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Title:  Dominican Republic Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                         DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 
 
 
The Constitution of the Dominican Republic provides for a popularly 
elected President and a bicameral Congress.  In practice, the system 
heavily favors the executive branch, headed by seven-term President 
Joaquin Balaguer.  The Senate appoints justices to the Supreme Court, 
which heads an only nominally independent judiciary.  Political parties 
representing the ideological spectrum from left to right freely 
participate in elections. 
 
The National Police, the National Department of Investigations, the 
National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), and the military (army, air 
force, and navy) form the security services.  The Government controls 
all the security services, which are generally responsive to civilian 
executive branch authority.  However, some members of the security 
forces continued to commit human rights abuses with the tacit 
acquiescence of the civil authorities. 
 
The economy, once heavily dependent on sugar, has diversified; tourism 
and export processing zones (EPZ's) are now major sources of income and 
employment.  State-owned firms such as the State Sugar Council (CEA), 
the Consortium of State Enterprises, and the Dominican Electricity 
Corporation remain heavily involved in the economy, and their financial 
and administrative difficulties still impede economic growth. 
 
Principal human rights problems included continuing instances of police 
killings of civilians, arbitrary detention and beatings of suspects, 
security services' refusal to obey judicial orders, judicial corruption, 
maladministration of the courts, poor prison conditions, and abuses of 
Haitian migrant workers.  Workers in the state-owned sugar plantations 
and mills continued to work under deplorable conditions.  EPZ workers 
achieved some gains with the signing of collective contracts and other 
agreements.  Discrimination, violence against women, and prostitution 
are also serious problems. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings 
 
There were no reports of political killings, but there were several 
instances of extrajudicial killings by the police.  Police use of 
excessive force led to at least 26 civilian deaths.  Some killings 
occurred as a result of personal disputes, but others clearly were the 
result of excessive force while persons were in custody or during civil 
disturbances.  The authorities usually discharge police personnel for 
carrying out extrajudicial killings and submit their cases to civilian 
justice. 
 
In March three officers were dishonorably discharged and handed over to 
civilian justice after a 17-year-old boy died in their custody.  
Witnesses said the officers had beaten the young man before throwing him 
into their car.  The case was still pending in court at year's end. 
 
In September two police officers were dishonorably discharged and handed 
over to civilian courts after investigators determined they had murdered 
two individuals accused by them of having robbed the house of one of the 
police officers.  The officers shot the two victims several times and 
threw them off a bridge into the sea.  One officer jumped in the water 
to finish the job when he saw one of the victims was still moving.  The 
case was pending in court at the end of the year. 
 
Military courts try military personnel charged with extrajudicial 
killings.  Police tribunals have on occasion tried, convicted, and 
sentenced personnel charged with extrajudicial killings.  However, there 
were no cases reported during the year. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
The 1994 disappearance of Autonomous University of Santo Domingo 
Professor Narciso Gonzalez remains unresolved.  The Gonzalez family, 
assisted by the Dominican Human Rights Commission, filed a complaint in 
Santo Domingo courts pressing for a full investigation, but the courts 
have not pursued the case aggressively. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Torture and other forms of physical abuse are illegal, but there 
continued to be instances of security service personnel physically 
abusing detainees. 
 
The authorities usually order little or no punishment for perpetrators 
of such abuse.  Although punishment may range up to 5 years' 
incarceration for serious cases of abuse, as a rule judges have 
sentenced convicted officials to sentences ranging from a 1-month 
suspension to 6 months' incarceration. 
 
Prisons are overcrowded, and health and sanitary conditions are 
substandard.  Some prison personnel reportedly engage in extortion and 
other corrupt activities, and most prisoners find it necessary to rely 
on relatives or their own finances to be fed adequately.  Prison 
authorities allowed gangs to operate inside the prisons; these gangs 
were responsible for several deaths and ran active drug markets and 
prostitution rings.  Corrupt practices by prison personnel and 
overcrowding at the main La Victoria prison led to several days of 
rioting, resulting in the deaths of at least five inmates.  Prison 
authorities subsequently transferred all of the prison personnel to 
other functions outside the prison and transferred several hundred 
prisoners to other facilities to ease the overcrowding.  Medical care 
suffers from a lack of supplies and available physicians.  Dominican 
authorities estimate the number of minors incarcerated in adult prisons 
at between 1,500 to 2,500 (see Section 5). 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution stipulates that authorities may detain suspects for a 
maximum of 48 hours for investigation before arraignment, after which 
they must charge or release them.  However, in special circumstances, 
suspects may be detained for longer periods with the approval of the 
prosecutor's office.  Security service officials continued routinely to 
violate constitutional provisions by detaining suspects for 
"investigation" or "interrogation" beyond the prescribed 48-hour limit.  
Law enforcement authorities traditionally detain all suspects and 
witnesses to a crime and use the investigative process to determine 
which ones are innocent and merit release and which ones they should 
continue to hold.  Civil authorities have not employed sufficient 
efforts to address these widespread abuses. 
 
