Population: 2 700 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 100 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
The Ministry of Labour still has excessive powers to intervene in industrial disputes and terminate strikes, while employers in the export processing zones have so far successfully prevented any trade union activity. There were a number of cases during the year of companies trying to withdraw union recognition.
Trade union rights in law
Limitations on collective bargaining: The Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) provides for the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining and applies to most workers. Collective bargaining is denied if no single union represents at least 40 per cent of workers or when the union seeking recognition for collective bargaining does not obtain 50 per cent of the votes of the total number of workers.
The LRIDA prohibits anti-union discrimination. Employees may not be fired solely for trade union membership.
Ministerial powers: The right to strike is not specifically protected in law.
The Ministry of Labour has the power to refer an industrial dispute to compulsory arbitration and to terminate any strike. As the ILO has commented, compulsory arbitration should be limited to essential services or situations of acute national crisis and the notion of "a strike which is likely to be gravely injurious to the national interest" can be interpreted very widely. The government has reported that the relevant sections of the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act are still under review.
The law applies to export processing zones.
Trade union rights in practice
Sacked workers rehired on the cheap: Some unionised workers complained that private sector employers laid them off, with severance pay, and then rehired them as contractors on reduced pay and benefits.
Employer resistance: The unions report that many employers still continue to prevent workers from seeking union representation. This is particularly the case in the foreign-owned and multinational companies based in the country’s three export processing zones. No unions exist in the zones which unions attributed to an unwritten agreement by foreign owners to prevent workers from participating in trade unions. Employer-controlled “workers’ councils” handle grievance resolution in most companies, but do not negotiate wages and conditions with management. Wages in the zones are set by management.
Of the 220 disputes reported to the Minister of Labour in 2006, 21 resulted in strikes.
Violations in 2006
JAMALCO workers denied union recognition: Workers at JAMALCO alumina refinery (part of Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals (AWAC) ) went on strike in January, after the company refused to recognise the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP) as representing its workers. The General Secretary for UTASP said that JAMALCO insisted that contractors negotiate their individual work contracts without trade union representation.
Shell attempts to ditch unions: On 11 March, the National Worker’s Union (NWU) accused Shell’s new owners, Cool Corporation of trying to force out the unions. The NWU said that Cool had also stopped deducting union dues from worker’s salaries.
Children’s home sacks union members: In May, West Haven Children’s Home in Copse, Hanover, started a campaign of intimidation against staff members who had put in a request in January that they be represented by the National Workers Union. Mr Herbie Morris, the NWU’s negotiating officer, said that three workers who had been accused of encouraging team members to seek union representation had been dismissed. Despite this, the workers planned to go ahead with the ballot to see whether to affiliate to the NWU.