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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Trinidad and Tobago

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Trinidad and Tobago, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8891fc.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 1,341,000
Capital: Port-of-Spain

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Serious violations of freedom of association were seen in 2011, especially in the public sector and at an industrial testing and inspection company. Anti-union practices to obstruct workers' rights to organise and collective bargaining persisted, and the serious obstacles to the right to strike remained in place.

Background

In August 2011, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared a limited State of Emergency, supposedly in response to a surge in violence on the country's streets and to combat drug trafficking. The National Workers' Union, together with the rest of the labour movement, protested against the measure, arguing that the State of Emergency limited civil liberties, including the workers' right to assemble, and was being used to obstruct the trade union movement's campaign against the government policy to cap wages.

The trade unions of Trinidad and Tobago organised mass mobilisations and protests during 2011, in response to measures curtailing labour rights and the administration's accusations that the trade union actions to defend workers' rights were aimed at destabilising the government.

Trade union rights in law

Although basic trade union rights are guaranteed, a number of excessive restrictions apply. The 1972 Industrial Relations Act allows workers to form or join unions of their own choosing. The right to collective bargaining is also guaranteed, but the law only provides for mandatory recognition of a trade union when it represents 51% or more of the workers in a specified bargaining unit. Furthermore, all collective agreements must be for a maximum of five years and a minimum of three years, which makes it almost impossible for workers on short-term contracts to be covered by such agreements. While the right to strike is recognised – except for members of the teaching service and employees of the Central Bank – it is coupled with many restrictions. Strikes can be prohibited where the government considers that the national interest is threatened, or at the request of one party provided that the strike is not declared by a majority union. Also, lawful strikes can only be called over unresolved "interest" disputes, i.e. concerning the formulation of terms and conditions of employment. All strikes are banned in "essential services", the list of which exceeds the ILO definition by including, for example, the public school bus service.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Right to organise limited in scope: Although the law states that workers can form and join trade unions, in practice everyone working in so-called "essential services", which include domestic workers, drivers, gardeners, etc., are not recognised as workers and cannot therefore legally join unions. The problems with obtaining union recognition continued, owing to manipulation by the state.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Despite the many formalities and restrictions on the right to strike, a number of unions did call work stoppages in several sectors, as they have done for the last few years. In some cases, the state intervened to stop strikes, penalising the workers involved.

Collective bargaining hampered: Many unions' collective bargaining efforts were blocked by employers' delaying tactics. The state also repeatedly refused to negotiate collective agreements with public sector unions.

Government refuses to reform labour legislation: The government continued to refuse to reform the law on essential services and collective bargaining to bring it into line with ILO minimum standards.

Violations

T&TEC refuses to discuss allowance cut: In July 2011, the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union, representing oil workers at the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), staged protests against the company's decision to eliminate the cost of living allowance granted to workers, as announced within the framework of collective bargaining negotiations being held with the union. The management remained firm in its refusal to discuss this cut.

Anti-union dismissals at Non Destructive Testers Ltd.: In December 2011, the National Workers' Union (NWU) denounced the anti-union policy at the industrial testing and inspection firm Non Destructive Testers Ltd., which started to fire and threaten workers that had formed a union to defend their rights.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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