Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 20th 2015 Contents A5
Saturday, June 20, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar was yesterday put on the
spot at Labour Day celebrations in
central by the All Trinidad General
Workers Trade Union (ATGWU)
which had been threatening to
withhold its traditional support for
her party in the September 7 gen-
Persad-Bissessar had barely settled
into her seat at the head table at
Rienzi Complex when ATGWU pres-
ident general, Nirvan Maharaj
Maharaj, told her not to forget prom-
ises the People s Partnership made
to ex-sugar workers.
Maharaj had been addressing
union members who had assembled
at Rienzi Complex after marching
through Couva from the Brechin
When the PM walked in around
1.30 pm with her security entourage
and accompanied by Labour Minister
Errol McLeod and Senate vice-pres-
ident James Lambert, Maharaj
stopped his address to welcome her.
As soon as she was seated, he told
her not to forget the promises made
by the PP to pay former sugar work-
ers interest on profits made on a
"Sweetener" loan plan, which went
This money amounted to more
than $51 million.
Maharaj formed a new political
entity comprising ex-sugar workers,
the National Solidarity Assembly
(NSA) and had been threatening to
contest seats in the sugar belt tra-
ditionally held by the UNC if their
demands were not met.
The UNC s base is in the sugar
Persad-Bissessar, in a short
address to the former sugar workers,
gave her commitment that her Gov-
ernment will continue to partner
with them to settle the matters.
She urged patience. "Rome wasn t
built in a day.
"Some matters have been dealt
with and there are some we have to
The PM reminded the union of
the People s Partnership s strong ties
with the trade union movement.
She said UNC founder Basdeo
Panday was its former president.
Earlier, Maharaj said Adrian Cola
Rienzi (Krishna Deonarine) began
the labour movement in the 1930s
but is given only footnote recognition
in T&T s history books.
Persad-Bissessar said her Gov-
ernment was the first to recognize
him by posthumously giving him
the nation s highest award, through
The PP has no less than five
prominent members who are from
the labour movement, she said.
They are Mc Leod, Lambert,
Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh,
House Speaker Wade Mark and Dr
The PM said she did not recall
the PNM having trade union mem-
bers when it was in government, or
among its 2015 election candidates.
"Our party has come from the
womb of the trade union move-
ment," she said.
Recalling the arrest of Movement
for Social Justice leader David Abdu-
lah outside Parliament during the
last administration, she said the PP
has never confronted the labour
movement like that.
Instead, it settled 132 outstanding
wage negotiations, she said, adding
two were signed on Thursday with
the Estate Police Association and
Airports Authority workers.
PM told at Couva Labour Day celebrations...
Don't forget 'sweetener' loan plan
A member of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union gives Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar a 'bounce' when she attended the union's
labour day celebrations at Rienzi Complex, Couva yesterday.
A bull cart, fishing boats and
animals in cages, led a procession
of former sugar workers, fisher-
men and agricultural workers
through the streets of Couva on
Labour Day yesterday in a dra-
matic attempt to rewrite the his-
tory of the labour movement in
The All Trinidad General Work-
ers Trade Union (ATGWTU) broke
with tradition and, instead of jour-
neying to Fyzabad, the historical
seat of the labour movement,
staged its own official Labour Day
celebrations in central Trinidad for
the first time.
The march began at the Brechin
Castle roundabout and went
through Couva, culminating at
Rienzi Complex, the ATGWTU
Union president, Nirvan Maharaj,
in an impassioned address to union
members, was unapologetic as he
said the PNM was not invited to
It was the PNM who shut down
the sugar industry in 2003 and
threw 12,000 workers on the
To date, their matters arising out
of their severance are not fully set-
tled, he said.
It was former PNM prime min-
ister, Dr Eric Williams who, in 1978,
said there would be no wage
increases for sugar workers until
Caroni Ltd made a profit.
Maharaj said Williams did not
withhold wage increase from the
workers employed in other non-
profit making state sectors.
It was the PNM used brute force
to quell the 1970s revolution, he
Maharaj said workers in the agri-
cultural sector have been treated
as second class citizens,
"Today, we are going to stop that.
We are celebrating ourselves in the
heartland of sugar."
Labour Day should not only be
about public servants and energy
sector and factory workers.
Those in the agriculture sector
are also workers who make a vital
contribution to the country, he said.
Maharaj urged union members
to teach their children the truth
about the history of the labour
He said it was former sugar
workers who began the labour
movement in T&T but their con-
tributions were well hidden or given
only "footnote recognition" in the
history books. (YB)
Union leaders yesterday con-
demned the "disrespectful" move
by the All Trinidad General Workers
Trade Union (ATGWTU) to host its
own Labour Day celebrations in
They made the remarks as they
paid homage to labour movement
icon Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler at his
gravesite at the Fyzabad Public Ceme-
tery at the annual Labour Day wreath-
Standing in front a bust of labour
movement icon Tubal Uriah "Buzz"
Butler, however, president of the Oil-
fields Workers Trade Union (OWTU)
Ancel Roget said the story of Butler
has not been properly told.
"And these days people are
attempting to rewrite history. They
are attempting for their own political
gains to erase off the political land-
scape of T&T the significant contri-
bution that Butler would have made
in our early years of development.
Were it not for T&T would not be
where it is today. Were it not for Butler
those who went into office in May
24, 2010 would not have seen that
Whether it be the Prime Minister,
a trade union leader or former union
leader turned minister, Roget added:
"Today we condemn any action or
any attempt to place significance on
any other spot of ground than Fyzabad
here and Charlie King junction. It
exposes the deceitfulness of all of
Also expressing his disapproval with
the situation, Communication Work-
ers Union s education officer Clyde
Elder said he felt extremely hurt, dis-
appointed and disrespected because
"Fyzabad is the birthplace of the trade
union movement and if ever you have
to say thanks to anyone on labour
day it is thanks to Butler and all of
those who struggled in the past."
Saying it was never to late for the
trade union movement to do what
Butler did in the 1930s and unite every
single worker, he said it would take
a revolution of the minds, hearts,
thinking and conscience to ensure
that labour is protected, advanced
and respected by all.
Bankers, Insurance and General
Workers Trade Union executive Eric
Cabrera said children should be
encourage to attent this event and
pay homage to Butler.
Union members were also fortu-
nate to hear from one of the few
remaining Butlerites, Soogrim Cool-
man, who was with Butler when he
took his last breath.
"I am a witness of what happened
at Charlie King junction, all that has
been written is not true," said 87-
year-old Coolman who joined with
members in singing hymns and labour
songs as they paid homage to Butler.
Wreaths were also placed on the graves
of comrades Neville Taylor, Nicholas
Patterson and Eric John. Homage was
also paid to La Brea Charles who was
shot by police officers after they mis-
takenly took him for Butler on June
march in Couva
Union leaders condemn Couva Labour Day celebrations
"They are attempting
for their own political
gains to erase off the
political landscape of
T&T the significant
Butler would have
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