Born out of the Labour Riots of 1937 the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union is the oldest trade union and best known champion of the working class in Trinidad and Tobago. Its revered hero is Chief Servant Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler who successfully organised the oil workers’ strike for better working conditions and fair pay which exploded into riots on June 19th, 1937.
The first official meeting of the OWTU was on July 15, 1937 in Fyzabad and the Union was formally established on July 25, 1937 at its Founding Conference in San Fernando. The OWTU was officially registered on 15th September 1937.
Serving as the first President General was Adrian Cola Rienzi (1937-1943) who simultaneously served as President General of the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers’ Trade Union. Rienzi has been followed by four President Generals: John F.F. Rojas (1943 to 1962); George Weekes (1962 to 1987); Errol McLeod (1987 to 2008); and its current President General Ancel Roget (since 2008). It should be noted that because of the persecution he faced from the colonial authorities, Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler never held the position of President General of the OWTU.
Throughout its history, the OWTU has focused on protecting the interest of its members and workers by ensuring that they obtain just and proper rates of wages, hours of work and working conditions.
Other key OWTU objectives are:
- promotion of legislation in the interest of its members and the furtherance of lawful political objectives affecting labour; and the education of workers
- education of its members and the public about issues relevant to workers, their organisation and interests. This is done through the OWTU’s Vanguard newspaper which was established in 1940, public policy forums, engagement with the media and social media.
OWTU VISION: “Continuing the tradition of the mass movement towards achieving a society with the power to determine on the basis of equity, social justice and a decent standard of living for all.”
OWTU MISSION: “Conscious of our working-class ideology, we advance our vanguard role in the mass movement by:
- Building solidarity
- Improving and defending the quality of life of our members and working people as a whole
- Giving voice to the voiceless through organizing, educating and political action.”