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Employment Law

The following legislation is the most relevant for the trade union movement in Trinidad and Tobago. You can download most of this legislation from the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Freedom of Information Act, 1999

This Act gives members of the public a general right (with exceptions) of access to official documents of public authorities. It may not be as useful for unions involved in the private sector but may provide an avenue for unions in the public sector to extract information  for use.

Industrial Relations Act, 1972

The cornerstone of employment law in Trinidad and Tobago. After political independence in 1962, the Government passed the Industrial Stabilisation Act in 1965 which effectively banned strikes. This was subsequently amended in 1972 to become the Industrial Relations Act (IRA). Described as having the aim to make better provision for the stabilisation, improvement and promotion of industrial relations, the IRA:

  • prohibits strikes in rights matters
  • prohibits strikes in 'essential services' and many other areas
  • provides for compulsory union recognition – but only after a tedious legal procedure determined by the Registration Recognition and Certification Board
  • requires conciliation at the Ministry of Labour and
  • establishes an Industrial Court to provide for compulsory arbitration
Often workers rights are confused by lack of clarity about their employment status. Not sure if you are a worker or self-employed? The employer is telling you that you are a casual or temporary ... after all those years! Check here for some clarification.

Maternity Protection Act, 1998

An Act to provide a minimum level of maternity leave benefits and protection.

Minimum Wages Act, 1976

Although this Act concerns minimum wages and terms and conditions of employment, the Act itself relies on Orders being issued by the Minister to set actual minimum wages. The Minimum Wages (Amendment) Act, 2000 changed the method of making complaints about non compliance and opened the door to trade unions taking up minimum wages issues.

The following Minimum Wages Orders are still in effect, although the hourly rate has been amended by the Minimum Wages Order 2005:

In 2003 National Minimum Wages was introduced at TT$7.00 per hour. This was increased to TT$9.00 an hour by the Minimum Wages Order 2005. In the 2007 Budget the Prime Minister promised to increase this to TT$10.00. This has yet to happen.

Occupational Safety & Health Act, 2004

Until the passing of this Act, occupational safety in Trinidad and Tobago was determined by a Factories Ordinance 1950. This was old colonial legislation and only covered workers in factories. OSHA 2004 deals with the safety, health and welfare of persons at work and covers all workers, with the exception domestic workers. OSHA 2004 was amended by the Occupational Safety & Health &(Amendment) Act, 2006 but this was largely a tidying up exercise.

Whilst welcoming OSHA, the trade union movement has generally been critical of this legislation for the lack of an effective role given to trade unions under the Act.

The following Subsidiary Legislation, which was made under the Factories Ordinance, continues to be in effect:

  • Occupational Safety and Health (Prescribed Forms) Order (GN 187-1948)
  • Distillery (Safety) Regulations (GN 213-1946)
  • Boilers Regulations (GN 2-1949)
  • Special Provisions for Safety in the Case of Air Pressure Containers (GN 3-1949)1949
  • Occupational Safety and Health – Cleaning of Machinery in Motion (GN 109-1949)
  • Woodworking Machinery (GN 152-1949)
  • Occupational Safety and Health (Electricity) Regulations (GN 61-1951)
  • Occupational Safety and Health (Welfare) Regulations (GN 62-1951)
  • Electric Accumulator (Manufacture and Repair) Order (GN 184-1974)
  • Occupational Safety and Health (Protective Measures) Regulations (GN 210-19577)

The following laws are repealed by Section 98(1) of OSHA:

  • The Factories Ordinance
  • Employment of Women (Night Work) Act
  • The Gas Cylinders (Use, Conveyance and Storage) Act

The page on Hazards of Work gives more information on occupational safety and health issues.

Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, 1986

Most Collective Agreements will have provisions superior than this Act which lays down the minimum payments for those not covered by union agreements. It prescribes the procedures to be followed in the event of redundancy and provides for severance payments to retrenched workers.

Trade Disputes and Protection of Property Act, 1943

An Act to make provisions in respect of Trade Disputes, and for the protection of Property and Public Utility Services.

Trade Unions Act, 1933

An old Act but still relevant as it sets out the procedure for unions to register with the Registrar of Trade Unions as well as auditing Union accounts.

Truck Act, 1920

An Act to prohibit the payment of wages "otherwise than in money."

Workmen's Compensation Act, 1960

This legislation provides for the payment of compensation to workmen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment. Not very generous and the subject of criticism from the trade union movement.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1999

Sets up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Unit (CICU) which pays compensation to people injured as a result of criminal activities. The NWU will assist workers in processing claims to the CICU