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New ICFTU report submitted to the WTO:

New ICFTU report submitted to the WTO:

Basic workers' rights still violated in Belize and Suriname

Brussels, 12 July 2004 (ICFTU Online): In a new report on Belize and Suriname, produced to coincide with the WTO review of those countries' trade policies on July 12 and July 14, the ICFTU exposes the daily problems faced by workers and trade unions in Belize and Suriname. The ICFTU report criticises the lack of compliance in both countries with the eight ILO conventions often referred to as "Core Labour Standards".

The report notes that the right to form and join unions is regularly violated in Belize, where employers often block union activities by dismissing trade unionists, and where, in practice, trade unions are not recognized in Export Processing Zones or allowed to form on the banana plantations.

The report further notes that whilst workers have the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike in both countries, the right to strike for public sector workers in essential services in Belize is restricted. Essential services in Belize are far too broadly defined and stretch to postal and transport services. Furthermore, the government can use compulsory arbitration in the case of a strike. Currently, the situation in Suriname may be slightly better, but the government is adopting new "essential services" legislation that could reduce workers' rights to the same standard as those in Belize.

Discrimination against women with regard to access to employment persists in both countries. Women are concentrated in low wage and low-skilled jobs and significantly under-represented in middle and higher income positions. In Belize, the low-paid, female-dominated occupations in the private sector often lack wage regulations. In Suriname, the majority of women are employed in entry-level jobs and only 3% are in management positions.

The report further notes that child labour is prevalent in both countries. In Belize, an estimated 11% of the children between the ages of 5 and 17 are at work, 14% of them in economic activities and 97.4% in non-economic activities (11.4% work in both). Children work in family businesses and in citrus, banana and sugar industries, as well as in vending in urban areas. The worst forms of child labour exist in Belize, including hazardous work in commercial agriculture, sexual exploitation, working street children and child domestic workers. In Suriname, children are mainly involved in informal work. There is a distinct lack of enforcement of legislation in both countries.

The report notes that in both countries, there is trafficking of people for the purpose of forced prostitution and, in Belize, for forced labour in sweatshops.

The ICFTU calls upon the governments of Belize and Suriname to apply the core labour conventions that they have ratified, and urges Suriname to ratify the remaining four core labour standards. Effective measures should be taken by the government of Belize to prevent anti-union discrimination and to bring the definition of essential services in line with internationally recognized classifications. Both countries have to increase efforts to reduce discrimination in employment and differences in pay between men and women. The governments of Suriname and Belize need to increase the number of women in middle level and management positions. Furthermore, both governments have to make serious efforts to eliminate child labour, in particular the worst forms of child labour, and to increase the enforcement of labour legislation and inspection. Finally, effective measures must be taken by the

To read the full report:

The ICFTU represents 152 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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