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The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Collective bargaining is legal and must take place in firms in which a union has gained the support of an absolute majority of the workers. Few companies have collective bargaining pacts, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) considered the requirements for collective bargaining rights to be excessive and an impediment to collective bargaining. The Labor Code stipulates that workers cannot be dismissed because of their trade union membership or activities; however, in practice, some workers were fired because of their union activities.
The Labor Code establishes a system of labor courts for dealing with disputes. While cases did make their way through the labor courts, enforcement of judgments was sometimes unreliable. The Ministry of Labor claimed that several disputes were settled out of court.
The Constitution provides for the right of workers to strike (and for private sector employers to lock out workers). Formal requirements for a strike include the support of an absolute majority of all company workers whether unionized or not, a prior attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation, written notification to the Ministry of Labor, and a 10-day waiting period following notification before proceeding with the strike. Government workers and essential public service personnel are not allowed to strike. Brief work stoppages and unofficial strikes were more common.
A few labor unions, such as the Autonomous Labor Confederation (CASC), represented a small number of Haitian workers. According to CASC, Haitian laborers in the rice and coffee industries were better protected that those involved with sugar cane or construction and earned wages equal to those of local citizens. CEDAIL acknowledged that the Labor Code protects foreigners, including Haitians, regardless of legal status. Some NGOs reported that the majority of Haitian laborers in the sugar and construction industries did not exercise their rights under the Labor Code, fearing deportation or job loss.
The Labor Code applies in the 40 established FTZs, which employed approximately 190,000 workers. According to the National Council of Labor Unions, only 15 of the 180 unions registered in FTZs were active; 6 had achieved collective bargaining agreements. In August, Loadway Enterprises in the Bonao FTZ signed a collective bargaining agreement; this was the first one signed in an FTZ since 1997. Workplace regulations and their enforcement in the FTZs did not differ from those in the country at large, although working conditions were sometimes better, and the pay was occasionally higher. Mandatory overtime was a common practice, and it was sometimes enforced through locked doors or loss of pay or jobs for those who refused (see Section 6.c.).
There were reports of widespread covert intimidation by employers in the FTZs in an effort to prevent union activity (see Section 6.a.). Unions in the FTZs reported that their members hesitated to discuss union activity at work, even during break time, for fear of losing their jobs. Some FTZ companies were accused of discharging workers who attempted to organize unions. The majority of the unions in the FTZs were affiliated with the National Federation of Free Trade Zone Workers (FENATRAZONAS) or FEDOTRAZONAS (see Section 6.a.). FENATRAZONAS estimated that only 3 percent of the workers in the FTZs were unionized. In recent years, employer resistance to union organization, especially in the FTZs, has increased in response to increased competitive pressure from firms in Central American countries and China.
Many of the major manufacturers in the FTZs had voluntary "codes of conduct" that included worker rights protection clauses; however, these were not necessarily aligned with the ILO's Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Workers rarely had heard of such codes or the principles they contained. There was no indication that workers received training about the codes, that workers had any effective means of asserting their rights under them, or that any of the codes were subject to credible independent monitoring.
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