Editors' Choice In case you missed it World

Wed 01 May 2024:

International Labour Day 2024: Every year on May 1st, the world comes together to celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as International Labour Day. It’s a day dedicated to honouring the contributions of working people in every industry and sector. It’s not just about celebrating their hard work, but also empowering them to be aware of their rights.

In many countries, Labour Day is even a national holiday. This allows organizations to launch special campaigns focused on improving the lives of their employees – a true testament to the value placed on the workforce.

Origin of International Labour Day

The origins of International Labour Day can be traced back to the late 19th-century labour movement in the United States. The specific date of May 1st was chosen to commemorate a nationwide strike for an eight-hour workday that commenced on that day in 1886. This pivotal event, however, culminated in the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, a regrettable incident where a labour protest escalated into violence. A bomb explosion resulted in the loss of life for seven police officers and at least four civilians.

One pivotal event in the history of Labour Day is the Haymarket Affair, which occurred in Chicago in 1886. On May 1st of that year, workers gathered in Haymarket Square to peacefully demonstrate for an eight-hour workday. However, the protest turned violent when a bomb was detonated, leading to casualties among both police officers and protesters. 

Today, while working conditions have improved globally and after a year of heavy industrial action, workers are amidst various transitions as the imperative to shift towards more sustainable industries and economies is combined with rapid technological advancements and geopolitical fragmentation impacting supply chains. These transitions require more collaboration between stakeholders in order to be managed successfully and in ways that promote shared prosperity.

Celebration of Labour Day has a sense of urgency for renewed commitment to social justice, as we navigate through the complexities of our time, including climate change and the rapid evolution of the workplace due to technological advancements. These challenges have not only tested our resilience but have also underscored the indispensability of concerted efforts and solidarity in promoting the welfare of workers across all sectors.

Government pays tribute to South Africa’s workers

As South Africa joins the rest of the world in celebrating International Workers’ Day, government has paid tribute to all workers, especially frontline workers who continue to provide essential services on this public holiday.

Celebrated annually on 1 May, International Workers’ Day or May Day, pays tribute to the historical struggle of workers and their trade unions for solidarity and fair employment standards.

This year’s International Workers’ Day is commemorated under the theme: “30 Years of Freedom”.

This year also marks the 133-year anniversary of May Day, a testament to the enduring legacy of the labour movement.

In South Africa, the journey began with the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) in December 1985. The union’s demand for May Day to be recognised as a public holiday and renamed Workers’ Day was heeded by approximately 1.5 million workers.

The workers were joined by thousands of learners, students, taxi drivers, hawkers, shopkeepers, domestic workers, and self–employed and unemployed people.

Despite being banned in advance by the apartheid government, rallies were held across the country with the majority held in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging area, now known as Gauteng.

Workers’ Day has been officially acknowledged and commemorated in South Africa since the inaugural democratic government in 1994.

The Department of Employment and Labour said the day serves dual purposes – a celebration of workers’ rights and a poignant reminder of the pivotal role that trade unions, the Communist Party and other labour organisations played in the struggle against apartheid.

“Workers’ Day in South Africa carries its unique cultural significance. The public holiday has come to symbolise not only the sacrifices made in an arduous journey towards fair employment standards but also the fierce battle against apartheid, where trade and labour played a crucial role,” the department said in a statement on Wednesday.

Given that South Africa’s working classes were the most oppressed under apartheid, the department said the fight for improved working conditions and the battle to dismantle systematic segregation became inextricably linked.

“Prior to the 1994 elections, labour and trade groups frequently used Workers’ Day as a rallying symbol against segregation and oppression of the apartheid regime, organising demonstrations and fostering widespread resistance. This day serves as a testament to their resilience and determination,” the department said. 








Think your friends would be interested? Share this story! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *