IUF Workshop on Maternity Protection in the sugar and bananas sectors of the English-speaking Caribbean
October 22 & 23, 2007.
The opening remarks and welcome speech was made by Clifton Grant (University & Allied Workers Union – UAWU in Jamaica). He then invited Jorge Chullen (IUF global sugar co-coordinator), Wycliffe Matthews (Bustamante Industrial Trade Union- BITU in Jamaica) and Frederica Riley (WAWU in Dominica) to give some opening remarks to the workshop. Then the participants took over the proceedings and selected Frederica Riley as Chairperson and Narda Mohamed (GAWU – Guyana) to record the workshop’s activities.
Jorge stated the objectives of the workshop as follows:
1. To present basic information on maternity protection in the countries represented (national legislation) and participating unions (CBA clauses).
2. To share the information with other unions in the IUF family.
3. To make recommendations to unions of ways to enhance the national legislation and CBA clauses related to Maternity Protection.
4. To review and evaluate the section on maternity protection in a recently published IUF manual on gender equity.
All participants were then asked to introduce themselves.
- Ernesta Williams, Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU)
- Frederica Riley, Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU – Dominica)
- Narda Mohamed, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)
- Louise Glasgow, Commercial Technical and Allied Workers Union (CTAWU – St Vincent)
- Jeline McPherson, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU – Jamaica, bananas sector)
- Delaine Smith, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU – Jamaica, sugar sector)
- Wycliffe Mathews, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU representative – Jamaica)
- Michelle Bennet, University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU – Jamaica, sugars sector)
- Humphrey Boreland, University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU representative – Jamaica)
- Clifton Grant, University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU and liaison between IUF and Jamaican agricultural workers unions)
- Jorge Chullén, IUF Global Sugar Coordinator
Presentations on National Legislation related to Maternity Protection
St Vincent by Louise Glasgow, CTAWU
The first presentation was done by Louise Glasgow. She explained that there are two types of Maternity Benefits:
1. Maternity Allowance
2. Maternity Grant.
- Between the ages of 16 to 60 years pregnant women who have been employed for at least 30 contribution weeks and paid at least 20 weekly contributions are entitled to benefits.
- A claimant will be paid sixty five (65) percent of her average weekly wage for a maximum of 13 consecutive weeks.
- In the case of a spouse applying for his wife/spouse a lump sum payment (maternity grant) of XCD 550 (USD 205) is paid for live birth.
- Benefits for stillbirth are not provisioned for; however, a funeral grant may be given for burial of child upon request.
- Employee must be employed for two or more years with the specific employer.
- Employer pays 35% of salary
- National insurance Services pay 65% to women.
Barbados by Ernesta Williams, BWU
Ernesta reported that:
- A woman employee is entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave after 12 months of employment with a particular employer. Leave is given on three occasions with the same employer.
- The National Insurance and Social security Scheme pay 100 % of their insurable income (the employer doesn’t pay any percentage).
- Maternity Grant may be given also where the female may not be working but her spouse has qualifying conditions.
Guyana by Narda Mohamed, GAWU
Narda highlighted that:
- Maternity benefit is payable to any pregnant woman who has not less than 15 contributions since her last entry into the Scheme and contributions for at least 7 weeks in the period of 26 contribution weeks before confinement. The General Manager may waive the foregoing condition if he is satisfied that the insured person was unable to comply with that condition.
- A Maternity grant is given to a spouse when his wife/spouse is not working but where he is fully qualified.
- The National Insurance pays 70% and the employer pays 30% of employee’s salary.
Jamaica by Delaine Clarke Smith, BITU
On behalf of the Jamaican Unions, Delaine explained that:
- An employed pregnant woman is entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks maternity leave if she has been continuously employed by the specific employer for at least 52 weeks, and an additional leave of 2 weeks upon request as a result of the state of health of the newly born child or illness arising from pregnancy or confinement.
- Maternity benefit is paid by the employer for the first twelve (12) weeks of the maternity leave. An employer is only obligated to grant maternity pay for three (3) pregnancies per worker.
Dominica by Frederica Riley, WAWU
Frederica said that:
- Female employees who have completed one year of continuous service with a specific employer shall be granted maternity leave of the maximum period of twelve (12) weeks with 60% pay.
- An extension of not more than 6 weeks can be given upon certification of necessity.
- Maternity grant shall be payable to the unemployed spouse (wife) of an insured man.
Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) Clauses related to Maternity Protection.
