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CARICOM Declaration of Labour and Industrial Relations Principles


The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat is pleased to present to the Social Partners, this Declaration of Labour and Industrial Relations Principles which was unanimously approved by the Thirteenth Meeting of the Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Labour (SCML), 26-28 April 1995 in The Bahamas.

The Declaration sets out the general Labour Policy to which the Region aspires, consistent with international standards and other international instruments. It is an important policy guide on labour matters for the Social Partners and will contribute to the development of a healthy industrial relations climate, and enhanced social partnership. It underscores the rights and responsibilities of the Social Partners, and provides the bases for the development of national labour policies, and inform the enactment of labour legislation.

The SCML, in approving this policy guide on labour matters, has given tangible expression of its commitment to equity and social justice through the adoption of common labour standards and principles. This is an important pillar in the creation of the CARICOM Single Market, inherent in which is a CARICOM Labour Market.

I wish to place on record my sincere appreciation to the members of the Regional Tripartite Working Party of Labour Officials from Member States, the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), the Caribbean Employers' Confederation (CEC), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for their invaluable contribution in the development of this Declaration to guide our labour relations practices in the Region. I also wish to commend the vision of the SCML in commissioning the drafting of the Declaration and for their approval oft he final text of the Declaration.

Edwin W. Carrington
Caribbean Community
Georgetown, Guyana


The Twelfth Meeting of the Standing Committee of Ministers of Labour (SCML) on 28-30 April 1993 in Saint Lucia, welcomed the proposal from the Special Meeting of the Working Party of Labour Officials on 26-27 April 1993 for the development of a Declaration of Labour and Industrial Relations Principles, embodying the general Labour Policy to which the Region aspires. Accordingly, the Standing Committee:

"commissioned the drafting of a CARICOM Declaration of Labour and Industrial Relations Principles outlining the general Labour and Industrial Relations Policy to which the Region aspires taking into account international labour standards".

The Secretariat engaged the Regional Tripartite Working Party of Labour Officials established by the Twelfth Meeting of the SCML in 1993 and comprising representatives of Member States, the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), the Caribbean Employers' Confederation (CEC) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), to develop the content and outline of the Declaration. These were discussed at the First Meeting of the Working Party in December 1993 at the Secretariat in Guyana, and based on these discussions, feed-back and research, a working draft of the Declaration was prepared by the Secretariat.

The working draft was presented to members of the Working Party for examination, study and discussion at their Second Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in November 1994, which commented on the document and made recommendations for changes.

The document was revised into the first draft, and transmitted to Member States, OECS Secretariat, CCL, CEC, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and participants of the Second Working Party Meeting, and some individual labour experts for further study and comment. Member States also conducted tripartite consultations on the draft Declaration. The feed-back, comments and recommendations enabled the revision and refinement of the first draft which received general support from the Social Partners.

The Third Meeting of the Regional Tripartite Working Party of Labour Officials on 24 April 1995 reviewed the revised draft Declaration and upon its recommendation, the Thirteenth SCML Meeting on 26-28 April 1995 in Nassau, The Bahamas, approved the Declaration.


The States, Parties to the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community (hereinafter called "the Member States")

Recalling the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community, the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society, the Declaration of Philadelphia, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and International Labour Conventions and recommendations which collectively established generally accepted principles of labour and industrial relations;

Reaffirming their common determination to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of their peoples for freely chosen productive employment , and improved standards of work and living through, inter alia, optimum utilisation of available human resources; accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development; and the efficient operation of common services and functional cooperation in the social, cultural, educational and technological fields;

Convinced that regional integration in the Caribbean should include among its goals promotion of full employment; cross-border mobility of labour; improved living and working conditions through enhanced production and productivity; adequate social security policies and programmes deepening dialogue between employers and trade unions; collective bargaining; tripartite consultations among their Governments, workers' and employers' organisations; development of human resources; and expanding opportunities for employment;

Believing that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed, sex, national extraction, colour, marital status, or social origin, political persuasion have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equality opportunity;

Aware that the struggle against poverty needs to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within Member States and by continuous and collective international efforts in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying a recognised status with those of Government, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare;

Affirming that the applicable norms of industrial relations require the establishment and maintenance of an environment in which the Social Partners may freely carry out their activities and that the establishment and implementation of effective labour and industrial relations policies are fundamental to economic development and social stability;

