Supreme Court, Port of Spain

Trinidad and Tobago: 50 Family Court workers protest at the Family Court at Cipriani Boulevard, Port of Spain, because they say working conditions in the court are so bad that it is “modern day slavery”. The protest lasted 2 hours, and may have been the only break some of the workers have had in years.

According to one employee: “The standards have dropped compared to what we know and what we are able to put out because it is a lot more work and we don’t have enough staff, we are over-worked and under-paid”
Family Court

One of the chief complaints is that the Family Court is understaffed, and that “less than 70 people are employed at the Court that is fully staffed at 180 people”…

So who was working in the Court during this protest?!?

The result of this protest was that Court was nearly shut down for 2 hours. Single parents were unable to receive maintenance checks. Prisoners remained locked up because there was no one to process their bail payments. And, for the first time, the public heard loud and clear the complaints of the Court workers, with absolute honesty.

Family Court workers took their complaints to Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Stephanie Williams and then, not satisfied with the response, protested.

Complaints include that the Family Court in Trinidad and Tobago is:

Severely understaffed, with workers performing the work of 5 people. An anonymous Court worker reported that 70 people do the work of about 180 people.

Due to severe lack of staff, family court workers cannot do their jobs properly.

Family court workers denied a lunch break due to pile up of work and lack of staff.

Work hours extending to more than 8 hours a day.

Workers asked to perform duties they are not qualified for, or not trained for. And then not being paid for the extra work they are doing.

Lack of response or meaningful change when workers complain—they are passed from one official to other or given a politically correct, shallow response that leads nowhere.

Standards in Court are dramatically declining because of all these problems.

The Judiciary issued a statement calling on patience, and thanking the Court workers; and promised to resolve all issues. Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Court Executive Administrator Michelle Austin specifically stated they are concerned by the complaints of the workers, and the “threat to the high quality of service for which the Family Court and its staff have become known”. Honorable Chief Justice Ivor Archie

We desperately need more accountability in the Courts.

Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

Family Court, The Judiciary of Trinidad & Tobago: http://www.ttlawcourts.org/index.php/family-court-41/overview

“Family Court workers protest over ‘slavery’” by Camille Bethel, Trinidad Express: Jan 20, 2014: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Family-Court-workers-protest-over-slavery-241217051.html#

“Family Court workers stage protest” by News Power, January 21, 2014: http://news.power102fm.com/?p=14842

“Shutdown at Family Court over unpaid $$” by Kalifa Clyne, Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online: Jan 21, 2014: http://guardian.co.tt/news/2014-01-21/shutdown-family-court-over-unpaid

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