Despite announcements to the contrary, the DNCD and National Police 
continued to engage in indiscriminate roundups of people in poorer 
neighborhoods.  Early in the year, the Supreme Court ruled against 
searches of homes by DNCD agents after 6 p.m.  However, in November 
Congress amended the drug law to allow searches at any time of the day, 
as long as they are carried out in accordance with a written order by 
the Attorney General or the investigating prosecutor, and in the 
presence of a court official.  The security services also continued 
occasionally to detain relatives of suspected criminals with the aim of 
forcing the surrender of suspects.  Civil authorities have taken no 
action to curb these abuses. 
 
The National Police and the DNCD persisted in their refusal to release 
some prisoners and detainees who had been granted judicial release 
orders.  Law enforcement and other governmental authorities cited 
judicial corruption as the justification for this noncompliance.  In 
some of these cases involving narcotics or terrorist-related crimes, it 
appeared that evidence merited pursuing the cases in the judicial 
system.  Although the right to judicial determination of the legality of 
detention exists, pretrial detention is legal and commonly employed.  
This custom, coupled with a lack of administrative and financial support 
for the system, creates a major backlog of cases, which in turn causes 
suspects to suffer long periods of pretrial detention that sometimes 
exceed possible sentences. 
 
While the law does not prohibit exile, there are no known cases of 
citizens in forced exile. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Although the Constitution stipulates an independent judiciary, in 
practice, interference from other public and private entities, including 
the executive branch, substantially undermines judicial independence. 
 
The judicial system is in a state of transition as the National Congress 
has failed to form the National Judicial Council mandated by 
constitutional reforms enacted in 1994.  When implemented, the reforms 
would end the Senate's exclusive role in appointing judges and establish 
a professional career service for judges, including potential life-term 
appointments.  Until these reforms are in place, the overall autonomy of 
the judiciary is in question. 
 
The Constitution provides for public trial.  The courts normally appoint 
lawyers at public expense for indigent defendants in felony criminal 
cases but rarely in criminal misdemeanor cases.  The judicial process is 
plagued by chronic delays; of the penal system's approximately 11,000 
detainees, only about 10 percent have been convicted.  As noted above, 
many suspects suffer long periods of pretrial detention that sometimes 
exceed maximum possible criminal penalties. 
 
The judicial system provides for bail.  However, cases in which bail is 
posted rarely come to trial, circumventing the intended purpose of bail. 
 
Military or police courts have jurisdiction over members of the armed 
forces and police, but a military or police board frequently remands 
cases involving capital crimes (murder, rape, etc.) to civilian courts 
after review. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Apart from occasional exceptions, the Government does not arbitrarily 
interfere with the private lives of persons or families and generally 
observes constitutional provisions against invasion of the home.  The 
authorities may only search a residence in the presence of a prosecutor 
or an assistant prosecutor, or in cases of "hot pursuit" and instances 
where there is reason to believe that a crime is in progress. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The law provides for these freedoms, and the Government usually respects 
them in practice. 
 
Dominicans of all political persuasions exercise freedom of speech.  The 
numerous privately owned radio and television stations broadcast all 
political points of view.  A 1971 law prohibits foreign-language 
broadcasts. 
 
The Government controls one television station but no major newspapers.  
Newspapers freely reflect independent and opposition points of view.  
Although journalists operate in a relatively tolerant environment, a 
certain amount of self-censorship exists for fear of retaliation, 
ranging from loss of influence to loss of one's job.  Economic 
considerations also inhibit free expression, as all the principal media 
outlets are owned by powerful economic consortiums or wealthy, 
influential families.  In addition, some journalists solicit, or are 
responsive to, bribes to generate reports. 
 
The DNCD waged a campaign to destroy material which it regards as 
promoting or condoning the use of drugs.  Clothing and music tapes 
deemed by the DNCD to promote drug use were publicly incinerated, along 
with confiscated drugs.  Some of these materials were forcibly removed 
from their owners. 
 
