Belize: Labour Regulation
The Labour Department has responsibilities under the law for the regulation of trade unions, personnel management and policies, the security of workers, management responsibilities including the collective bargaining process and grievance and disciplinary procedures.
On 29 December 2006, the Minimum Wages Council presented its Final Report and Recommendations to the Minister of Labour, Hon. Francis Fonseca. On 8 January 2007, the Cabinet fully approved this document, including the creation over the next three years of one minimum wage rate of BZ$3.00 for all workers.
This involved increasing the minimum wage rate for agricultural workers from BZ$2.00 to BZ$2.50 in 2007, to BZ$2.75 in 2008 and to BZ$3.00 in 2010; and increasing the minimum wage for shop assistants/domestics from BZ$2.25 to D3.00 in 2007. In July, 2010 Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams confirmed that the Attorney General's Ministry was in the process of drafting the statutory instrument to increase the minimum hourly rate to BZ$3.10. The rate was increased to BZ$3.30 in 2012. The Statistical Institute of Belize is tasked with setting a formula for calculating the minimum wage after 2012.
The first two weeks of employment is the probation period. Between 2 weeks and 6 months, three days' notice of termination must be given; between 6 months and one year, one week's notice and after that 2 weeks' notice.
Workers are entitled to 2 working weeks' annual leave and 16 days' sick leave at their basic rate of pay, provided they have worked an aggregate period of not less than 60 days within the previous 12 months. Industrial and employment disputes are handled by the Labour Commissioner who will instruct a Labour Officer to apply conciliation procedures.
The law provides for collective bargaining and unions practice it freely throughout the country. The Trade Unions and Employers Organizations Act of 2000 became law in December of that year. Employers and unions set wages in free negotiations, or, more commonly, employers simply establish them. The Labour Commissioner or his representative acts as a mediator in deadlocked collective bargaining negotiations between labour and management, offering nonbinding counsel to both sides. Historically the Commissioner's guidance has been accepted voluntarily. However, should either union or management choose not to accept the Commissioner's decision, both are entitled to a legal hearing of the case, provided that it is linked to some provision of civil or criminal law.
The constitution prohibits anti-union discrimination both before and after a union is registered. Unions may organize freely, and the Trade Unions and Employers Organizations Act requires employers to recognize unions when a critical level of membership is reached. Some employers have been known to block union organization by terminating the employment of key union sympathizers, usually on grounds purportedly unrelated to union activities. Effective redress is extremely difficult to obtain in such situations. Technically, a worker can file a complaint with the Labour Department, but in practice it is difficult to prove that a termination was due to union activity.
For additional information contact the Labour Department - phone: (501) 8-22323, (02) 44907.