7 September, 2008
The end of an era occurred in recent weeks in Trinidad and Tobago, but with it came a re-commitment to continue the uncompromising work on behalf of workers across the twin Caribbean islands. President Errol McLeod of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) took his deserved retirement and the union elected a slate of “Rebel” officers to continue leading Trinidad and Tobago’s largest and now, most diversified union.
Cmd. Errol McLeod
Ancel Roget was elected to fill the large shoes of ICEM Executive Committee Member McLeod, while David Abdullah was elected to the position of General Secretary. A ten-member Central Executive of the OWTU also joins the pair in a unanimous selection that happened in August.
Late in June, song, acclaim, and tribute were given McLeod, the 21-year President of the OWTU who rose to the service of all workers in the early 1980s as a founder of the Committee for Labour Solidarity. An oil worker going back to the 1960s at the former Texaco, now state-run Petrotrin complex of refineries at Pierre-a-Pierre, McLeod’s confident demeanor and tactful leadership won working-class gains for many across the Caribbean.
New OWTU President Ancel Roget with Torch
At his testimony on 25 June attended by over 1,000 people, McLeod humbly said it was the collective masses that brought the country’s many social gains possible. “It is time that I exit the stage while the audience is still applauding,” he remarked, adding that the new team of “Rebel” leaders was well prepared to continue the struggle on behalf of workers.
Ancel Roget, who took the symbolic torch from McLeod, then said an assembled slate of leaders cutting across many work sectors will be committed to carrying on the “uncompromising and independent struggle in the interest of the working class that has been so exemplified by the fearless and honest leadership of Comrade McLeod.”
Roget is from Trinmar, Petrotrin’s offshore subsidiary, while Abdullah is the union’s former Chief Education and Research Officer. Others on the new team include: Carlton Gibson, First Vice President; Teddy Stapleton, Second Vice President; Sylvester Virgil, Peter Burke, and Errol A. McLeod, all Vice Presidents; Gregory Marchan, Assistant General Secretary; Chandrasain Ramsingh, Treasurer; and Sati Gajadhar-Inniss, Jennifer Charles, and Himraj Basdeo, Trustees.
ICEM's Jim Catterson with David Abdullah
The June tribute saw historian, sociologist, and author Dr Susan Craig-Smith, formerly of the University of West Indies, serve as the featured speaker. She intoned the powerful history of the OWTU and the remarkable contributions that McLeod has had on modern Trinidad and Tobago. Also in attendance were Guyanese intellectual and anti-colonial leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, and Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador-at-Large Keithlyn Smith, a founder of the Antigua Workers’ Union.