Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago, Bank and General Workers’ Union v. Home Mortgage Bank, 3 March 1998, No. 140 of 1997
Trinidad and Tobago
Establishment of a jurisprudential principle based on international law
Contract of employment providing free termination by either party/ Termination of the contract by the employer/ No worker’s employment may be terminated except for a valid reason/ Establishment of a jurisprudential principle based on international law
The employer engaged the services of the worker as a driver. The contract provided for termination at any time by either party. Few months after the conclusion of the contract, the employer gave the worker a letter in which it informed him of the termination of the contract.
The Court established that according to common law an employer was not bound to give any reason for dismissing a worker. However, the Court had to state whether the dismissal was in accordance with the principles of good industrial relations practice recognized by the national legislation.2
In order to determine the principles of good industrial relations practice applicable to dismissal, the Court relied on ILO Convention No. 158 on Termination of Employment.
“The principles of good industrial relations practice dictate that no worker’s employment may be terminated except for a valid reason connected with his capacity to perform the work for which he was employed or which is founded on the operational requirements of an employer’s business. These principles are enshrined in writing in Convention No. 158 of the International Labour Organization (“ILO Convention No. 158). ILO Convention No. 158 has put in written form long standing principles of good industrial relations practice and it is of no consequence that the Convention has not been ratified by Trinidad and Tobago. It is not applicable as part of the domestic law of Trinidad and Tobago but as evidence of principles of good industrial relations practice which have been accepted at an international level.”
According to that rule inspired from ILO Convention No. 158, the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago stated that the employer had violated his obligation in terminating the contract without a valid reason and without giving the worker a fair opportunity to be heard.
2 Article 10(3)(b) of the Industrial Relations Act of Trinidad and Tobago: “The Court (…) shall (…) act in accordance with equity, good conscience and (…) having regard to the principles and practices of good industrial relations.” Article 10(5) of the Industrial Relations Act provides that in the event of dismissal of a worker, the courts must determine whether the worker has been dismissed in circumstances that are “(…) not in accordance with the principles of good industrial relations practice”.