Caribbean Court of Justice, On appeal from the Court of Appeal of Belize, Mayan King Ltd v. Jose L. Reyes and Others, Appeal No. CV 3 (2011), 6 July 2012
Caribbean Court of Justice
Dismissal , Freedom of association
Use of international law as a guide for interpreting domestic law , Reference to international law to strengthen a decision based on domestic law
Freedom of association/ Protection against anti-union discrimination/ Use of international law as a guide for interpreting domestic law/ Reference to international law to strengthen a decision based on domestic law
Six employees filed a complaint in Belize after having been dismissed, allegedly because of their trade union activities. The Court had ordered the employer to pay one year’s salary plus damages of $70,000 to each of them for violation of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations (Registration, Recognition and Status) Act and the Constitution. The employer appealed and the Court of Appeal confirmed the decision but reduced the amount of compensation, considering that no violation of constitutional rights had occurred. The employer presented an appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The CCJ decided that there had been a violation of the above-mentioned Act and the rights recognised in article 13 of the Constitution of Belize. It also observed that the Act not only developed principles enshrined in the constitution but also:
"was enacted in part to comply with two International Labour Organisation Conventions, namely the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). Belize has ratified both Conventions. The Conventions are the foundation on which trade union activity is premised. They cover the basic principles of trade union rights, assuring workers such benefits as the right to organise and join independent trade unions of their choice and the right to engage in collective bargaining. In particular they guarantee workers the right not to be discriminated against at work for trade union activities".
Thus, on the basis of the law of Belize interpreted in the light of ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, the Court confirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeal, while further reducing the amount of compensation due.