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Avellon Williams 

TRINIADAD AND TOBAGO- Labour Day June 19th, 2023, in Trinidad and Tobago holds great significance in the country’s history, and a key figure associated with this day is Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler.

From left Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler and Former Prime Minister Eric Williams /Image, IAG/

Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago traces its roots back to the early 20th century when workers’ rights and social justice issues were at the forefront of public consciousness. During this time, Uriah Buzz Butler emerged as a prominent labour leader and advocate for the rights of the working class.

Born in 1887 in Grenada, Butler migrated to Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1900s, seeking employment opportunities. He worked primarily in the sugar industry, where he experienced firsthand the harsh working conditions and low wages that plagued many workers.

/Image, TG/

Butler quickly recognized the need for collective action to address these injustices, and he became a driving force in organizing labour unions across Trinidad and Tobago. His charismatic leadership and fiery speeches rallied workers from various industries to join the labour movement.

In 1937, Butler led one of the most significant labour uprisings in the country’s history, known as the “Oilfield Riots.” Thousands of oil and sugar workers went on strike, demanding better pay, improved working conditions, and the recognition of their unions. These protests were met with brutal repression from the authorities, resulting in several deaths and injuries.

Despite the violence and opposition, Butler’s resilience and determination led to important gains for the labour movement. His efforts eventually paved the way for the establishment of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) in 1937, which became one of the most powerful unions in the region.

/Image, TG/

Labour Day was officially recognized in Trinidad and Tobago on June 19, 1973, as a national public holiday. The date coincides with the anniversary of the 1937 Oilfield Riots and serves as a tribute to the struggles and achievements of the working class.

Today, Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago is marked by various activities and events. Workers, trade unions, and labour organizations come together to celebrate the contributions of the labour movement and highlight ongoing issues related to workers’ rights and social justice. Speeches, parades, and cultural performances take place across the country, emphasizing the importance of unity and solidarity among public servants and private sector workers.

/Image, TT/

Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler’s legacy as a champion of workers’ rights and a symbol of the labour movement continues to inspire generations in Trinidad and Tobago. His efforts laid the foundation for the progress made in improving the working conditions and rights of workers in the country, making LabourDay a significant occasion for reflection, appreciation, and continued advocacy.


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Avellon Williams

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