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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Trinidad and Tobago

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Trinidad and Tobago, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 25 November 2017]
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: 1,400,000
Capital: Port-of-Spain
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The level of union membership remained very low in 2010. The laws preventing workers in so-called "essential services" from exercising their freedom of association rights contributed to this to a certain extent. Those who are organised had difficulties in exercising their union rights as obstacles to collective bargaining persisted. Strikes are still not recognised as a legitimate workers' right.


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.


Background: Prime Minister Patrick Manning dissolved parliament in April and called early elections for 24 May. Manning's People's National Movement (PNM) faced a coalition of the United National Congress (UNC), el Congress of the People Party (COP) at the ballot box, together with several smaller parties. The coalition won the elections with 29 seats compared to the PNM's 12. Kamla Persad-Bissessar took over from Manning, becoming the first women Prime Minister in the history of the country. Unemployment is at about 6.7%. The government announced that it had begun to work on a Decent Work Policy and Plan of Action.

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 and others, are not recognised as workers and so cannot legally join unions. It is estimated that just 20% of the workforce are union members. The problems with obtaining union recognition continued owing to the slow handling of cases by the state.

The effect of strike restrictions on workers: 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 the strike, penalising the workers involved.

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

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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