The Industrial Relations Act

During the 1950s and early 1960s the industrial relations climate in Trinidad and Tobago was growing tense with the development of the trade union movement. There was an increasing number of strikes and labour disputes which threatened the economic growth and productivity of the country. The Government could no longer delay in taking legislative action to regulate the relations between unions, workers and employers. As a result the Industrial Stabilisation Act, 1965, was enacted. This Act introduced the concept of compulsory arbitration to Trinidad and Tobago by the establishment of the Industrial Court. The main function of this Court was to intervene to prevent and settle industrial disputes between employers and their union represented workers.

The Industrial Stabilisation Act was later repealed and replaced by the Industrial Relations Act , 1972, Chapter 88:01 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. The IRA provides for the following:

free collective bargaining between employer and workers through their representative associations,
the development of a peaceful and expeditious procedure for the settlement of disputes,
the establishment of the Industrial Court,
the recognition and registration of trade unions,
the freedom to be represented by a trade union and the right not to associate, and
industrial action which may be taken by both employer and employee.
Provision is made for a Tripartite industrial relations advisory committee which has the responsibility of reviewing the IRA and making recommendations to the Minister of Labour. This way the Act may keep up with industrial relations trends.

In order to seek the protection and rights afforded by the IRA, a person must fall within the definition of worker set out in the Act. In the IRA a “worker” is defined as:

any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer to do any skilled, unskilled, manual, technical, clerical or other work for hire or reward, whether the contract is expressed or implied, oral or in writing, or partly oral and partly in writing, and whether it is a contract of service or apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour;
any person who by any trade usage or custom or as a result of any established pattern of employment or recruitment of labour in any business or industry is usually employed or usually offers himself for and accepts employment accordingly; or
any person who provides services or performs duties for an employer under a labour only contract, within the meaning of subsection (4)(b); and includes
any such person who –
has been dismissed, discharged, retrenched, refused employment, or not employed, whether or not in connection with, or in consequence of, a dispute; or
whose dismissal, discharge, retrenchment or refusal of employment has led to a dispute; or
any such person who has ceased to work as a result of a lockout or of a strike, whether or not in contravention of Part 5,
as the case may be.

The following categories of workers are, however, excluded from the scope of the IRA:

a public officer, as defined by section 3 of the Constitution;
a member of the Defence Force or any ancillary force or service thereof, or of the Police, Fire or Prison Service or of the Police Service of any Municipality, or a person who is employed as a rural constable or estate constable;
a member of the Teaching Service as defined in the Education Act, or is employed in a teaching capacity by a university or other institution of higher learning;
a member of staff and an employee of the Central Bank established under the Central Bank Act;
a person who, in the opinion of the Board –
is responsible for the formulation of policy in any undertaking or business or the effective control of the whole or any department of any undertaking or business; or
has an effective voice in the formulation of policy in any undertaking or business;
employed in any capacity of a domestic nature, including that of a chauffeur, gardener or handyman in or about a private dwelling house and paid by the householder;
an apprentice within the meaning of the Industrial Training Act.
The Court has the responsibility of deciding whether a person is a worker under the IRA. The fact that domestic workers have been excluded by the definition of ‘worker’ in the IRA has been an issue of contention for their association. The Parliament took note and both the Minimum Wages Order , Legal Notice No. 40 of 1999 and the Maternity Protection Act , No.4 of 1998 included domestic workers as employees, guaranteeing them the same rights and benefits as other workers.

Extracted From:International Labour Organisation


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