Public and private universities enjoy broad academic freedom.  The main 
public university, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, with 
approximately 35,000 students, has no restrictions on enrollment and 
maintains a policy of nonintervention (other than curriculum 
development) in classroom affairs.  The Government exerts no control 
over private universities except for the preservation of standards, and 
teachers are free to espouse their own theories without government 
oversight. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for these freedoms, which the Government 
commonly respects in practice.  Outdoor public marches and meetings 
require permits which the Government usually grants.  Political parties 
freely affiliate with their foreign counterpart organizations.  
Professional organizations of lawyers, doctors, teachers, and others 
function freely and can maintain relations with counterpart 
international bodies of diverse political philosophies. 
 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution prohibits discrimination on religious grounds, and the 
Government does not interfere with the practice of religion. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Citizens face no unusual legal restrictions on travel within or outside 
the country.  Throughout the year, Dominican military personnel 
repatriated undocumented Haitian nationals believed to be in the country 
illegally.  The expulsions occurred in various regions of the country; 
human rights groups estimated that the authorities expelled between 
several hundred and perhaps as many as 2,000 Haitians.  Some of these 
were legal resident Haitians and persons of Haitian ancestry who may 
have claims to Dominican citizenship.  The authorities did not allow the 
Haitians the opportunity to establish their possible claims to 
citizenship. 
 
Since the 1991 coup in Haiti, the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) accorded refugee status to 1,341 Haitians who fled to 
the Dominican Republic.  Although the Government began processing 
petitions for Dominican recognition of the UNHCR wards in 1991, only 10 
percent have been granted such status.  Some Haitians returned to Haiti 
following the restoration of democracy there. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
In August the Supreme Court upheld the legalities of the constitutional 
reforms enacted in 1994, based on the Pact for Democracy.  As a result 
of these reforms, presidential elections are scheduled for May 16, 1996.  
Among other things, the reforms also limited the current presidential 
term to 2 years, prohibited consecutive presidential reelection, and 
established the threshold for victory in the first round at 50 percent 
of the vote. 
 
The Dominican Republic is a constitutional democracy.  The President, 
all 150 members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, and the mayors 
and city council members of more than 100 municipalities are freely 
elected every 4 years by secret ballot and universal suffrage (except 
for active duty military and police, who may not vote).  The President 
appoints the governors of the 29 provinces.  Opposition groups of the 
left, right, and center operate openly. 
 
Although the nation has a functioning multiparty system, in practice the 
President dominates public policy formulation and implementation.  He 
exercises his authority through use of the veto, discretion to act by 
decree, and influence as the leader of his party.  The Congress 
traditionally has had limited powers, although the current Congress is 
showing greater autonomy than its predecessors in substantially 
modifying proposals submitted by the executive branch.  The Congress 
also provides an open forum for the free exchange of views and debate.  
The governing Reformed Christian Social Party has a 1-vote majority in 
the 30-seat Senate when it combines its 14 votes with 1 vote from the 
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and 1 vote from the Democratic Union 
(UD).  Similarly, it has in coalition with the PLD a working plurality 
in the Chamber of Deputies. 
 
Women and minorities confront no serious legal or practical impediments 
to political participation.  Women hold 8 of the country's 29 appointed 
governorships, 5 cabinet-level executive branch positions, 14 seats in 
the 120-member House of Deputies, and 1 seat in the 30-member Senate. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
Nongovernmental human rights organizations operate freely without 
government interference.  In addition to the Dominican Human Rights 
Committee (CDH), several other Haitian, church, and labor groups exist.  
The Government has been slow to acknowledge requests for information and 
criticism from some international human rights organizations.  It has 
refused to respond to criticisms leveled by the U.N. Human Rights 
Commission in 1993 regarding its treatment of Haitian refugees. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The law prohibits discrimination based on race and sex.  Such 
discrimination exists in society, but the Government has not 
acknowledged its existence or made efforts to combat it. 
 
   Women 
 
Domestic violence and sexual harassment are widespread.  According to 
one report, approximately 7,000 rapes occur annually, but victims report 
only 1,500 cases to the police.  There are no laws protecting citizens 
from abuse by their spouses, and victims rarely report such abuse. 
 
