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History of the NWU

HISTORY OF THE NWU

BACKGROUND TO THE FORMATION OF THE NWU

After years of careful planning, holding of many secret meetings with workers throughout the country and the publication of a Labour Journal captioned “Workers Voice”, Tyrone George Maynard, an Industrial Relations Specialist with a tremendous background experience in the field felt the time had come for one to take full responsibility for changing the industrial landscape of St. Lucia. Consequently, the National Workers Union was formed and subsequently launched in August 1973. Tyrone George Maynard was the founder. In the infant stages the organization’s work was done solely on a voluntary basis.

The first six months of the organisation’s operations saw a new dimension to the industrial relations process in the country. The NWU initiated “Workers Talking Night” every Tuesday on Radio Saint Lucia. The programme was very informative and dealt with workers rights and other industrial relations topics. About twenty four (24) programmes were completed. That thrust exposed the union to a new trend in public relations out of which workers and prospective new members were exposed to a new awareness.

Employees of Texaco (West Indies) Limited, based at La Toc became the first new unit of the organization. At the time twelve (12) workers were employed with that company. Some individuals may have dismissed the effort, but at the time numbers were insignificant. The move was strategic because Texaco (West Indies) Limited ran a fleet of tank wagons which distributed diesel and gasoline to gas stations around the island, delivered propane gas to consumers at large hotels and also operated a refueling station based at Vigie Airport. Many aircrafts had to access the company’s services at the airport.

If the small union had to go into action then, we could have refused to fuel aircrafts and not distribute gasoline to the stations around the country. When the NWU applied for trade union recognition the company requested a poll which the union won handsomely. We quickly engaged in formal negotiations out of which we obtained a 30% general wage increase along with fringe benefits. This was a good starting point since at the time the weekly wages of a labourer with the company were EC$40.00, an aviation crew man EC$60.00, a driver EC$70.00 and a mechanic EC$80.00.

The NWU carefully planned and held its First Annual Congress of Delegates in December 1973. The following persons were elected to the positions indicated:


Mr. Julian Hunte - President General

Tyrone George Maynard - General Secretary

Valentine Cherry - Assistant General Secretary

Edmund Elcock - Finance Officer

Eighteen (18) other persons completed the slate of the NWU’s First Central Committee.

The union began to make regional and international contacts by becoming affiliated to global trade union organizations. These links enabled the union to receive financial and technical assistance from overseas organisations. Access to these resources facilitated the holding of seminars, each with about thirty (30) participants coming from Castries, Babonneau, Dennery, Soufriere and Vieux Fort. The sessions were multi-lingual, in English and Creole/Kweyol. Sam Flood, a very popular Creole/Kweyol specialist assisted the NWU.

The Strategy Committee of the union undertook a survey among workers in the agricultural sector. Results revealed that these workers were badly paid and the lowest paid in the country. They never enjoyed fringe benefits, protective necessities and were paid the Holidays with Pay at Christmas time as an annual bonus. A decision was taken to mobilize the agricultural sector.

Estates like Marquis, Babonneau, Ferrands, Mamiku, Fond, Patience, Fine Timbers all felt the industrial wrath of the union. The Dennery estates in the Mabouya Valley, owned by the Barnards, were left for last. The Barnards were white and repressive. As a result the union had to retreat as we had not built the kind of armoury that would have been required to go into a successful battle with the Barnards.

When Caribbean students got involved in a Sir George Williams University struggle in Canada, the black power movement began to sweep the region. Trade union leaders also joined the movement and the following organizations emerged: Trinidad National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), Grenada New Jewel Movement, Saint Vincent Youlimo, Jamaica Working People’s Party, Guyana Working People’s Alliance, Dominica Liberation Movement, Barbados People’s Pressure Movement, Saint Lucia Forum, Saint Lucia Labour Action Movement (SLAM). The education of workers started immediately, geared in a direction that would ignite workers into serious action.

In Saint Lucia, the Forum held huge public meetings, exhibitions and other activities that resulted in positive assistance in the struggle for the working class. The NWU used that period effectively to broaden its membership base in the following sectors: hotel, agriculture, garment, banks, hospital, statutory corporations, commercial, public, electronic and print media, airline, manufacturer, construction, essential services, sea ports, communications, sanitation and petroleum distribution.

The union has a membership of five thousand (5000) with a staff of seven (7) persons. About fifty-two (52) industrial agreements are being serviced in over fifty-five (55) branches spread through the length and breadth of Saint Lucia. As the representational character of the movement seems to be changing the NWU is well on its way to establishing new operational structures that would enable the union to face emerging challenges and be better prepared for the next fifty (50) years.

The NWU office is now located on 2nd Floor Bourbon Building, Bourbon Street, Castries. E mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prepared by Tyrone G. Maynard

President General
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PROTECTING AND DEFENDING THE ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, EDUCATIONAL, CULTURAL AND POLITICAL INTEREST OF WORKERS
Bourbon Street, Castries, Saint Lucia
P.O Box 713
+758 452-3664/ 758 459-0181
info@nationalworkersunion.org
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