event of a strike, in the non-essential services -narrowly defined by the ILO- this contravenes the convention.

Belize

Under The Settlement of Disputes (Essential Services) Act, there is an effective prevention of the right to strike in a number of key industrial sectors. This statute defines essential services to include industries which are not within the ILO’s standard definition. In effect this gives to the government the right to intervene in the process of free collective bargaining by giving to itself the right to end a strike.

Dominica

Given that more than 80 percent of GDP is produced from agriculture, with Banana being the key industry, it is not surprising that the essential services under Dominica’s Industrial Relations Act of 1986 include the Banana, Citrus and Coconut Industries. Needless to say, this is inconsistent with the ILO’s standards.

Grenada

Grenada’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) of 1999 marks a point of departure from the Convention. Like most of the other statutes across the region it guarantees the right to form and freely belong to any organization. However, Section 43 of the LRA provides that workers in a...
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