Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
Everyone has the right to associate with others. In the Dominican Republic, there are unions and employers’ associations that represent all kinds of activities. Employees have the right to organise in unions. The affiliation of employees to unions is not mandatory. The employee is free to decide whether or not to join the union. Also, there can be several unions in a company. There is no limitation in this regard. However, there are no unions by locality, but rather by company.
A trade union can be established with a minimum of twenty active-duty workers. An employers’ association needs at least three employers. No prior authorisation is required for the creation of a union or an employers’ association. Employees in a position of trust cannot be members of unions.
Unions in the Dominican Republic are common, especially in large companies that manage many workers. Unions are supposed to represent the interests and rights of workers. However, unions tend to be highly political, and this limits the effectiveness of such unions.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
Among other activities, trade unions can do the following:
- initiate a collective dispute on economic issues;
- negotiate collective agreements on behalf of workers; and
- deal with health and safety problems at work.
The Dominican Republic has ratified ILO Convention 87, which prescribes that workers and employers have the right to join any organisation of their choice. Employees and employers’ organisations have the right to draft their statutes and regulations, freely elect their representatives, and organise their administration and activities. Convention 87 also provides that employees’ organisations will have the right to establish and join federations, confederations, and any other organisation of this type.
According to Dominican law, bargaining with unions is mandatory if the union has, as its members, more than 50% of the headcount (of employees) in the company.
Article 402 of the Labour Code recognises the right to strike for trade unions. However, strikes need to be peaceful. Strikes in essential services, such as public services, communications and hospitals, are illegal.
Before the strike, the unions must give ten days’ notice to the Ministry of Labour indicating the following:
- the economic conflict or the violation of rights that the strike seeks to resolve;
- what previous attempts to resolve disputes, without going on strike, have been unsuccessful;
- the strike has the approval of at least 51% of the union members; and
- the services affected by the strike are not essential to the public.
Disputes with workers represented by the unions, or with them, are resolved through conciliation or judicial proceedings. If workers are part of a union, the employer must follow a particular process to act against those workers.
The law protects union representatives with job stability. They cannot be dismissed without just cause while serving as union delegates, and this, until eight (8) months after the expiration of their mandate. For an employer to dismiss a union representative for just cause during the period of protection, it must request the prior authorisation of a Labour Court.
Unions can negotiate on behalf of employers and employees, and can enforce collective agreements. Collective agreements are instruments executed between unions representing employers and employees, to establish general rules and regulations governing the relationship of a specific category of employers and employees. The conditions negotiated by the unions are mandatory and cover all employees of the company.
An employer can also negotiate a specific collective agreement, applicable to its employees, directly with the employee union.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Unions can represent their members at the national or local level. To obtain official recognition, unions must register with the Ministry of Labour. Legal registration of a union requires the following:
- a certified copy of the bylaws;
- in the case of unions, the names and addresses of the members and their employers;
- a certified copy of the minutes of the general assembly that established the union; and
- a certified copy of the minutes of the general assembly in which the board of directors was elected.
Once these documents are submitted, the Ministry of Labour has, in principle, 30 days to issue the registration. Registration can only be denied in the following circumstances:
- if the statutes do not contain the essential provisions for the regular operation of the union, or if any of its provisions are prohibited; or
- when any of the requirements of the Labour Code or bylaws are not met.
A union cannot be dissolved or suspended, nor can its registration be canceled, by administrative decision. Cancellation of registration requires a legal procedure brought before the Labour Courts, for just cause.
Number of Representatives
The Labour Code establishes that workers, who are members of the board of directors of a union, enjoy job stability:
- up to five, if the company employs no more than two hundred workers;
- up to eight, if the company employs more than two hundred workers, but less than four hundred; and
- up to ten, if the company employs more than four hundred workers.
If more than one union operates in a company, the union protection is distributed proportionally among the different unions, according to the number of contributing members from each.
Appointment of Representatives
The unions’ representatives have job stability as from the communication of their appointment to the employer, until eight months after the mandate’s end. Those members cannot be arbitrarily dismissed. In other words, they cannot be dismissed without a just cause and the approval of the Court of Appeals.
Tasks and Obligations of Representatives
The main tasks of union representatives are:
- represent and formulate petitions on behalf of workers in a collective capacity;
- verify compliance with labour laws and collective agreements concerning workers;
- organise and conduct meetings; and
- educate and instruct the company’s workers.
Employees’ Representation in Management
In the Dominican Republic, the unions do not participate in the direction or management of the company, but they do have the right to participate as representatives of the employees, in the company’s Joint Hygiene and Safety Committees. Employees have the right to appoint representatives to form part of the Joint Health and Safety Committee. If there is a union, the union will represent the employees before the Joint Hygiene and Safety Committee.
However, some large companies with unions, create a Consultative Committee to meet monthly; the foremost union leaders meet with human resource management to discuss all matters concerning the company’s workers.