Trade unions to mark May Day with march, rally in San Fernando

In this file photo, OWTU leader Ancel Roget, centre, speaks during a rally at Harris Promenade in San Fernando. - Photo by Lincoln Holder
In this file photo, OWTU leader Ancel Roget, centre, speaks during a rally at Harris Promenade in San Fernando. - Photo by Lincoln Holder

CITING the erosion of gains made on behalf of workers since 1886, trade unions will come together to commemorate May Day on May 1, to highlight their concerns while advocating for improvements.

The day will be marked with a march through the streets of San Fernando, starting at Paramount Building, Circular Road, culminating with a rally at Harris Promenade.

TT workers and trade unions observe Labour Day on June 19 because of the 1937 struggle of the late Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler and others for better wages and conditions of workers in the oil and sugar belts.

Local trade unions, however, will join with the rest of the world in in observing May 1 in what has become synonymous with workers’ struggle for an eight-hour workday.

May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day.

Chief Education and Research Officer and Treasurer of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) told Newsday, May Day has become more relevant today due to the recalcitrant steps in which employers are now engaged.

As such the movement is fully mobilising people and labour leaders to join millions of workers across the globe with a local theme – Unite to fight. one voice, one movement, justice for all.

“May Day is a recognition of the sacrifice workers made for us, including workers in TT, to enjoy an eight-hour workday.

“Today, there are instances where employers are now attempting to have workers work 12 and 16 hours straight without any overtime.

“What is frightening is that this is become less and less the exception and more and more the norm.”

Warwick observed that while this lengthy workday was very pronounced in the private security industry, it has now expanded to other sectors.

“We are now seeing it in the energy sector, we are seeing it in the retail sector, in the manufacturing sector, and it is really becoming the norm, which is very scary.”

What is also becoming standard in the job market, Warwick said, is the pattern of short-term contracts.

“Unions have always been against contract labour, but in the past, when we were fighting against contract labour, we were fighting against three-year contracts. Now it’s more like three months and one-month contracts with no terms and conditions and no added benefits whatsoever for these workers.

“In fact, there are employers who are trying to say that workers are independent contractors to avoid any sort of legal obligation to them, although they are contributing to the profitability of the economy.

“It is in this context we see May Day as being very relevant and it is for this reason the trade union movement will be celebrating the occasion throughout the streets of San Fernando.”

Participants will assemble at Paramount Building at 8 am, where some leaders will bring solidarity greetings before the march which will follow, from Circular Road, to Coffee Street, Cipero Street, Rushworth Street, Independence Avenue and High Street.

It will end on Harris Promenade, where the rally will be addressed by leader of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget, who is also the president general of the OWTU.

Saying May Day is not only about unionised workers, Warwick invited all disenfranchised people, including the unemployed, young people and single mothers, to join the march.

“If we don’t show strength in unity, as a class, then the class that is against our class will continue to exploit and oppress us.

“A show of support for May Day is really a show of support for freedom from exploitation.”


"Trade unions to mark May Day with march, rally in San Fernando"

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