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Right to join unions protected

Monday, August 18, 2014
Law Made Simple

T&T has several active trade unions which are responsible for the protection of workers’ rights and the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements. Many employees are faced with deciding if they should join a trade union. This article considers the rights of employees and trade unions. The Constitution recognises and protects freedom of association and assembly. While no reference is made to trade unions, the court has declared that the right to join a trade union is protected.

The Industrial Relations Act (the Act) provides that every worker has the following rights:
• the right to be a member of any trade union or any number of trade unions of his choice;
• the right not to be a member of any trade union or other organisation of workers or to refuse to be a member of any particular trade union or other organisation of workers;
• the right to take part in the activities of the trade union including holding office as an official.

Forming a Trade Union
For a trade union to legally represent or engage in collective bargaining on behalf of any work force, it must possess a certificate of recognition. The Registration, Recognition and Certification Board decides on any application made by a trade union, seeking certification.

Where a trade union has obtained certification or recognition for workers in a bargaining unit, the employer has to recognise that trade union as the recognised majority union. The employer must also, in good faith, treat and enter into negotiations with the trade union for the purposes of collective bargaining. Can a worker be victimised for joining a trade union?

Under the Act an employer cannot:
• dismiss a worker;
• affect a worker’s employment; or,
• alter a worker’s position to his or her disadvantage; because the worker is an officer, delegate or member of a trade union.
In addition, an employer cannot:
• make the employment of a worker subject to the condition that he or she shall not join a union or give up trade union membership;
• dismiss or act against a worker because of union membership or participation in union activities outside working hours;
• prevent the worker from becoming an officer, delegate or member of a trade union.

In the next article we will look at the right to take industrial action, who can take industrial action and the role of the Industrial Court.

• This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem you should consult a legal adviser. 


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