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OWTU head salutes TCL workers
The annual Labour Day march through the streets of Fyzabad yesterday saw unionists turning out in their hundreds to pay tribute to the forefathers of the trade union movement. It started at Avocat Junction, culminating in the heart of Fyzabad at the offices of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) offices.
The march was led by the Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) branch of the OWTU, which OWTU president general Ancel Roget said made a significant contribution to the labour movement with their recent industrial action. “TCL workers took the bull by the horns in defence of all voiceless workers in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “We salute you today, TCL, as we move off in the name of peace and justice, not for South but for all of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Roget cautioned participants to remain “disciplined” and be conscious of the purpose of the march. Although some police officers carried tear-gas canisters in addition to their standard armour, the march was without incident. This year’s celebrations began with a pre-march unveiling of the refurbished bust of Uriah Butler at the Fyzabad Public Cemetery.
Roget said the bust was “spruced up” in honour of the 75th anniversary of the OWTU and was just one of many activities planned for the year. After the unveiling was the annual placing of a wreath at the monument to La Brea Charles—the man killed in 1937 after being mistaken for Butler.
Many new organisations joined the march for the first time this year including: Arima Maxi Taxi Association, National Union of Students, the Highway Re-route Movement and Trinidad United Farmers Association. While Labour Day celebrations reiterated union commitment to honouring its heroes, many marchers focused on making political statements to employers and in some cases, to union leaders.
President of the Public Service Association (PSA) Watson Duke was not invited to proceedings. However, a faction of the PSA under the banner The Real PSA was present. Many carried placards with slogans such as Duke must go and Public Sellout Association.
Roget said the contribution of unionists has been taken for granted. “The annual Labour Day march is very significant because what it does is pay homage to Butler and the Butlerites, their struggles and sacrifices that they would have made some 75 years,” he said. “This country could not have been developed without them. “The independence movement didn’t start in 1956 with the PNM, it started in 1937 with the labour movement.”
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