Senior Multimedia Reporter
In a blow to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), Shaffick Hyatali, a dedicated and tireless advocate for workers’ rights, has succumbed to the COVID-19 virus.
Hyatali devoted his entire life to the cause of workers, leaving an indelible mark during his tenure as secretary of the OWTU’s Pointe-a-Pierre branch from 2000 to 2012.
At his funeral on Monday, OWTU flags flew over his casket, a symbol of the union’s respect and gratitude for his lifelong service.
In the eulogy, Hyatali’s only daughter, Fariah, moved mourners to tears as she recounted her father’s journey, including his 35 years in the oil industry, his encyclopedic knowledge of the refinery’s operations and his ability to explain intricate details of the various plants.
She said Hyatali started as a labourer at Texaco and retired as a material analyst in the Materials Department at Petrotrin.
Reminiscing about his thirst for knowledge, excitement about embracing new technologies to manage the company’s inventory, and commitment to the refinery’s smooth operations, Fariah said her father was a meticulous notetaker, preserving every detail of the OWTU’s history.
“He was well known for making his car trunk the union’s filing cabinet, his work office. The branch hall and our home inadvertently became the archives of the OWTU. He built a room to store all the minutes, collective agreements, Industrial Court documents and his notebooks,” she said.
She recalled how he always wore his blue shirt as a symbol of his unwavering commitment to workers’ rights and could assess a person’s loyalty to the union with a single glance.
She said he was also a dedicated scholar who pursued studies in Industrial Relations and Mediation Studies at the University of the West Indies’ School of Continuing Studies and the Cipriani Labour College.
“His greatest joy was found in helping others secure permanent employment and protecting workers from unjust dismissals through the collective power of the union,” she said.
Following the closure of Petrotrin, Hyatali found solace in his faith as a devout Muslim.
“He actively contributed to the growth and success of the mosque as a committee member,” she added, noting he also made a significant contribution on his community.
Fariah said she will always remember her father’s chant, “Forward ever, backward never!”