Labour Day: A Snapshot
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Labour Day: A Snapshot

Labour Day: A Snapshot

Labour Day is celebrated annually on June 19th for a reason – that is the anniversary of the Butler Oilfield Riots which took place in 1937.

The riots began after an attempt to arrest Uriah “Buzz” Butler, a prominent figure in T&T’s emerging the Labour Movement.

Two policemen – Corporal Charlie King and Sub-Inspector Bradburn – were killed in the riots in Fyzabad. Nine civilians also died and fifty more were wounded.

These deadly riots forced changes in the local labour landscape, and the legacy of these live on today.

Mere months after, the first ever registered trade union in Trinidad came into being: the Oilfield Workers Trade Union or the OWTU.

Then in November came the All Trinidad Sugar Estate and Factory Workers Trade Union, which is today known as the All Trinidad General Workers Union.

Adrian Cola Rienzi was elected President General of both organizations.
His name lives on today through the Rienzi Complex which serves as the home of the union of which he was once President.

103FM News spoke with current President General of the ATGWU, Nirvan Maharaj.

He noted that, by 1953, the union faced internal strife, with the constant changing of Presidents. In the midst of this, Basdeo Panday was brought in as a legal counsel.

Eventually, Mr. Panday became President General himself.

AUDIO: Maharaj Panday Sunday 16 06 17

The union though would face its darkest hour in 2003 under the leadership of Rudy Indarsingh. In that year, Caroni 1975 Limited was shut down, with VSEP packages being offered to workers.

According to Mr. Maharaj, this remains a fight he has to undertake, in rebuilding the union today.

AUDIO: Maharaj Rebuild Sunday 16 06 17

This year for Labour Day, the union will host its own celebration at Rienzi Complex which is open to the public. This is separate and distinct from the celebration involving the OWTU in Fyzabad.

And speaking of the OWTU, that union is responsible for a number of rights workers enjoyed by citizens today.

Its Chief Research and Education Officer Ozzi Warwick told 103FM News about a few of them.

AUDIO: Warwick OWTU 16 06 17

Since the union is celebrating 80 years, Mr. Warwick says their Labour Day celebration in Fyzabad is expected to have a packed agenda.

AUDIO: Warwick Labour Day Celebrations 16 06 17

This year is the 44th annual commemoration of Labour Day in T&T, as the holiday was introduced in 1973.

News Room

June 18th, 2017

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