Any collective agreement that governs a tariff unit applies to any worker in that unit of collective agreements, whether or not that worker is a member of the recognized majority union. The provisions of a collective agreement become the working conditions of each worker`s contract, whether or not that worker is aware of the existence of the agreement. Any provision of a collective agreement that limits the application of the IRA or favours preferential treatment for members of a particular union is not applicable. After the registration of a collective agreement, each member of the tariff unit concerned is entitled to the protection of that unit. The Law outlines a specific procedure that an employer should use when proposing to dismiss five (5) or more workers as a result of dismissals, including the provision (except in exceptional circumstances) of forty-five days in writing to each of the employees, the recognized majority union and the Minister responsible for labour. The law provides for minimum redundancy payments for workers: according to the MPA, the definition of a “worker” entitled to protection under the MPA includes domestic and country employees as well as a person working under an apprenticeship contract, provided that the worker has been in the service of the employer for at least twelve (12) months without interruption. The form in which this occurs depends to a large extent on whether the employment contract relates to a “worker” within the meaning of the Employment Relations Act. In the event of a commercial dispute, “workers” may fall into one of two categories: the national minimum wage in Trinidad and Tobago, set by the Minimum Wage Regulations, Statutory Note No. 40 of 1999 is $7.00 per hour, without tips, service charges and commissions. The regulation also provides that pieceworkers and homeworkers receive no less than the equivalent of the minimum wage. The law provides for the certification and formal recognition of majority unions for certified “bargaining units” in the workplace. A union that represents more than fifty percent (50%) of the employees of a given tariff unit is entitled to be certified as a recognized majority union for that collective unit. By law, the employer and the recognized majority union are required to treat each other for the purposes of collective bargaining and to bargain between them.
The law provides for a mechanism for the registration of collective agreements. A registered collective agreement is binding and directly applicable, but only by the Labour Court. In the private sector, negotiations are generally held between different companies with recognized majority unions and not in the sector as a whole. Many companies have labour relations or human resources managers who negotiate. Companies that do not have labour relations professionals can ask negotiators or private practitioners to negotiate on their behalf. Unions have negotiators on staff. The practice of temporary work has not found a suit among the unions. Since fixed-term contracts are usually negotiated by the individual worker with the employer, there is no collective bargaining process and the role of the union is crowded out.
Most workers on fixed-term contracts are not unionized. Unions need to do more to attract people who work on fixed-term contracts. These people include not only construction workers and workers in labour-intensive industries, but also a growing number of skilled workers. In the private sector, employers and trade unions can agree on leave that is part of a registered collective agreement, which is mandatory for both employers and workers. In the absence of a collective agreement, paid leave, leave and sick leave are left to the discretion of the employer. . . .