Section 7. Worker Rights
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There were 14 different minimum wages, depending on the industry. The minimum wage for workers in FTZs was 8,310 pesos ($183) per month. The minimum wage for workers outside the zones ranged from 9,412 pesos ($197) to 15,448 pesos ($324) per month. The minimum wage for the public sector was 5,884 pesos ($130) per month. The daily minimum wage for agricultural workers was 320 pesos ($6.70) based on a 10-hour day, with the exception of sugarcane field workers, who received a lower wage based on an eight-hour workday. Minimum wage provisions cover all workers, including migrants and those in the informal sector. The Central Bank calculated that, due to inflation, the minimum wage had not increased in real terms since 1979.
In 2016 the Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Development calculated the official poverty line at 4,644 pesos ($97) per household per month. The ministry estimated that 30.5 percent of the population, approximately 3.2 million persons, were living in poverty. In 2015 the Juan Bosch Foundation released a study that reported 63 percent of workers did not receive an income sufficient to pay for the lowest-cost family budget, and only 3.4 percent received a salary adequate to provide for a family of four. The report stated that 80 percent of workers earned less than 20,000 pesos ($454) per month.
The law establishes a standard workweek of 44 hours. While agricultural workers are exempt from this limit, in no case may the workday exceed 10 hours. The law stipulates all workers be entitled to 36 hours of uninterrupted rest each week. Although the law provides for paid annual holidays and premium pay for overtime, enforcement was ineffective. The law prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime and states that employees may work a maximum of 80 hours of overtime during three months. The labor code covers domestic workers but does not provide for notice or severance payments. Domestic workers are entitled to two weeks’ paid vacation after one year of continuous work as well as a Christmas bonus equal to one month’s wage. The labor code also covers workers in the FTZs, but they are not entitled to bonus payments.
The law applied to the informal sector, but it was seldom enforced. According to an ILO report published in 2014, informal employment as a portion of nonagricultural employment grew from 50 percent in 2011 to 51.5 percent in 2012. In 2013 the Central Bank calculated that 58 percent of employment was informal and theorized the high rate stemmed from a low minimum wage and workforce elasticity in the availability of cheap migrant labor. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported that in 2014, 48 percent of workers worked in the informal sector, with men more likely to work informal jobs than women. Workers in the informal economy faced more precarious working conditions than formal workers.
The Ministry of Labor sets workplace safety and health regulations. By regulation employers are obligated to provide for the safety and health of employees in all aspects related to the job. By law employees may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but they could not do so without reprisal.
Authorities did not always enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and workplace health and safety standards. Penalties for these violations range between three and six times the minimum wage. Both the Social Security Institute and the Ministry of Labor had a small corps of inspectors charged with enforcing labor standards, but it was insufficient to deter violations.
Workers complained that labor inspectors lacked training, often did not respond to their complaints, and responded to requests from employers more quickly than requests from workers. For example, in the sugar sector there continued to be reports of procedural and methodological shortcomings in the ministry’s inspections. These included: Interviewing few or no workers; failing to discuss topics related to legal compliance with workers; interviewing workers with employer representatives present; employing inspectors lacking language skills (particularly Creole) to effectively communicate with all workers; failing to follow up on allegations of violations made by workers during the inspection process; and failing to conduct follow-up inspections to verify remediation of violations.
Mandatory overtime was a common practice in factories, enforced through loss of pay or employment for those who refused. The Dominican Federation of Free Trade Zone Workers reported that some companies set up “four-by-four” work schedules, under which employees worked 12-hour shifts for four days. In some cases employees working the four-by-four schedules were not paid overtime for hours worked in excess of maximum work hours allowed under labor laws. Some companies paid biweekly salaries every eight days with the four-by-four schedules instead of weekly salaries with a standard 44-hour schedule every seven days. These practices resulted in underpayment of wages for workers, as they were not compensated for the extra hours worked.
Conditions for agricultural workers were poor. Many workers worked long hours, often 12 hours per day and seven days per week, and suffered from hazardous working conditions, including exposure to pesticides, long periods in the sun, limited access to potable water, and sharp and heavy tools. Some workers reported they were not paid the legally mandated minimum wage.
Companies did not regularly adhere to workplace safety and health regulations. For example, the National Confederation of Trade Unions Unity reported unsafe and inadequate health and safety conditions, including lack of appropriate work attire and safety gear; vehicles without airbags, first aid kits, properly functioning windows, or air conditioning; inadequate ventilation in workspaces; an insufficient number of bathrooms; and unsafe eating areas.
Accidents caused injury and death to workers, but information on the number of accidents was unavailable by year’s end.