The Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) clearly states that an employer or prospective employer shall not
discriminate against a person in (a) determining who should be offered employment; (b) terms and
conditions on which employment is offered; and (c) refusing or deliberately omitting to offer employment.
The â€śgrounds for discriminationâ€ť, or â€śprotected status/characteristicâ€ť in TT are sex, race (biological traits),
ethnicity (cultural practices), origin, religion, marital status and disability.
Despite this, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) recently embarked on a recruitment drive â€“ for
male only applicants. Plastered all over their Facebook page are advertisements and information regarding
this male only recruitment process. Imagine one of the most visible government agencies being so openly
discriminatory and no one bats an eyelid. Does this mean that Maria Joseph, Human Resource Director at the
TTPS, isnâ€™t familiar with the laws regarding employment?
Au contraire, there are no consequences to such a practice, so why not? Itâ€™s probably the same mentality of the
criminals living amongst us.
Not surprisingly, the TTPS isnâ€™t the only culprit. In fact, shop windows and the classified sections of any of our
newspapers will reveal ads specifically discriminating against one sex or the other.
Why exactly is it necessary to have a â€śfemale roti wrapperâ€ť, a â€śmale bar workerâ€ť, or â€śfemale office staffâ€ť?
Even worse are the ads that discriminate against two protected characteristics, like the need for a â€śfemale
cashier living in Chaguanasâ€ť. Recently, Peter Christopher, a C-News journalist, attempted to respond to twelve
â€śworkers wantedâ€ť advertisements in downtown Port-of-Spain.
Out of those twelve stores, eight of them rejected him by expressing their desire for female workers only.
Without employment, some criminals are forced down the route they take.
As with the majority of our laws in Trinidad and Tobago, enforcement is the main issue.
We have laws, commissions, ministers, departments, agencies and the whole nine yards, but yet no
enforcement. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is responsible for enforcing the EOA, but like many
other laws and government agencies, the terms useless, inefficient and ineffective come to mind.
Firstly, after the EOA was passed in 2000, a mere eight months later, it was already being amended and
subsequently assented to on June 11, 2001. Then just two years later in 2003, Glenda Morean, AG at the time,
was already discussing another amendment; so almost immediately after passing a law, the government
realised that it was deficient. Do we really need more proof to illustrate the incompetence of the people we put
to run this country?
Secondly, the EOA remained words on paper until 2008 when the first EOC Commissioners were appointed
and the Act finally took effect. Ostensibly, very little thought was put into this process and we were all subject to
another legal transplantation experiment.
And after 15 years, we still havenâ€™t gotten it right because there is no protection against sexual harassment, or
discrimination based on age, political affiliation, sexual orientation, persons living with HIV (or any other
STI/STD, for that matter), and ex-cons.
One of the functions of the EOC is awareness; however, most people donâ€™t know the location of the EOC, far
less the existence of such an agency.
Letâ€™s not pretend; employment discrimination is a serious concern, so when the amount of complaints to the
EOC is only around 600 in seven years, I begin to experience cognitive dissonance; I am not convinced that
employment fairness abounds. Most shockingly is the fact that the EOC itself was subject to race-based
complaints just a few years ago.
Drafting employment legislation isnâ€™t that difficult â€” I spent the majority of 2014 drafting a comprehensive
Employment Fairness Bill, which I attempted to present to both of the major parties; welcomed by one, ignored
by the other. Quite simply, employment rights have been largely ignored because party financiers are business
owners and employers.
The PNMâ€™s 2010 manifesto was devoid of any discussion on employment rights, whereas the PP chose to
focus on the non-contentious areas of increasing the minimum wage and adding a week to maternity leave.
Of course, considering Basdeo Pandayâ€™s background with the United Labour Front, itâ€™s no surprise that his was
the only government to draft legislation on employment law: The Basic Conditions of Work And Minimum
Wages Bill, 2000. Although progress was quickly halted, it was the closest weâ€™ve come to offering rights to
A deficient EOA, an antiquated Industrial Relations Act, a superfluous Minimum Wages Act and an obscure
Maternity Protection Act arenâ€™t enough in a contemporary, corrupt TT.
Errol McCleod has done absolutely nothing to improve the employment/labour climate in this country. I hope
the next government chooses a more proactive, progressive-thinking Minister of Labour who wonâ€™t allow these
injustices to be perpetuated â€” hopefully it isnâ€™t another trade union â€ścomradeâ€ť.
Extracted From: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Newspaper
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