“We will not be, we will not be moved.”
These words are no foreign concept for anyone who has been part of or observed a labour protest in T&T.
But at Wednesday’s Labour Day rally in Fyzabad, members of the trade unions stood firmly by these lyrics, standing undeterred by the showers which drenched workers during the 82nd anniversary of the event.
The day kicked off around 8 am with a wreath-laying ceremony where the union leaders placed a wreath at the grave of Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler; the founding father of the labour movement in the country. It was then proceeded by a march to the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) office at Charlie King junction in Fyzabad.
Before the march began, members of each trade union gathered around the Avocat junction to hear their leaders bring remarks.
The leaders touched on the significance of their celebrations as well as pronounced on the issues plaguing their respective members. These issues were mainly centered around the Government’s failure to pay salary increases and what they believe to be wide-scale retrenchment.
As the speeches progressed, so too did the intensity of the showers.
But undeterred, the crowd simply opened their umbrellas and stood its ground. Many huddled together to share whatever little shelter they could find. However, it was during President of Trinidad and Tobago Farmers’ Union, Shiraz Khan’s address when the downpour became unbearable.
The street drains quickly overflowed and water gushed down the hillside where the marchers were gathered with many shouting “Start the march!”.
With soaked feet, the union members all queued up along the road to proceed to the Charlie King junction. They took off with the lead of a marching band and were escorted by the police, all the while the rain continued to pour. It was only after the procession was halfway to the OWTU’s office that the downpour gave way to intermittent drizzle.
When they arrived at Charlie King junction, it was to fanfare as the marching band continued to play on. At this juncture, Shiraz Khan was allowed to finish his address along with other “comrades” who were deprived of their opportunity to address the workers before the procession.
These included leaders such as T&T Unified Teacher’s Association (TTUTA) President Lynsley Doodhai who delivered his last Labour Day greetings this year. He will be demitting office following TTUTA’s upcoming elections.
As the feature address by Joint Trade Union president, Ancel Roget drew nearer, the crowd noticeably dwindled. Many left after their respective union leaders spoke to get out of their drenched clothing or to “warm up” by nearby bars.
In his speech which lasted almost an hour, Roget spoke to most of the issues experienced by workers. He addressed crime, unemployment, retrenchment, unpaid wages and what he believed to be the government’s failure to adequately meet their needs. He made a special effort to single out members of the Cabinet such as Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
The rains which punctuated the day’s celebration were a result of a combination of a tropical wave and the ITCZ. T&T has been under a Yellow Level, Adverse Weather Alert issued by the TT Meteorological Office since 2 am on Monday.
The advisory was discontinued on Wednesday evening, however, the Met Office advised that there would still be lingering showers.
Reporter: Rishard Khan