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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Trinidad and Tobago

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Trinidad and Tobago, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cac330.html [accessed 19 December 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: 1,300,000
Capital: Port-of-Spain
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

No changes in labour law. The restrictions on strikes remained in place and the State occasionally intervened to stop them. The government continued to refuse to amend the labour legislation.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The 1972 Industrial Relations Act (IRA) allows workers to form or join unions of their own choosing. The law also provides for the mandatory recognition of a trade union when it represents 51% or more of the workers in a specified bargaining unit, once this has been verified by the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board (R.R.C.B). Teachers and public servants are excluded from the scope of the Act but are covered by separate legislation.

The law provides for the compulsory reinstatement of any workers sacked for their union activities as well as financial compensation.

Collective bargaining restricted: The IRA establishes the right of collective bargaining. To obtain bargaining rights, a union must have the support of an absolute majority of workers. Furthermore, collective agreements must be for a maximum of five years and a minimum of three years, making it almost impossible for workers on short-term contracts to be covered by such agreements.

Heavy limitations on the right to strike: Industrial action is strictly regulated by the IRA, which stipulates that strikes may only be over unresolved "interest" disputes, i.e., concerning the formulation of terms and conditions of employment. Strikes are banned in essential services, which are too broadly defined by ILO standards, including, for example, the public school bus service. Strikes can also be prohibited at the request of one party if they are not declared by a majority union or when the government considers that the national interest is threatened. There is a penalty of up to 18 months' imprisonment.

Members of the teaching service and employees of the Central Bank are prohibited from taking industrial action, such action being subject to a penalty of up to 18 months' imprisonment.

EPZs: The same labour laws apply in the export processing zones as in the rest of the country.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The People's National Movement (PNM)'s government elected in November 2007 has launched a constitutional reform. The current Prime Minister purportedly aims to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential one. Violence linked to narco-trafficking and corruption are major problems for the country. In the tourism sector many workers were laid off in 2008 due to a decline in tourist arrivals as a consequence of the global economic crisis. Employees of the Hilton Hotel, Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago, National Petroleum and several other companies took to the streets for higher wages.

Organising right has a limited scope: Although the law states that workers can form and join trade unions, in practice everyone working in the so-called "essential services", which include domestic workers, drivers, gardeners and others, are not recognised as workers and so cannot legally join unions. It is estimated that just 20 percent of the workforce are union members. The problems with obtaining union recognition continued owing to the slow handling of cases by the state.

Strike restrictions continue to hit workers: Despite the many formalities and bans on strikes, as in previous years, a number were held during the year in various sectors. In some cases the state intervened to stop the strike by penalising the workers.

Collective bargaining hampered: Many unions had their collective bargaining blocked by employers' delaying tactics. The state, too, repeatedly refused to negotiate collective agreements with public sector unions.

Government unwilling to amend labour law: The government has continued to refuse to amend its legislation on essential services and collective bargaining to bring it into line, at least, with ILO conventions.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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