Dominican women are victims of rings which smuggle third-world women to 
Europe to work as prostitutes in conditions rife with exploitation and 
mistreatment.  The Government does not vigorously enforce prostitution 
laws but does periodically prosecute organized alien smuggling rings.  
Corruption and a reluctance to restrict emigration hinder enforcement of 
the law. 
 
Women traditionally have not shared equal social and economic status or 
opportunity with men, and men hold the overwhelming majority of 
leadership positions in all sectors.  In many instances, women are paid 
less than men in jobs of equal content and equal skill level.  Divorce 
is easily obtainable by either spouse, and women can hold property in 
their own names apart from their husbands.  Congress for the second year 
in a row took no action on pending legislative proposals to enhance 
women's status under the Civil and Penal Codes. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government has not supported its professed commitment to child 
welfare with financial and human resources.  Despite the existence of 
government institutions dedicated to child welfare, private social and 
religious organizations carry the principal burden.  The most serious 
abuse involving children is the failure of the judicial system to 
respect the status of minors in criminal cases.  In September the 
Congress passed legislation establishing minors' courts which are in 
part designed to alleviate this problem.  The authorities sometimes 
treated minors as adults and incarcerated them in prison rather than 
juvenile detention centers.  One group of concerned attorneys reported 
that there are more than 344 minors in the country's main prison.  
Prison authorities transferred some of these juveniles to juvenile 
centers or simply released others.  A great many remain at the main 
prison, serving sentences longer than those the courts had prescribed. 
 
According to local monitors, the incidence of child abuse is 
underreported because of traditional beliefs that family problems should 
be dealt with inside the family.  Sporadic instances of Haitian child 
labor on sugar plantations continued to occur (see Section 6.d.).  A new 
Minor's Code went into effect on January 1.  The Code contains 
provisions against child abuse, including physical and emotional 
mistreatment, sexual exploitation, and child labor.  It also provides 
for removal of a mistreated or delinquent child to a protective 
environment. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
Disabled persons encounter discrimination in employment and the 
provision of other services.  Although a September 1991 law contains 
provisions for physical access for the disabled to all new public and 
private buildings, the authorities have not uniformly enforced this law. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Dominicans are strongly prejudiced against Haitians, many of whom are 
illegal immigrants and who constitute a significant percentage of the 
unskilled manual labor force.  The Government has not acknowledged the 
existence of this discrimination nor made any efforts to combat it.  
Darker-skinned Dominicans also face informal barriers to social and 
economic advancement. 
 
Credible sources charge that the Government at times refuses to 
recognize individuals of Haitian ancestry born in the country as 
Dominican citizens.  Lack of documentation also sometimes hinders the 
ability of children of Haitian descent to attend school where there is 
one available; some parents fail to seek documentation for fear of being 
deported. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the freedom to organize labor unions and 
also for the right of workers to strike (and for private sector 
employers to lock out workers).  All workers, except military and 
police, are free to organize, and workers in all sectors exercise this 
right.  The new Labor Code enacted in 1992 significantly strengthened 
the right of freedom of association and removed some restrictions on the 
right to strike by narrowing the definition of essential services to 
exclude transportation, food services, and fuel services.  Requirements 
for calling a strike include the support of an absolute majority of the 
workers of the company, a prior attempt to resolve the conflict through 
arbitration, written notification to the labor secretariat, and a 10-day 
waiting period following notification before proceeding with the strike.  
The Code also eliminated previous prohibitions against political and 
sympathy strikes.  The Government respects association rights and places 
no obstacles to union registration, affiliations, or the ability to 
engage in legal strikes. 
 
Strikes in 1995 occurred mainly in the public sector.  Nurses and 
doctors staged periodic strikes and walkouts.  Employees of state-owned 
companies also staged strikes because of unpaid wages and benefits, as 
well as threats of job loss. 
 
In November the police broke up a legal strike by a recently formed 
union against the Korean-owned Bonahan Apparel Company.  The police 
arrested 18 workers and released them only after direct intervention by 
the Labor Minister. 
 
The Labor Code specifies in detail the steps legally required to 
establish a union, federation, and confederation.  The Code calls for 
automatic recognition of a union if the Government has not acted on its 
application within a specific time.  In practice, the Government has 
readily facilitated recognition of labor organizations.  Organized labor 
represents between 10 and 13 percent of the workforce and is divided 
among three major confederations, four minor confederations, and a 
number of independent unions.  The International Labor Organization's 
Committee of Experts considers that the two-thirds majority vote 
required to form confederations is too high, but this has not impeded 
unions from joining together, for example, with the formation of the 
Autonomous Institutional Workers Central in August. 
 