Acknowledging that labour departments and other public authorities which are responsible for administering public labour policies in Member States should be adequately staffed with well-trained personnel, and that the foregoing are indispensable pre-conditions for the effective implementation and enforcement of measures to promote good industrial relations practices;

Reaffirming further the need for Member States to ensure that effective recognition is given, in practice, to the exercise by workers and employers of the right of freedom of association and to collective bargaining, to the promotion of cooperation between management and labour in a continuous joint endeavour to improve the productive efficiency of all enterprises and to collaboration by workers' and employers' organisations with governments at the national level, in the development and implementation of social and economic policies, programmes and measures;

Recognising that enhancing the competitiveness of production for domestic, regional and international markets is essential for social and economic development of the Region and requires the closest collaboration of workers and employers and their respective organisations who must pool their efforts and strive for continuing increases in productivity and output in all enterprises;

Have Declared as follows:


Applicability of Principles

The principles herein set forth are subject to such constitutional provisions and applicable laws as may be established in the national interest by Member States and recognised by competent tribunals.

Restrictions on Rights

Entitlement to the rights recognised as belonging to workers and employers is subject to the respect for the rights of others and to the discharge of obligations correlative to such rights.


Rights to Organise and to Membership

Workers and employers, without any distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing.

Right to Regulate Internal Arrangements

Workers' and employers' organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitution and rules and to regulate their internal arrangements without interference from public authorities having the effect of restricting this right of impeding its lawful exercise.

Non-Subversion of Workers' Organisations

Employers shall refrain from establishing workers' organisations under the control of employers or employers' organisations or supporting workers' organisations by financial or other means with the object of placing such organisations under the control of employers or employers' organisations.


Right to Collective Bargaining

1. Workers and employers shall have the right to free collective bargaining as a vehicle for determining terms and conditions of employment without interference from public authorities.

2. The Social Partners shall promote the full development and utilisation of machinery for voluntary negotiation between the parties, with the view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by means of collective agreement.

Recognition Machinery and Good Faith Bargaining

1. The Member states shall establish adequate statutory machinery and procedures to facilitate and promote the recognition of workers' organisations by employers and employers' organisations as appropriate based on the free choice of the majority of their employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.

2. The parties to the collective bargaining process shall maintain a reasonable and constructive approach and thereby demonstrate their mutual obligation to bargain in good faith.

3. Competent authorities and employers shall, as far as practicable and within the limits imposed by law or by collective agreement, provide information necessary to enable workers' representatives to pursue meaningful negotiations which shall have due regard for existing sectoral, national, economic and financial circumstances.

Promotion of Stable Relations

1. Workers' organisations, employers and employers' organisations shall employ their best endeavours to conclude appropriate collective agreements on the basis of equity, fairness and justice and with a view to promoting stability in industrial relations.

2. The Social Partners shall promote the full development and utilisation of machinery for voluntary negotiation between employers or employers' organisations and workers; organisations with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by means of collective bargaining.

Protection for Trade Union Representatives

Trade Union representatives in an undertaking shall enjoy effective protection against any act prejudicial to them, including dismissal, based on their status or activities as trade union representative or participation in union activities, in so far as they act in conformity with existing laws or collective agreements or other arrangements arrived at by the collective bargaining process.

Elected Representatives and Workers' Representatives

Where there exist in the same undertaking both trade union representatives and elected worker representatives, appropriate measures shall be taken, wherever necessary, to ensure that the existence of elected worker representatives is not used to undermine the position of the trade unions concerned or their representatives, and to encourage cooperation on all relevant matters between the elected worker representatives and the trade unions concerned and their representatives.


Equality of Opportunity and Treatment

Subject to Article 12 (2), 13 and 14 of this Chapter, the Member States undertake to adopt and pursue national policies designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation with a view to eliminating any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value

1. The Member States shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.

2. Differential rates between workers which correspond, without regard to sex, to differences as determined by objective appraisal in the work to be performed, shall not be considered as being contrary to the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.

Special Measures of Protection

Special measures of protection or assistance provided for disadvantaged groups in relevant instruments adopted by competent intergovernmental organisation shall not be deemed to be discriminatory.

