After serving as an officer of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union for 32 years, Doodnath Maharaj has no intention of returning to the dustings of the trade union movement.
"I have already made my contribution to the movement, but when called upon to give advice I will gladly put my experience in trade unionism before the membership."
Maharaj, whose working career began as a labourer with former Apex Trinidad Ltd, believes in succession planning. "That was the reason I retired as general secretary of the union when I attained age 60."
He is proud of his contributions to the trade union movement and the recognition given to him by the union. "Now it is on record that I was the longest serving officer, "he said.
As a former general secretary, he had worked with three presidents general of the OWTU, John Rojas, George Weekes and Errol McLeod.
"Together we worked diligently. I witnessed over the years the growth in union membership from oil workers to ice cream producers. During my tenure the membership increased from ten to 22,000 members," he said.
Recalling some of the problems associated with being on the executive, Maharaj said, "Being an official of the union was not an easy task. Sometimes we had to work for 24 hours non-stop." He recalled the biggest challenge facing the union was the strike in 1963 which lasted 57 days.
He said, "British Petroleum wanted to reduce its work force, so we went on strike, but eventually an agreement was reached, but it cost the union over $31,000. To support the strike."
Maharaj said he had joined the OWTU while working at Apex in Fyzabad and his first experience of a strike was in 1960. "Workers were on strike for 18 days. We bargained with the company for several days, but in the end we got 22 per cent increase. That was the time when Rojas was president general."
Towards the end of Rojas's term as president general, workers demanded that a change be made in the way union elections were held. "Workers were clamouring for a one-man one-vote system. The matter went before the General Council and it was approved by the membership."
He thought the introduction of a one-man one-vote system worked well for the union. "That was when George Weekes became head of the union after Rojas resigned."
Maharaj said, "Being a member of the union I had to be involved in a number of other matters not directly concerned with trade union activities. A good example was the 1970 Black Power demonstrations when a State of Emergency was called by government. The union books were confiscated by government and taken away by police. Workers were sent home for two weeks during that period."
Maharaj also recalled when some members of the executive were under investigation for an alleged fraud incident.
"I was one of the members who was arrested and brought before the courts. Police picked me up at my home in Fyzabad and detained me. Eventually the matter was dismissed and we were freed."
Maharaj has no regrets for the part he played in trade union activities.
"At the end of the day I was given the union's highest award, the Labour Star, and I am a honorary member of the General Council."
Maharaj's tenure as an officer began in 1973 when he was elected assistant general secretary of the union. During the period he served as secretary he attended several courses in the United States, England, USSR, Paris and Germany.
He was also a member of the Recognition Registration and Certification Board as well as a General Council member of Natuc.
Still rummaging through piles of documents relating to trade union matters, Maharaj said, "Yes, I have retired from active trade union matters, but not from the labour movement."