2 – Repeated violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Dominican Republic

The ITUC affiliates in the Dominican Republic are the Confederación Autónoma Sindical Clasista (CASC), the Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores Dominicanos (CNTD) and the Confederación Nacional de Unidad Sindical (CNUS).

Dominican Republic ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1956 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1953.

In practice

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Violations of freedom of association at hotels in Punta Cana06-08-2019

On 6 August 2019, the CNTD denounced that the contracts of more than 20 employees at Hotel Majestic were terminated because they had unionised, and that the Ministry of Labour was withholding union registration from some 15,000 unionised tourism workers in Punta Cana. It also denounced the threats to dismiss more than 50 workers for having joined a union. The violations of freedom of association in the hotel sector intensified throughout the month of August. The CNTD said that it would continue to organise workers, as unionisation was the only way to protect their rights.

Violations ahead of sector-based pay reviews22-07-2019

On 22 July 2019, the CNTD (Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores Dominicanos) decided to convene the National Wage Committee to discuss the new pay increases that should apply to workers in export processing zones, tourism, construction and the sugar industry. The CNTD accused the director general of labour, Valentín Herrera, of refusing to hand over the registration papers of the unions organised by the confederation in the tourism sector, such as the union representing employees at the Majestic tourism consortium in La Altagracia province, at Circle Grand Reserve and Infinity Vacations Dominicana. The president of the CNTD, Jacobo Ramos, said he had informed Labour Minister Winston Santos about the situation but had received no response. Ramos announced that if the papers were not handed over, the union would launch a campaign to denounce the violations of the constitution, labour laws and ILO Conventions, which enshrine the workers right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Violent clampdown on strike in Sabana de la Mar 28-05-2019

Two people were shot and several arrested during a strike held on 2 May in support of the construction of the Hato Mayor highway. Plans to build the road have been successively postponed since 1926. On 28 May, the 44th protest was held to press for a solution. The transport union of Hato Mayor-Vicentillo took part in the action, calling on all its members to stage a transport strike. The public works minister, Gonzalo Castillo, asked the strikers to a meeting to discuss the issue. Finally, on 29 May, the minister announced that repairs to the most critical sections of the road would commence, and the union halted the strike.

Barrick continues to refuse to recognise union at the company01-11-2017

Workers from the trade union at the Barrick mining company, SUTRABARRICK (Sindicato Unido de Trabajadores de la Empresa Minera Barrick), continued to denounce the serious violations of the right to freedom of association committed by the company in recent years. In 2016, the company opposed the formation of the union, conducting mass dismissals along with a series of other anti-union practices, and refused to sign a collective agreement with the workers. This refusal was maintained throughout 2017, in spite of the trade union’s repeated calls for negotiations. The labour authorities have not, to date, taken any action with regard to the legal proceedings initiated in relation to these violations.

International solidarity campaign secures reinstatement of trade union leaders at Willbes Dominicana31-07-2017

On 31 July 2017, 22 workers at Willbes Dominicana decided to set up a committee to form a trade union, SITRAWILLBES (Sindicato de la Empresa Willbes Dominicana de la Zona Franca de Barahona), affiliated to UNATRAZONAS. As soon as it was notified, the company unleashed a wave of intimidation and reprisals against all the members of the committee. Fifteen workers were dismissed and six were pressured into resigning from the committee. The company subsequently refused access to a provincial representative from the Labour Ministry and ignored a decision issued by the labour inspectorate ordering the reinstatement of the workers dismissed. Following strong international pressure, on 21 August, the company finally reinstated all the members of the committee, including three of the union leaders who had agreed to resign and had received the corresponding severance pay. The company has committed to respect the right to freedom of association.

Union busting in export processing zones06-07-2017

During 2017, export processing zone (EPZ) companies Timberland, Miniking Tox and Abian Ltd. violated the right to freedom of association of the Federación Nacional de Trabajadores de Zonas Francas, Industrias, Comercio, Servicios y Afines, immediately terminating the contracts of anyone attempting to organise trade unions at their companies. In the complaints lodged by the trade union in July 2017, the union leaders called on the government to reopen the channels for tripartite dialogue (tripartite commission for the wellbeing of EPZ workers) in order to guarantee the workers’ rights in line with Decree 145 97, which provides for the creation of policies to protect them against anti-union action, within the framework of the dialogue on decent work policies.

Five workers shot at for asking to be paid09-06-2015

Five Haitian workers working on the construction site of the hospital Darío Contreras were wounded by buckshot when a security employee fired on them. The wounded were named as Yoselen Muluis, Delice Widlais, Jumeil Joseph, Ezequiel Olelouse and another worker named Michel. Tensions had arisen over plans to lay off most of the workforce, and to pay them for fewer days than they had expected. An eye witness claimed to have spoken with one of the soldiers involved, and the soldier said he was paid by the construction engineer to prevent the workers from entering the construction site and to fire on the workers. The wounded were taken to hospital to be treated. The army sergeant responsible for the shooting was arrested for questioning.

Harassment, arrest and dismissal of leaders of air traffic controllers union09-02-2015

Members of the Asociación Dominicana de Controladores de Tránsito Aéreo (ADCA) came under sustained attack from the government when they tried to warn of serious safety issues. Instead of remedying the issues, the government sought to silence the ADCA, responding with suspensions followed by sackings, demotions and retaliation against the air traffic controllers. This included arrests of members making peaceful protests on three occasions in late January and early February 2015 and the arrest of three of its officials in 2014. The ADCA had communicated with the office of the general director of the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation (IDAC) numerous times concerning safety-related issues in the country’s air traffic control system but received no reply. The safety concerns flagged up by the ADCA included a total communications failure in Punta Cana; unserviceable navigation aids at La Isabela International Airport; the breakdown of the distance measuring equipment at El Catey Presidente Juan Bosch Airport and the control tower at Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon International Airport working with only an emergency radio for over a year; and suffering frequent communications failures.

Twenty eight members of the ADCA, including the union’s leaders, were sacked in February 2014 for drawing attention to safety issues, and had not been reinstated. On 9 February 2015 the Americas regional secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Antonio Rodriguez Fritz, was arrested just hours before he was due to give a joint press conference with the national trade union centre CNTD (Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores Dominicanos). Antonio Fritz was in the country on a fact-finding mission to investigate its air traffic control problems. He was released without charge after seven hours in custody, but his detention was an example of the tactics used by the government to harass, gag and break the ADCA. Antonio Fritz said: “None of the police officers was able to explain the reasons for my arrest, since clearly no law had been broken. This has been a valuable lesson about the regular intimidation of ADCA members, who had already been detained four times in similar conditions and are now prohibited even from writing reports about incidents in the country’s airspace.”

Flobeman SRL denies right to unionise01-07-2014

Flobeman SRL owns the well-known bread and baked goods brands Molino del Sol and Mi Trigo in the Dominican Republic.

In December 2013, a group of workers formed an executive committee, fulfilled all the requirements established by the labour authorities and secured the registration of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Flobeman SRL.

On 30 January 2014, the executive committee informed the company of the union’s formation. Six days later, the company fired its general secretary, Gendis Báez, and two other leaders, without any regard for the law protecting union representatives from dismissal.

The company also lodged an appeal with the Court of First Instance to cancel the union’s registration.

Unfair dismissals at Coca Cola13-12-2013

On 3 December, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Bepensa Dominicana S.A. (SINATRABEDSA-Coca Cola) staged a demonstration in protest at the unfair dismissal of two trade union members from the Coca Cola distribution centre in Barahona, in the southwest of the country.

Anti-trade union dismissal at CIGT24-09-2013

As soon as the company was notified about the setting up of the union, the Ingeniería, Gestión y Tecnología (CIGT) company launched a campaign against the main leaders, dismissing the Secretary for Demands and Disputes, Heriberto Altagracia Adames.

Anti-trade union dismissals at Kola Real24-09-2013

In July 2013, a few months after its legal constitution, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Industrias San Miguel Kola Real (SINTRAKORE) came under attack from the management, which fired practically all the members of the union’s executive.

Pollo Cibao dismisses trade union leaders24-09-2013

In April 2012, after several attempts, the workers at Pollo Cibao successfully notified the company and the Ministry of Labour that they had formed a trade union. The following month, 60 workers who were members of the trade union were dismissed, including the President, Amaury Consoró Guzmán.

