The general industrial relations policy in Trinidad and Tobago is based on voluntary collective bargaining between employers and workers, via their representative associations, for the settlement of terms and conditions of employment. The employment relationship in Trinidad and Tobago may be governed by either or a combination of both industrial relations principles and practices, and legislation. While the Government has ratified several ILO Conventions, including the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), these Conventions only become effective when they are legislatively implemented. A 144 Tripartite Committee, comprising all of the social partners, trade unions, employers, and Government, is in operation in Trinidad and Tobago with the responsibility of considering and recommending the ratification of ILO Conventions.
State employees include civil servants, teachers and members of the Protective Services (Fire, Police and Prison Services). The employment relationship between the State and its employees is governed generally by legislation, which makes provisions for terms and conditions of employment including recruitment, hours of work, leave entitlements, payment of remuneration, pensions, allowances and other benefits. There is legislation which deals specifically with each group, such as the Civil Service Act, Chap 23:01 for all civil servants, the Police Service Act, Chap. 15:01, as revised by the Police Service Bill (2003) , the Fire Service Act, Chap. 35:50 and the Education Act, Chap 39:01 for teachers.
The representative associations of monthly paid State employees may bargain collectively with the Chief Personnel Officer, who is deemed to be the employer of State employees under the IRA. The subject of these negotiations include wage increases, travelling and other allowances and leave entitlements. When agreement is reached on a matter the parties enter into a Memorandum of Agreement. Where this Memorandum affects existing legislation, the legislation is accordingly amended to give effect to the agreed position. The terms and conditions of employment of daily paid State employees are contained in collective agreements entered into by their recognized majority union and the Chief Personnel Officer after collective bargaining.
In the private sector collective bargaining is generally engaged between individual companies with the respective recognized majority unions, rather than on an industry wide basis. Many companies have industrial relations or human resources managers who handle negotiations. Companies which do not have industrial relations professionals may hire private negotiators or practitioners to conduct negotiations on their behalf. Trade unions have negotiators on their staff.
Those aspects of the employment relationship which could not be left to collective bargaining such as employee health and safety, minimum age of employment and workers’ compensation, retrenchment and severance benefits and maternity leave are set down in legislation which bind the State and private employers. The Factories Ordinance (soon to be replaced by the Occupational Safety and Health Act , assented on 30 January 2004, but still awaiting proclamation, and the Employment Injury and Disability Benefits Bill ) sets standards for employee health and safety at the workplace. The Workmen’s Compensation Act, to be replaced by the Employment Injury and Disability Benefits Bill provides compensation where employees are injured on the job, while the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act guarantees the payment of severance pay to retrenched employees. The Maternity Protection Act provides maternity leave and related benefits to female employees. The Government has also recognized the need to implement legislation which sets minimum terms and conditions of employment so that employees are guaranteed a basic level of rights and protection. The IRA sets the stage for the practice of industrial relations in Trinidad and Tobago. It is the legal framework within which parties bargain collectively, settle disputes and come before the Industrial Court for arbitration.
Extracted From: International Labour Organisation