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Fyzabad’s fruitless labour
Lauded for having given birth to the contemporary trade union movement that emanated in the 30s, Fyzabad—the annual venue of the workers’ march which culminates at the Charlie King Junction today—has surprisingly, after more than 70 years, not enjoyed the fruits of its labour. “I never see the trade union movement do anything for Fyzabad. Labour Day is only a celebration with eating and drinking for one day and you don’t see the union nor its leaders again until next year. “It’s like an annual routine where they come, talk and then go,” one constituent, Glen Grant said.
“They (the Oilfields’ Workers Trade Union) can’t even fix their own building (at Charlie King Junction), what could they possibly do for Fyzabad,” said another villager who chose to remain anonymous. The men were speaking at the popular Blue Door Bar (otherwise known as the Green Door) on Guapo Road, next to a monument of La Brea Charles, a man killed by the police in 1937 after he was mistakenly identified as being the prominent trade union pioneer—Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler.
Plagued by a very high unemployment rate with very little prospect for market or business saturation, villagers say the trade unions, local proprietors and its parliamentary representative of more than 20 years, Chandresh Sharma all seem to have forgotten about the locale which witnessed the historic signing of a declaration (on April 21, 2010) that formed the ruling People’s Partnership Government.
Carl Douglas, who has lived in Fyzabad all his life (60 years) said the Labour Day celebrations had become very mundane and had little impact on a community which appeared to “come alive” only on June 19 each year. “The unions have not done anything really for Fyzabad itself,” he said during an interview with the Sunday Guardian at his home, located on Guapo Road. He said the community was “underdeveloped” and that businesses found difficulty thriving in such a “stagnant environment.” “The only business ventures that make money in Fyzabad are the bars and the Chinese restaurants,” Douglas said.
“People prefer to go to Siparia and San Fernando to source their needs because Fyzabad’s options are either too limited or of a substandard quality,” his wife, Radha added. Douglas said the MP for the area does not “contribute to things that will brighten Fyzabad” and has the tendency to develop those areas where he garners the majority of electoral support within the constituency. One male resident said: “Let’s not talk about him. He does nothing for Fyzabad and has the area more dead.
“He only wins because the area is predominantly in support of the United National Congress (UNC).” Douglas said while Fyzabad was not particularly prone to crime, there was need for more recreational or community activities/facilities to provide an alternate avenue through which youngsters in the village can channel their talents amidst the ravages of poverty and unemployment that have permeated the area.
In his response to this criticism (a general sentiment ex- pressed by the majority of residents interviewed), Sharma said “no part of the country is developed” and Government needed to “spread its resources everywhere” so that no geographical area would receive more attention over the other. He added, too, that while “we could always add value” to road infrastructure and recreational grounds in the area, it was clear that there “was certainly much more to do.”
Workers willing but no jobs
“It hardly have any gang (URP and Cepep) on the roads. Real people home and not working,” a coconut and cocoyea broom vendor at Gowers Well Road (Market Road), Anderson Peters said. He added: “If you watch the oilfield (Petrotrin), it don’t even have 15 men from Fyzabad working there. Many of them come from the outside.” Another resident, Jeremiah Stewart echoed Peters’ sentiments when he identified both the scarcity of jobs and the lack of commitment and community support from the neighbouring businesses as factors which continue to stifle the village’s opportunity for growth and development. “Plenty of the fellas in the area not working and it’s not because they don’t want to work but because they not getting things to do,” he added. “Development for business owners mean expanding their own market space or in order to make it better and maximise on personal profit and that is all,” Lloyd Jordan, another villager said.
‘People not thinking progressively’
Julianna Brewster, of Fyzabad Main Road, said Labour Day has degenerated into a “big lime,” so much so, it has lost its meaning and apart from the one-day food and beverage peak in sales during the celebration march, it was really the cultural/entertainment aspects of the event that resonated with the crowd more than any true sense of labour consciousness. She said the problem with Fyzabad though, was that the villagers “were not thinking as progressively” as they should and needed to emancipate themselves from the habit of depending primarily on others for help. “We are too dependent and everything comes across as though it’s some sort of a struggle.“People’s mentalities are not changing and the area is still full of many backward thinking people,” she said.
OWTU: Actions will follow
President of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget said while he agreed that “Fyzabad ought to have progressed a lot more”, the union was “moving to the next stage” to have discussions with the residents as to the “best direction on a way forward.” He said: “We have a lot of plans but they can only bear fruit if they are given the support of the Government. “What will make those plans become reality is the power and the force of workers.” Roget added that the “actions that will follow” the pronouncements made on Labour Day today, “is what will make a difference.”
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