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Trinidad and Tobago

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Last updated on 07.06.2017 at 11:36

Trinidad and Tobago-Overview

A high-income economy according to World Bank criteria, Trinidad and Tobago exhibits significant inequality.

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Offshore oil rig employees prohibited from protesting over working conditions

Offshore oil rig employees prohibited from protesting over working conditions

In April 2017, 22 workers from the Oilfields Workers Trade Union organised a protest over health and safety conditions working on the offshore oil rig owned by Lennox Petroleum. In response to the protesters, the company filed a lawsuit claiming that the workers had trespassed and that they had been prohibited from protesting over wages while a case was pending in court.

Peaceful Assembly 

Several demonstrations took place in Trinidad and Tobago over the last several months. 

In April 2017, 22 workers from the Oilfields Workers Trade Union organised a protest over health and safety conditions working on the offshore oil rig owned by Lennox Petroleum. In response to the protesters, the company filed a lawsuit claiming that the workers had trespassed. The court in turn granted the injunction, prohibiting the oil workers from protesting on the rig. Armed police forcefully removed the workers from the protest site.

Also in April but in a separate incident, workers from the TeleCommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago organised a protest in the south over concerning issues within the company. Demonstrators asserted that the company lacked up-to-date technology, a sufficient number of staff and reliable vehicles. The Communications Workers Union participated in and supported the protest.

In May 2017, residents in North Oropouche held a third major protest petitioning the local authorities to repair the roads. Demonstrators erected barricades with burning tires in five locations, blocking the roads. Police and military removed the blockade due to the the dangers of inhibiting road access in and out of the community.

Association

The freedom of association is constitutionally enshrined and respected in practice.

The freedom of association is constitutionally enshrined and respected in practice. The government does not wield any arbitrary authority to deny registration requests, dissolve, or interfere with CSOs. Workers’ right to form and join unions is respected, and trade unions are relatively influential, although membership has tended to decline. According to a survey by the International Trade Union Confederation, trade union rights are subject to repeated (but not regular or systematic) violations in Trinidad and Tobago. There are no legal restrictions on foreign funding of civil society, but actual access to resources is problematic for most of the sector. LGBTI organisations operate in a more restrictive environment. For example, legislation prohibits the entrance in the country of persons ‘for homosexual purposes.’ Local organisation CAISO stated that this legislation makes ‘every meeting that at its headquarters a potential infringement of the law.’

Peaceful Assembly

The freedom of peaceful assembly is recognised in Trinidad and Tobago’s constitution and also upheld in practice.

The freedom of peaceful assembly is recognised in Trinidad and Tobago’s constitution and also upheld in practice. Laws regulating public gatherings, including prior notice requirements and reasonable time and place restrictions, are considered to be consistent with international standards. Protests rarely turn violent or face police repression. On prominent demonstration in 2014 sought to oppose a proposed constitutional reform that would limit the Prime Minister’s stay in office to ten years, create the right to recall members of Parliament, and introduce run-off elections. Workers’ protests currently account for the majority of public demonstrations in the country. Various small, local workers’ protests in demand of higher wages and better working conditions were staged in early 2015.

Expression

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and legal progress was recently made when defamation was partially decriminalised in February 2014.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and legal progress was recently made when defamation was partially decriminalised in February 2014. However, malicious defamatory libel known to be false has remained on the statute books. A so-called Cybercrime Bill was proposed in May 2014 that could impose further restrictions on investigative journalism. Trinidad and Tobago participates in the Open Government Partnership and was an early adopter of Freedom of Information legislation in 1999. Despite this, reports indicate that the government has gradually narrowed the categories of available public information and even the institutions subject to the law. Print media in Trinidad and Tobago are all privately owned, and the state operates one of four TV stations and three of about a dozen radio stations. Official state advertising is disproportionately placed on state-owned and pro-government private media. Negative remarks by state officials about critical media outlets and attempted political influence on news content have also been recorded. Internet access is unrestricted. There are no recent reports of physical attacks against journalists, but some threats have been recorded. Most notably, an investigative journalist temporarily left the country after receiving death threats in May 2014.