From Wed Jun 6 11:53:20 2001
From: Press <>
To: ICFTU Online <>
Subject: ICFTU OnLine.Caribbean States: Discrimination and restrictions on the right to strike need to be remedied
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2001 10:11:17 +0200

Discrimination and restrictions on the right to strike need to be remedied

ICFTU OnLine..., 099/06/06/01/CH, 6 June 2001

Brussels June 6 (ICFTU OnLine): Excessive limitations on the right to strike for many employees, evident workplace discrimination, and non co-operation with the ILO are among the findings of the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in a new report on six members of the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS).

The report coincides with a review of OECS trade policy by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and focuses on respect for internationally recognised core labour standards in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the six members of the OECS which are also members of the WTO.

The ICFTU is the world's largest trade union body and represents more than 155 million workers worldwide. This report on the OECS is the latest in a series of reports in accordance with the Declaration adopted at the 1st Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Singapore in 1996 where Ministers agreed to respect core labour standards.

On freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, most of the six OECS countries have ratified both Conventions 87 and 98. Freedom of association is respected across the region, but there are problems in export processing zones (EPZ's) in Grenada and St. Lucia with employers not allowing union activities. Employers in St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are not legally obliged to recognise a union formed by their employees, which means that workers' right to collective bargaining is often not respected. The right to strike is officially protected for most workers, but in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Lucia, many sectors have been classified as essential services, thereby depriving those workers of this right.

Women still earn less than men across the region, and they are under-represented in senior jobs in most of the six countries, including Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. Even though most of the OECS countries have Constitutional prohibitions against gender dicrimination, women workers in the region regularly face discrimination in both pay and access to quality jobs.

Conventions 138 and 182 on Child Labour have not been widely ratified in the OECS, and there is some informal child labour across the region, notably in Grenada. While most of the countries have strict regulations concerning the minimum age for employment, and child labour is not widespread, countries such as Dominica and St. Lucia have been repeatedly warned by the ILO that their labour code should be brought into compliance with Convention 138.

All six countries have ratified both Convention 29 and Convention 105 on Forced Labour, and Forced Labour is not a problem in the OECS.

One highly disturbing finding in the report is that several OECS countries, such as Dominica and most particularly St. Lucia, have not co-operated with the ILO expert committees that make recommendations on domestic labour law and compliance with the ILO Conventions. In some cases as many as seven years passed without government response to specific ILO concerns.