Trinidad and Tobago is ranked in the top ten for countries having the most number of public holidays! WOW! What a lovely place to live . . .
#7 on the holiday list is, Labour Day. Celebrated in about six countries, this annual holiday typically celebrates or honors the labour movement and achievements of workers in a country. What’s Labour Day all about in Trinidad and Tobago?
Declared a national holiday in 1973, Labour Day, celebrated on June 19th is the anniversary of the day the Butler Oilfield Riots took place. It serves as a reminder to every Trinbagonian that the working world of today is not what it was yesteryear. Marked with racism, fall in living standards, underpayment and worker abuse, life in the Colonial days was quite a strain for the working class.
Formed because of the heightened awareness of ill-treatment on the sugar plantations and oilfields, was the first registered trade union in Trinidad and Tobago – Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU). Instituted in the year that the Butler Oilfield Riots took place, 1937, the OWTU represented the rights of those in the petroleum industry.
1937 to 1956 would prove to be an eventful time for a Grenadian born Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, known to locals as “Comrade Chief Servant”. Within this period he would be held responsible for many riots, some of which ended with fatalities. He would be accused of inciting civil unrest and with sedition. He would be imprisoned for a combined period of ten years but still managed to retain the support and favour of many. In 1950 he would form his own party for the general elections, called the Butler Party, which would have much success in the political circle.
Today much is attributed Uriah, to the extent that he was awarded the highest honor, the Trinity Cross as well having Trinidad’s main highway being re-named in his honor.
Visitors wanting to catch a glimpse of this avid unionist can visit the Charlie King Junction in Fyzabad where a statue stands as a reminder to all. Labour Day celebrations in Trinidad involve marches, commemorative ceremonies, rallies, cultural shows and more.