Anti-union discrimination16-08-2013

84 Haitian coconut peelers were dismissed from the coconut farm Coquera Kilómetro 5, after trying to form a union. Rafael Emilio Alonso Luna, the owner of the plantation refused to give severance pay to the workers. The workers filed a complaint with the Labour Court in San Cristobal.

Anti-union dismissals at Agrofem31-01-2013

The Federación Nacional de la Alimentación (Fenta) condemned the dismissals and repression of trade union rights at the agricultural production company Agrofem. The workers set up their trade union in January 2013 and the company immediately initiated a campaign of harassment, dismissing trade union leaders and members. To date, there have been 16 unfair dismissals.

Threat to intervene in strike action08-05-2012

When the Federación Nacional de Transporte Dominicano (FENATRADO), a union of truck drivers, stated that it would go on strike on 8 May 2012, 12 days before the general elections, the Central Electoral Board threatened to use the armed forces to transport the materials to be used in the elections. Fenatrado president Blas Peralta said the Government owes the union approximately DOP 300 million. This debt has been outstanding for over six years.

Child labour law not enforced31-12-2011

Forced or compulsory labour is prohibited and the Minors’ Code provides protection and establishes penalties for the commercial or sexual exploitation of children. Child labour is, however, a serious problem in the Dominican Republic. ILO reports indicate that the large numbers of Haitian children adopted by families who employ them as apprentices often become victims of abuse and mistreatment. Poor Haitian and Dominican teenagers work in the sugar cane fields, where children under 12 plant sugar cane for a dollar a day. An estimated 30,000 children are the victims of sexual exploitation, which is most prevalent in tourist areas.

Government indifference to freedom of association violations 31-12-2010

The president of the National Trade Union Unity Confederation (CNUS) Rafael Abreau believes the Labour Minister is well aware that freedom of association is violated in the country but that he has done nothing to improve the situation. In June the CNUS lodged a complaint against the government for violation of freedom of association by obstructing the registration of trade unions.

Child labour30-11-2009

Child labour remains a serious problem, with 14.5% of children aged between five and 14 working in the services, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Workers’ rights not respected in EPZs30-11-2009

Union organising in EPZs is very difficult, as harassment and persecution lead to workers having to deal with union matters outside the workplace, for fear of dismissal. Blacklists of trade unionists are also circulated, preventing them from getting new jobs.

Complete lack of protection of Haitian workers30-11-2009

Most of the workers on the sugar plantations are undocumented Haitians. They do not have the right to form unions or therefore to bargain collectively. Employers prefer to hire them as a means of evading the law and paying lower wages.

Use of flexible contracts makes organising difficult30-11-2009

In the stagnating formal economy, companies are increasingly imposing so-called “flexible” terms of employment, which are gradually stripping workers of their rights and indirectly hindering freedom of association. Subcontracting represents a particularly serious obstacle, as it means that workers are constantly being moved to different companies, thus hampering union organising. In addition, they do not have a contract with the employer at their actual workplaces, which makes collective bargaining impossible even when workers do manage to set up a union. The practice of cancelling contracts every three months leaves workers in a state of perpetual insecurity, increasing their dependence on their employers and leaving them under the constant threat of losing their jobs.

Collective bargaining restricted30-11-2009

Due to the requirement that a union must represent an absolute majority of workers in a company in order to bargain collectively, only a minority of companies have a collective bargaining agreement. In the EPZs, only a handful of companies have negotiated collective agreements.

Restrictions in the public sector30-11-2009

Given that a majority of formal economy workers are state employees, the exercise of the right to strike in the country is limited due to the prohibition of strike action for civil servants. What is more, despite the Law on the Civil Service and Administrative Careers, mass dismissals take place in the public sector without any guarantee of the employees receiving the required compensation.

Labour court proceedings are too long30-11-2009

It takes an average of 15.3 months to settle cases in courts of first instance and 16.4 months in the court of appeal. Furthermore, justice is still administered, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past, by judges and magistrates who are political appointees and tend to be in league with employers.

Lax enforcement of laws on anti-union discrimination30-11-2009

Even though the law prohibits dismissals of trade union members and their leaders for trade union activities, it is generally not applied and the penalties are not sufficiently dissuasive to prevent employers from violating workers’ rights. Dismissals of the founding members of a union that is denied registration by the administrative authorities are not unheard of.

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