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International Affairs FAQs

What are international labour matters
International labour matters arise from work in respect of labour and labour standards undertaken by international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations (UN), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The MOLSED therefore operates in international, hemispheric and regional fora and also pursues matters on a bilateral basis with other countries. 

What are some of Trinidad and Tobago’s international labour commitments? 
Commitments arise from the country’s membership and activities in organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Some of these commitments are listed as follows: 

  • Co-ordination, as required, of activities in support of the implementation of the decisions and plans of action in respect of labour matters adopted at the International Labour Conference, the Summit of the Americas, the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour, the national and regional Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) and other relevant regional and international fora.
  • At the hemispheric level, Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML) of the OAS and meets with Labour Ministers of the Western Hemisphere to promote hemispheric cooperation on labour and employment issues.

  • Fulfillment of reporting obligations to the ILO on ratified and unratified Conventions and co-ordination of representation of Trinidad and Tobago at the annual ILO International Labour Conference. 

What is the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was established in 1919 and its headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a specialised agency of the United Nations which deals with creating and overseeing international labour standards. The ILO brings together Government representatives, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes aimed towards promoting fair working conditions for all, which is referred to as “Decent Work”. 

Each year in the month of June, member states of the ILO meet at the International Labour Conference (ILC), sometimes referred to as an international parliament of labour. Some functions of the ILC include: 

  • Crafting and adopting international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations. 
  • Supervision of the application of Conventions and Recommendations at the national level. 
  • Facilitation of open discussion among tripartite members on important social and labour related issues. 

The Governing Body is the executive body of the ILO, and meets three times a year in March, June and November. The Governing Body takes decisions on ILO policy; decides the agenda of the ILC; adopts a draft programme and budget which is submitted to the ILC; elects the Director-General of the ILO; and elects members from geographic regions every 3 years (the last election was held in 2017). The Caribbean is allocated one (1) Titular Government seat in the Americas Group. Trinidad and Tobago sat on the Governing Body in this capacity for the period 2011-2014 and then subsequently for the period 2014-2017. Barbados served in this capacity for the previous two triennia. 

What are the international labour standards, Conventions & Recommendations?
International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) which set out basic principles and rights at work. They take the form of either Conventions or Recommendations. 

  • Conventions are legally binding international treaties that are open to ratification by member states of the ILO. “Ratification” means an official commitment to implement an instrument within the ratifying state. Once a member state ratifies a particular Convention, it creates a legal obligation on that member state to apply the provisions of that Convention into national law. 
  • Recommendations are non-binding instruments, but they provide guiding principles on a particular topic. Recommendations typically act as supplements to existing Conventions. However, they may also be autonomous (not linked to any corresponding Convention).

What is the purpose of the ILO 144 Tripartite Consultative Committee?
The ILO is based on the principle of tripartism – dialogue and cooperation between governments, employers and workers – in the formulation of standards and policies dealing with labour matters. The tripartite approach to adopting standards ensures that they have broad support from all ILO constituents. 

In 1995, Trinidad and Tobago ratified the ILO Tripartite Consultation Convention (No. 144). By ratifying this Convention, the country made an international commitment to discuss and implement international labour standards with the inclusion of employers’ and workers’ organisations. A national Tripartite Committee (the ILO 144 Tripartite Consultative Committee) was established in 1996. The purpose of this Committee is the promotion of tripartism and social dialogue at the national level by ensuring the involvement of government, employers’ and workers’ organisations at each stage of ILO’s labour standard-related activities. The International Affairs Unit serves as the technical secretary for the Tripartite Committee and assists in its activities.

What is Decent Work?
The Decent Work concept is based on the understanding that work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community, democracies that deliver for people, and economic growth that expands opportunities for productive jobs and enterprise development. 

The ILO has developed an agenda for this body of work entitled the Decent Work Agenda. The ILO achieves the Decent Work Agenda through the implementation of the four (4) strategic objectives of the ILO, namely: 

  • Creating jobs
  • Guaranteeing Rights at Work
  • Extending Social Protection
  • Promoting Social Dialogue 

What is the Organisation of American States (OAS)?
The Organisation of American States (OAS) is a regional international organisation established in 1948 that brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C., United States. It constitutes the main political, juridical and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere and was established in order to achieve among its member states “an order of peace and justice, to promote solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration and to defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”. 

The OAS is the Technical Secretariat for the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour. 

What is the Inter-Amercian Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML)?
The Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML) is the oldest sectorial conference of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Since 1963, the Ministers of Labour of the hemisphere gather periodically in this Conference, which is considered as the main forum in the Hemisphere for discussion and decision-making regarding policy priorities and actions on labour issues. 

The IACML has two advisory bodies, which are the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE) and the Business Technical Advisory Committee on Labour Matters (CEATAL) which guarantee the participation of workers and employers.

Additionally, the IACML has created two Working Groups to (i) deepen the analysis of the Conference's priority themes, (ii) to spread information and pertinent studies, and (iii) to follow up hemispheric initiatives. The Technical Secretariat of the OAS works in close co-ordination with other international organisations to fulfil the mandates of the IACML. The main organisations which work alongside the OAS include the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 

 
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