Workers drenched during Fyzabad rally

“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

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