Acts Prejudicial to National Security

Any measures affecting an individual who is justifiably suspected of, or engaged in, activities prejudicial to the security of the state shall not be deemed to be discriminatory, provided the individual concerned shall have the right to appeal to a competent body established in accordance with national law and practice.


Right to work

1. The Member States shall protect the right of everyone to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to be gainfully employed.

2. The Member States shall pursue policies designed to promote full productive and freely chosen employment.

3. The Member States shall develop policies and programmes of vocational guidance and training, closely linked with employment.

4. Citizens of Member States shall have the right to live and work in the country of their choice within the Community subject to the legislation of the host country.

Prohibition of Forced Labour

1. The Member States shall not impose nor permit to be imposed, forced or compulsory labour for the benefit of private individuals, companies or associations. No concession granted to private individuals, companies or associations shall involve any form of forced or compulsory labour for the production or the collection of products which such private individuals, companies or associations utilise or in which they trade.

2. The Member States undertake to prohibit the employment of children of less than fifteen (15) years.

Right to Rest and Leisure

The Member States shall promote and protect, by appropriate means, the right of all workers in every location of its territory to rest and leisure, including limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Payment of Wages

Except as otherwise provided by law or authorised by the competent authorities, wages payable in money shall be paid in legal tender only and shall be paid directly to the worker unless the worker shall have agreed to the contrary.

Deductions from Wages

Deductions from wages shall be permitted only under conditions and to the extent prescribed by national laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award or where the worker concerned has agreed to such deductions.

Limitation on Attachment or Assignment of Wages

Wages may be attached or assigned only in the manner and within limits prescribed by national law and shall be protected against attachment or assignment to the extent deemed necessary for the maintenance of the worker and his or her family.

Wages as Privileged Debts

In the event of bankruptcy or judicial liquidation of an undertaking or insolvency, wages and other remuneration due to all workers for work done prior to such bankruptcy or insolvency or liquidation shall constitute a privileged debt to be paid in full before ordinary creditors establish a claim to a share of the assets.

Termination of Employment

The employment of a worker shall not be terminated unless there is a valid reason for such a termination connected with the capacity or conduct of the worker or based on the operational requirements of the undertaking, establishment or service subject to due process.

Natural Justice

Where the employment of a worker is to be terminated for reasons related to the worker's conduct or performance, such worker must be given an opportunity to rebut the allegations made unless the employer concerned cannot reasonably be expected to provide the opportunity. A worker aggrieved in this behalf shall be entitled to appeal against such termination to an impartial body.

Termination and Redundancy

When an employer contemplates terminations for reasons of an economic, technological, structural or similar nature, the employer shall:

(a) provide the trade union representatives concerned or the workers where there are no such representatives, in reasonable time with the relevant information including the reasons for terminations contemplated, the number and categories of workers likely to be affected, and the period over which the terminations are intended to be carried out;

(b) give, in accordance with national law and practice, the trade union representatives concerned or the workers where there are no such representatives, as early as possible, an opportunity for consultation on measures to be taken to avert or minimise the terminations and measures to mitigate the adverse effects of any terminations on the workers concerned such as finding alternative employment, and inform the competent authority accordingly.

Minimisation of Staff Reductions

1. Positive steps shall be taken by all parties concerned to avert or minimise as far as possible reduction of the work force, without prejudice to the efficient operation of the undertaking, establishment or service. If the proposed reduction of the work force is on such a scale as to have a significant bearing on the manpower situation of a given area or branch of economic activity, the employer shall notify the competent authorities in advance of any such reduction.

2. Workers whose employment has been terminated owing to a reduction of the work force shall be given priority of re-engagement, to the extent possible, by the employer when he or she again engages workers.

Joint Responsibility of Social Partners

Workers' organisations and employers shall establish on a mutually agreed basis, appropriate procedures for recruitment and termination of employment which would protect the interests of workers and employers.

Incentive Schemes

Trade Unions and employers shall encourage, subject to mutual agreement in specific cases, the introduction of incentives schemes whenever applicable on the understanding that the benefits of higher productivity will be shared between workers and employers.

Promoting Worker's Career Prospects

The Social Partners shall promote training and development schemes to enhance the career prospects of workers, their skills and productivity in order to contribute to national, social and economic development.

