Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent labor unions, participate in collective bargaining, and, with some restrictions, conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. It requires employers to recognize a union that represents the majority of workers in a particular business but does not oblige employers to recognize a union formed by their employees if the majority of the workforce does not belong to the union. The law covers all categories of employees, including domestic workers and migrants.
While workers in essential services have the right to strike, the labor minister may refer disputes involving essential services to compulsory arbitration. The government’s list of essential services is broad and includes services not regarded as essential by the International Labor Organization. Essential services include employees of the electricity and water companies; public health and protection sectors, including sanitation, airport, seaport and dock services (including pilotage); fire departments; air traffic controllers; telephone and telegraph companies; prisons and police staff; and hospital services and nursing. While authorities can order employers to rehire employees if a court finds they were discharged illegally, there were no such cases during the year.
The government generally enforced labor laws. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor organizations continued to seek a change in labor laws to ensure timely resolution of disputes following labor action.
The government and law enforcement respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers generally recognized and bargained with unions even if a majority of the workforce did not belong to a union.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government enacted the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Bill 2014, which prohibits all forms of forced labor, including specifically prohibiting the sale or trafficking of children for exploitive labor. The law establishes penalties of 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD) ($185,000), or both for forced labor, or one million XCD ($370,000) for child trafficking, including forced child labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Six labor inspectors performed inspections according to a predetermined schedule. There were no reports that forced labor occurred during the year.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The statutory minimum age for employment of children is 16 years. The law permits employment for minors under 18 as long as certain conditions related to hours, insurance, and working conditions set forth in the labor code are met. There is no explicit prohibition against children’s involvement in hazardous work.
Inspectors from the Labor Ministry enforced the minimum age provision in the formal sector through periodic checks. Enforcement in the informal sector was insufficient, particularly for family farms. The ministry inspected family farms for child workers upon receipt of child labor allegations. There was no information on the adequacy of resources, number of inspections, remediation, penalties, or on whether such penalties were sufficient to deter violations. No specific information was available on actions during the year to prevent child labor or remove children from such labor.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination in respect to employment or occupation regarding race, color, national extraction, social origin, religion, political opinion, sex, age, or disability. The law does not prohibit discrimination in respect to employment or occupation regarding language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity. In general the government effectively enforced these laws and regulations. There were no reports that discrimination with respect to employment and occupation occurred.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage schedules set pay by occupation. The minimum wage for domestic workers, for example, was $4.50 XCD ($1.67) per hour, while that for security guards was $8.00 XCD per hour ($3.00). The poverty income rate was estimated at $6,200 XCD per year ($2,300). According to the 2008 Country Poverty Assessment by the Caribbean Development Bank, 38 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
The law provides for a 40-hour maximum workweek. The law stipulates that employers must permit persons who work five hours consecutively a one-hour meal break. In addition the law states that employers may not ask domestic employees to work longer than a 10-hour period without at least two hours of breaks for meals and rest periods. The law requires premium pay for work above the standard workweek and prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime. The law mandates paid annual vacation of two weeks in the first year and three weeks thereafter. The government sets health and safety standards. Workers can remove themselves from situations endangering health or safety without jeopardizing their employment if they reasonably believe the situation presents an imminent or serious danger to life or health.
Enforcement, including wages, hours, occupational safety, and other elements, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor’s labor inspectors, who are responsible for the full range of labor rights inspections, including workplace safety and the right to organize. Inspectors examined approximately 75 percent of eligible sites. The government effectively enforced minimum wage requirements and reported that no violations of the law concerning working hours had been brought to the notice of government authorities. The government did not always enforce occupational health and safety regulations.
The government informally encouraged businesses to rectify violations without resorting to formal channels for compliance, including fines and penalties, which have never been used. No information was provided on what the law sets as the amount for fines or other penalties. Labor officers worked with employers in sectors such as energy, agriculture, and construction to promote appropriate clothing, health checks, and pesticide safety.
The national insurance scheme received 217 claims of workplace injury in 2015. No workplace deaths were reported.