Guyana sugar unions
Narda presented clauses from Agreements by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAW) and also the National Association of Clerical, Commercial & Industrial Employees (NAACIE). Some of the clauses included were:
1. Pregnant employees shall be granted 15 weeks with pay.
2. Four meals allowances (but not overtime) payment shall be included.
3. An employee shall suffer no loss or break in survive, no loss of pay or any other benefits she may be entitled to.
4. If an employee is not entitled to maternity leave she ma take unpaid leave of absence or vacation leave that is due.
Dominica WAWU-Widbeco (bananas)
Frederica read clauses on Maternity Protection from two Agreements by her union (WAWU) with different employers. They contain the following:
1. Maternity leave will be granted to female workers with over one (1) year’s service.
2. Employees shall be paid forty (40%) percent by the employer and the other sixty (60%) by the Social Security of Dominica.
She also said, however, that in the case of Widbeco contract, there is no provision or articles on Maternity Protection because no women work in the port activities (banana exports) until Sept. 1993. The most recent contract with Wibdeco dates from 2005. Maternity benefits to her were issued through the Social Security Benefits.
Ernesta stated that her Barbados union supports the rights of all employees and therefore, it is in the best interest of them that:
1. Employees shouldn’t be dismissed if she becomes pregnant. It is an offence for an employer to dismiss an employee or require her to resign due to the fact that she is pregnant.
2. An employee should return to a job of same wage and seniority after her maternity leave.
3. An employee is obliged to maternity benefits under the laws of Barbados.
Delaine referred to her union’s agreement that states:
1. A pregnant employee will be entitled to twelve (12) weeks Maternity leave with full pay by the employer. (The National Insurance Service does not provide for maternity benefit)
2. Upon request an employee can obtain an extended two (2) weeks period and is subjected to full payment by the employer if the employee was employed with the specific employer for over one (1) year.
In the sugar sector, a woman has to be employed for 6 consecutive months to access maternity benefits, compared to the national legislation that requires 52 weeks of continued employment.
Comparison on national legislation and CBA clauses on Maternity Protection
The participants used the model from the IUF gender equity manual to summarise the CBA clauses regarding Maternity Protection.
Comparison on Maternity Protection in Selected Caribbean Countries: Sugar and Bananas Sectors
The day’s session ended at a very high note and participants couldn’t wait for the next day to conclude with recommendations and activities relating to women in the IUF Sugar and Banana sectors. Participants were asked to read and comment the section on Maternity Protection of “ALL for ONE, ONE for ALL,” a gender equality guide for Trade Unionists by the IUF.
Day 2 – October 23, 2007
Jorge opened the meeting and welcomed the participants to share their opinions on the IUF manual on gender equality, from their reading the Maternity Protection section the previous night. The delegates said that:
1. The information was effective and precise.
2. The message that pregnant women have to be protected was good and clear.
3. The language used was adequate to discuss issues with the rank and file.
4. Cases used to present issues were very good, and underlined that maternity benefits need to go beyond maternity leave and enhance women workers’ rights, e.g. breastfeeding.
5. The manual should be used in union workshops to strengthen the rights of women to have their child, receive their benefits due to them, and keep their jobs and benefits at work.
They acknowledged the IUF’s work on women issues which increases benefits and improves conditions for the working class. They also showed their appreciation for receiving the manual for their union and personal use.
The workshop also made some recommendations, among them:
1. Caribbean unions should work towards improving Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) clauses in relation to Maternity Protection beyond the national legislation, e.g. breastfeeding rights.
2. It recommended that GAWU (Guyana) takes a closer look at CBA clauses that give extensive powers to the General Manager of the company in question.
3. It recommended that WAWU (Dominica) makes proposals on CBA clauses on Maternity Protection to Wibdeco, as currently there is no mention of women rights in the collective agreement.
4. Union should strive towards reducing the length of employment required from a women worker to access maternity benefits. In general, CBA reproduce the national legislation, but in the sugar sector of Jamaica, the length of continuous employment is 6 months (50% of the nationally legislated period).
5. Unions and the IUF sugar program should work towards the Ratification of the ILO Convention 183 (and the accompanying Recommendation 191), which enhances the convention and would substantially improve national legislations.
6. Paternity benefits should be provided for in the CBA’s and the national legislation of the countries of the participating unions.
7. The National Insurance Scheme/Services (NIS) Maternity Grant should be reviewed and enhanced. The Jamaican unions reported that NIS does not pay any maternity benefits to women workers, and they committed themselves to fully investigate the issue and report to the IUF and unions.
8. The delegates agreed they will continue working on the issue of Maternity Protection in their own unions and share the information via electronic mail.
9. The participants recommended the continued involvement of the IUF in the sugar and bananas sector, and to support further activities, including a more comprehensive regional workshop on the topic in 2008, and trade union exchanges.
In the closing remarks, Jorge thanked Kommunal, a Swedish agricultural workers union, and the Swedish LO-TCO, which have supported the IUF Caribbean’s sugar and bananas work for several years. The Swedish union has expressed interest in participating in the regional activities starting in 2008, and the participants welcomed such interest and look forward to new contacts and cooperation on the ground. (With a report by Narda Mohamed, GAWU.)