Occupational Health and Safety

1. The Member States shall formulate a national policy on occupational health and safety, and shall enact and enforce the legislation necessary to protect occupational health and safety and the working environment.

2. Employers shall provide a safe and healthy working environment and workers shall perform their work in accordance with occupational health and safety rules and regulations.

Social Security

1. The Member States shall ensure that Social Security Schemes remain viable and that contributions and benefit payments are based on regular actuarial valuations and sound business investments of funds for the long-term sustainability of such Schemes.

2. The Member States shall protect the right to Social Security of nationals of the Caribbean Community who move to other Member States by reason of employment and shall enter into reciprocal agreements with other Member States in order to provide agreed benefits based on contributions and applicable legislation.


Organisation of Labour Administration

The Member States shall ensure, in a manner appropriate to national conditions, the organisation and effective operation in their respective territories of a system of labour administration, the functions and responsibilities of which are properly coordinated.

Responsibility for Labour Policy

The competent authorities within the system of labour administration shall, as appropriate, be responsible for or contribute to the preparation, administration, coordination, and review of national labour policy. Within the ambit of public administration, they shall be responsible for the preparation and implementation of laws and regulations giving effect to the national labour policy.

Cooperation by Social Partners

The Member States shall make arrangements, suitable to national conditions, to secure within the system of labour administration, consultation, cooperation and negotiation between public authorities and the most representative employers' and workers' organisations at the local, national or regional levels as appropriate.

National Labour Policy

To the extent compatible with national laws, regulations and practice, competent authorities within the system of labour administration shall contribute to the development of labour policy, and may participate in representing the Member State concerned in respect of such affairs and contribute to the preparation of relevant measures to be adopted at national level.

Qualifications of Labour Officials

1. Staff of the labour administration system shall consist of suitably qualified persons enjoying comparable remuneration within their respective countries, access to appropriate training, and independence from improper external influences in the effective performance of their duties.

2. The Member States shall ensure that such staff function with impartiality, professional independence, and integrity.


Industrial Action as Last Resort

In the event of a grievance, difference or dispute between them, the Social Partners shall respect the agreed applicable procedures and shall employ industrial action as an instrument of last resort only after all measures and procedures including negotiation, conciliation and mediation have been completely exhausted and the dispute has not been resolved.

Provision of Disputes Settlement Facilities by States

The Member States shall establish, maintain and make available to the Social Partners at all reasonable times appropriate facilities for the speedy resolution of industrial disputes, including negotiation, conciliation, mediation and arbitration.

Restrictions on Industrial Action

The Social Partners shall avoid resorting to industrial action over issues arising from the interpretation and application of the terms in a collective agreement. They shall endeavour to settle any difference in this regard through negotiations in good faith, conciliation, mediation or arbitration.

Respect for Agreements

The Parties shall honour the spirit and substance of all agreements freely entered into and shall be bound by any award resulting from arbitration proceedings.

Conduct of Industrial Action

1. In any case where workers resort to industrial action, such action shall be conducted in a peaceful manner and shall in all other respects comply with the provisions of collective agreements, arbitration awards and applicable law.

2. The parties involved in any disputes shall avoid resort to unfair labour practices including intimidatory actions.

Work Resumption in Unpremeditated Industrial Action

In the event of a spontaneous or unpremeditated strike or lockout, the parties shall employ their best endeavours to bring about an immediate resumption of work and to settle speedily the issue in accordance with agreed or applicable procedures.

Essential Services

1. Disputes in essential services shall, as far as possible, be settled by direct negotiations by the parties involved. Where negotiations fail to resolve the dispute, the parties concerned shall employ such procedures as conciliation, mediation or arbitration in a manner which allows the parties to take part at every stage and which provides guarantees of speediness, independence and impartiality.

2. Nothing in this Article shall be construed as recognising the right to industrial action by workers employed in the essential services as may be defined in the legislation of Member States.


Essential Elements of Industrial Relations

The Member States undertake to promote collective bargaining, consultation and tripartism as essential elements of the system of industrial relations in the CARICOM Region.

Consultations on Application of Principles

The Member States shall employ their best endeavours to consult with the Social Partners in establishing the relevant principles and policies to be applied in conditions and situations of financial stringencies.

Limits of Consultation

Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed as permitting Member States to utilise the practice of consultation or tripartism as a substitute for collective bargaining as defined in this Declaration.