The Oilfield Workers Trade Union(OWTU) now has a headquarters in Tobago which the union built with its own funds. This three-storey building located at Young Street in Scarborough was commissioned on Friday.
During the opening ceremony, President of the union, Ancel Roget, said in spite of recent speculations over the union’s financing, the OWTU was capable of holding its own financially.
Alluding to questions being raised about the union's finances after it won a $700 million bid to buy the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, Roget said, in this case, the union financed the project to construct the building.
“You know everybody wants to know where we get the money from, who financing us and all this set of bacchanal and baseless talk...thank almighty God and our founding fathers that the oilfield workers is a well-resourced union,” Roget said.
“We did not go to the bank, we didn’t go to any financial institution. I want to make that abundantly clear, that we would have gone to the general council and gotten approval from them to borrow from ourselves to construct this building.”
Roget said the construction was done during a difficult financial period for the union.
“Along the way came a major attack on the OWTU on our main revenue stream, somebody decided that they should let the sky fall on the OWTU.”
He said the closure of Petrotrin significantly affected the union as one-third of its membership was put on the breadline. He said the loss affected the rate of construction of the Tobago building.
"Could you imagine at a time like now where we rely on the dues for the revenue and then have one-third of our membership gone?" the trade union leader asked.
He said despite the challenges, the union was able to persevere and complete the building as they felt it was important for Tobagonians.
He said the union realised that workers in Tobago do not know their rights as much as their Trinidad counterparts.
"We feel that with the current climate it was important that the people of Tobago receive the same level of representation as our comrades in Trinidad. Our vision for Trinidad is to put Tobago up, equal, right and centre with Trinidad," Roget said.
The building is named after Alphonso Philbert Theophilus "Fargo" James, one of Tobago’s first politicians and trade unionists.