Unions are independent of the Government and political parties, although 
sympathizers of various political parties are found in most union 
organizations.  Labor unions can and do freely affiliate regionally and 
internationally. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Collective bargaining is lawful and may take place in firms in which a 
union has gained the support of an absolute majority of the workers.  
Only a minority of companies has collective bargaining pacts.  The Labor 
Code stipulates that workers cannot be dismissed because of their trade 
union membership or activities.  The previous Code allowed arbitrary 
termination of a worker so long as severance pay was provided; the 1992 
Code exempts from dismissal specific numbers of union organizers and 
officials.  The number of union organizers or officials given protection 
from layoffs can total up to 20 members of a union in formation, between 
5 to 10 members of a union executive council (depending on the size of 
the work force), and up to 3 members of a collective bargaining 
negotiating committee.  Nonetheless, workers are at times fired without 
regard to the law. 
 
The 1992 Code established a system of labor courts for dealing with 
labor disputes, but their effectiveness is limited.  Labor court 
employees halted their activities in the summer because of poor working 
conditions and lack of basic materials.  The halt illustrated the new 
courts' operational shortcomings.  On occasion, corrupt attorneys and 
court officials, acting with powers of attorney from unwitting workers, 
enforced spurious judgments against businesses and offices.  The new 
courts are located in five jurisdictions, but the judicial problems 
which the courts were established to address still prevail in the rest 
of the country.  Violations of freedom of association, the minimum wage, 
and overtime pay continue. 
 
In September authorities detained nearly 50 sugar industry union leaders 
and members, the majority of them for 24 hours or more.  They held the 
three leaders of the country's two major sugar workers' federations for 
8 hours when they attempted to meet with workers in two of the country's 
state-owned mills.  The unionists were coordinating a strike to protest 
the nationwide 2-month suspension of 12,700 sugar workers. 
 
The Labor Code applies in the 32 established export processing zones 
which are comprised of nearly 500 mostly U.S.-owned or associated 
companies and employ more than 170,000 workers, mostly women.  Some EPZ 
companies have a history of discharging workers who attempt to organize 
unions.  Although the Government registered more than 50 unions in the 
EPZ's since the new Labor Code went into effect in June 1992, fewer than 
10 of these unions still have their membership intact.  Some unions 
apparently ceased to function due to firings of union members, while 
some may have dissolved because of voluntary resignations or company 
closure.  The Secretariat of Labor has brought criminal charges against 
several EPZ firms for Labor Code violations involving worker rights.  
The courts found in favor of management in the majority of cases 
concluded.  The unions won two cases, a number of cases were under 
appeal, and others were still pending at year's end. 
 
The State Sugar Council employs workers from more than 100 unions.  
Dominican workers predominate in most of the unions, although between 
two and five unions are Haitian-dominated.  The CEA has long maintained 
a negative attitude to additional organizing efforts. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  During previous years, 
the Government and the CEA forcibly recruited Haitian seasonal 
agricultural workers and then restricted them to specific sugar 
plantations.  The CEA denied that it used paid recruiters inside Haiti 
to obtain workers, and there is no conclusive evidence that either 
practice occurred to any significant degree in 1995.  In July the 
Haitian ambassador publicly accused the Dominican armed forces of 
forcibly recruiting Haitians already in the country to work in sugar 
plantations far from their places of residence.  There are no firm 
statistics on the number of cane cutters on CEA plantations; the CDH 
estimates the number at as many as 42,000, of which up to 30 percent are 
Haitians. 
 
Haitian sugar cane workers continued to encounter restrictions on their 
freedom of movement.  These included the presence of armed guards in and 
around various sugar plantations and the sequestering of workers' 
belongings in order to discourage their movement to other CEA 
plantations or other types of employment.  The CEA and the Dominican 
Office of Immigration initiated a program in late 1991 to issue 1-year 
temporary work permits to regularize the status of the immigrant 
laborers.  This program documents the Haitians' right to work but also 
imposes a contractual obligation on the workers to remain in a specific 
area for the duration of the work contract.  Many Haitians do not 
understand the contractual process, and work conditions tantamount to 
indentured servitude prevail.  According to the most recent survey 
(1993) by an independent polling firm, 50 percent of all itinerant 
Haitian workers possessed permits.  There are no figures available on 
the number of illegal Haitian cane and coffee workers deported in 1995, 
but the practice continued, depending upon the demand for labor and the 
law enforcement capabilities of the authorities. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The Labor Code prohibits employment of youth under 14 years of age and 
places various restrictions on the employment of youth under age 16.  
These restrictions include a limitation of no more than 6 hours of daily 
work, no employment in dangerous occupations or jobs involving the 
provision of intoxicating beverages, and limitations on nighttime work. 
 
