Trinidad and Tobago need to
stamp out child labour and distrimination
against women, says union report
ICFTU Online..., 247/981113/DD, 13 November 1998
Brussels November 13 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): An ICFTU report out today
says that Trinidad and Tobago must take steps to stop the growing use
of child labour and to prevent women being discriminated against at
The international trade union report on labour standards in this
Caribbean country produced today to complement the World Trade
Organisation's trade review, has studied the country's compliance with
international labour standards, and found a number of areas in which
it falls short.
The report found that Trinidad and Tobago had not ratified the
International Labour Organisation's Convention 138 on the minimum age
of employment. The country's minimum legal age is only 12 years as
opposed to the Convention's stipulated 15 years - particularly
inexcusable in an oil-rich country which is situated in the category
of "upper middle-income developing countries". The UN
Committee on the Rights of the Child has drawn attention to Trinidad
and Tobago's increasing use of child workers in the informal sector,
particularly those working as street sellers. Children are often seen
begging and significant numbers of them become involved in criminal
activities as a result.
While legally education is free and compulsory for children up to age
12, government spending is too low to provide adequate standards in
many schools and there is overcrowding.
Sexual and Racial Discrimination
Although the country's 1976 Constitution prohibits discrimination of
any kind, there is no legislation which guarantees equal opportunities
in employment in the private sector nor any law requiring equal pay
for equal work, and there has been an increase in the numbers of
complaints of discrimination against employing women or in selecting
them for promotion.
The number of women in the workforce has increased to 33 percent, but
there are still far more men in administrative and managerial
positions. In fact the government itself has placed obstacles in the
way of women working in the public service, as married female
officials may be dismissed if their family obligations stop them
working efficiently, a rule which does not apply to male married
officials. There has also been some evidence of racial and ethnic
discrimination in recruitment in both the public services, and the
Basic Trade Union Rights
While trade union rights to form a trade union, and to negotiate with
an employer are enshrined in Trinidad and Tobago's law, which
prohibits anti-union activities, and employers who are found guilty of
anti-trade union activities can be taken to court, there have been
instances where the government has intervened using legislation to
prevent strikes. Workers in essential services are not allowed to
strike, and the government has set its own definition of what could be
deemed an essential area, for example, the teaching profession, which
is clearly not "essential". The concept of essential services
should therefore be redefined to bring the country in line with
international labour norms, says the ICFTU.
The ICFTU says that the country should take immediate steps to
establish the full respect of basic labour standards in all areas. In
the sphere of child labour, it should raise its minimum age for
employment to 15 years or over, improve labour inspections to prevent
young children working and increase funding for education to improve
It says that the government should take positive action measures to
stop discrimination against women workers, as well as amending its own
legislation which penalises married women in the public services.
The ICFTU has produced its own reports on each country which has been
the subject of a WTO trade policy review because it considers that the
respect of core labour standards should form part of the trade-related
issues which are discussed at the WTO Trade Policy Review meetings. It
says that the WTO should remind Trinidad and Tobago of the promise it
made at the WTO Ministerial Meetings in Singapore and in Geneva to
observe internationally recognised labour standards.
The Report can be found on this Website.
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 155, B - 1210 Brussels, Belgium.
For more information please contact:
Luc Demaret on: 00 322 224 0212 - email@example.com