A few rallies mark insipid Labour Day

May 1st, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) Labour Day, once an occasion to bring most of India’s organised workers together, was a relatively insipid affair around the country Thursday, with trade unions organising a few rallies. Governments in the Communist-ruled states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura observed a holiday. There were small trade union rallies in some towns besides a candle-light rally by sex workers in Kolkata demanding recognition as organised labour.

It was a government holiday in Maharashtra too, but that was because it is the foundation day of the state.

In Bhubaneswar, journalists observed Labour Day as a holiday. So there will be no local newspaper in the city Friday morning.

Delhi Auto Union president A.N. Mansoori said May Day had taken a new turn now. “Workers and trade unions now demand that the economic reforms must have a humane face.”

Added Pradeep Kumar, president of the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd Staff Union: “Labour Day has lost its influence, with corporate and contract culture weakening workers’ unions.”

Activists say that an overwhelming majority of India’s labour force is in the unorganised sector. Most of them work long hours but don’t get minimum wages. And they hardly have any unions.

“What can Labour Day mean for them? They have no social security. These are the people for whom the government needs to do something,” said one activist.

Labour Day originated after a trade union mobilization on May 1, 1886 in the US in sympathy of Chicago meat workers’s demand for an eight-hour working day led to violence and many deaths. How many remember it today?

Of the 15 youths in Kolkata who were posed this question, nine did not know.

“I don’t know the history of Labour Day and I am not bothered either. It is an extra day off and I want to hang out with my friends,” said 22-year-old content writer Paroma Roy.

“Labour Day is celebrated to give an extra holiday to the labourers,” said 20-year-old bricklayer Sanjay Mondal.

Those who did know the history found the concept irrelevant.

Software developer Nilanjan Laha, 25, said: “Labour Day has no significance in the current context. It was observed in demand of an eight-hour work day. Nowadays how many of us can claim eight hours of work? We have to work for a minimum of 14 hours. The job market is so tough that we can’t even revolt.”

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