In practice, employers ignore many of the child labor restrictions.  
Dominican law requires 6 years of compulsory formal education.  The high 
level of unemployment and the lack of a social safety net create 
pressures on families to allow children to earn supplemental income.  A 
U.N. Children's Fund study estimated that approximately 58,000 minors 
work as itinerant vendors in occupations such as shining shoes, selling 
newspapers, and cleaning cars.  During the past few years, the Labor 
Secretariat made some effort to enforce the law in cases where companies 
employed underage workers, but penalties were largely limited to small 
fines.  Some young workers obtained work permits and continued their 
employment; those unable to obtain permits were dismissed. 
 
Instances of child labor in CEA sugar plantations have diminished 
greatly.  The CEA and the Labor Secretariat took steps to discourage 
child labor, and in 1995 it occurred in only isolated instances, most 
involving children accompanying their fathers into the fields.  Some 
underage Haitians do work in the state cane fields, but they usually 
steadfastly claim that they are of adult age, making it difficult to 
prove otherwise. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The Constitution provides the Government with legal authority to set 
minimum wage levels, and the Labor Code assigns this task to a National 
Salary Committee.  Congress may also enact minimum wage legislation.  
Minimum wage raises have not compensated for the loss of purchasing 
power, and scheduled wage increases in May only provided partial relief.  
Most workers receive only the minimum wage, which averages little more 
than $100 per month (1,340 pesos), depending on the sector and employer 
size.  The minimum wage represents only 20 percent of the estimated 
monthly cost of living for an average-sized family in Santo Domingo.  As 
a result, many people hold more than one job. 
 
The Labor Code establishes a standard work period of 8 hours per day and 
44 hours per week.  The Code also stipulates that all workers are 
entitled to 36 hours of uninterrupted rest each week.  In practice, a 
typical workweek is Monday through Friday plus a half day on Saturday, 
but longer hours are not unusual.  The Code grants workers a 35-percent 
wage differential for work over 44 hours and up to 68 hours per week and 
a 100 percent differential for any hours above 68 hours per week. 
 
The Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) sets workplace safety and 
health conditions but these frequently do not meet legal standards.  The 
Labor Code sets nonhealth safety standards.  The existing social 
security system does not apply to all workers and is underfunded.  
Furthermore, some employers charge workers for social security coverage 
but fail to pass the payments on to the IDSS.  As a result, benefits are 
low, payments often delayed, and medical care is limited. 
 
Workplace regulations and their enforcement in the EPZ's do not differ 
from those in the country at large, although working conditions are 
sometimes better.  Some companies in privately owned EPZ's enforce much 
higher worker safety and health standards.  Both the IDSS and the Labor 
Secretariat have small corps of inspectors charged with enforcing 
standards.  Although new labor inspectors undergo a rigorous 
professional selection process, these posts were customarily filled 
through political patronage, and some inspectors continue to have a 
reputation for corruption.  In practice, workers cannot remove 
themselves from hazardous workplace situations without jeopardy to 
continued employment. 
 
Conditions for agricultural workers are in general much worse, 
especially in the sugar industry.  Although the CEA readily cooperates 
with nongovernmental organizations active in efforts to improve the 
conditions of sugar cane workers, in some cases the CEA and the 
Government failed to take measures to implement written agreements 
designed to overcome the problems facing sugar cane workers.  Cane 
cutters on CEA plantations are paid by weight of cut cane rather than 
hours worked and thus they must work significantly more hours than the 
standard workweek to earn a wage approaching that of workers in other 
industries.
 
Cane cutters also faced cheating during the weighing of their cut cane.  
Although the CEA and the Labor Secretariat signed an agreement with 
labor unions to allow union officials to assist the Labor Secretariat in 
the inspection and monitoring of CEA weight stations, they took no 
action to implement the agreement.  Many worker villages continued to 
suffer high rates of disease and a lack of schooling, medical 
facilities, running water, and sewage systems. 
 
(###)


[end of document]

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