May Day

May Day International labour day (May 1). It originated from the bloody First of May event and subsequent incidents that took place in the streets of Chicago in 1886. On May 1, a labour organisation called an industrial strike, demanding a maximum eight hours of work every day, enhanced wages, better work environment etc. The strike was suppressed by brutal means. On May 3, the Chicago police fired on striking labourers who had assembled in a protest meeting and killed six labourers. In a consequential protest gathering at Hay Market on the following day, the mill owners exploded a bomb blast in the meeting, resulting in the deaths of four more labourers. A leading labour leader, Mr. August Spice, was sent to the gallows for the offence of organising the strikes.

The International Socialist Congress held on 14 July 1889 designated May 1 as Labour Day, and since then the day has been observed by labouring classes in many countries. May Day has assumed a special significance after the Socialist Revolution in Russia and subsequent revolutions in some other countries. The rights of labourers were recognised by the founding of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an important auxiliary organ of the UNO. The ILO has established some conventions calling upon management and workers of all countries to abide by them, thereby conserving the rights of workers as well as those the management. Bangladesh is a signatory to the Conventions set up by the ILO.

Most socialist countries observe May Day with all seriousness and determination. But observing the day as a public holiday is not confined to socialist countries. A few non-socialist countries also observe May Day as a public holiday. Bangladesh is one of them, though hardly 15% of the country’s work forces are employed as workers. In Bangladesh, the Day is observed with many ceremonies, such as ‘Good Will’ messages from the head of the State and of the Government and also of the relevant labour Ministry sent to workers. Meetings are held recapitulating the significance of the May incident at Chicago; newspaper supplements are issued exhorting people to consider the sanctity of the day; labour processions are organised with colourful festoons and headwear; discussions are arranged in the print and electronic media, and so on. Initiatives for all these are normally taken by the government, a phenomenon that is quite uncommon in a non-socialist country. On this day, workers arrange rallies and processions not to demonstrate their grievances, but to celebrate the victories that they had been able to achieve in the past. [Sirajul Islam]

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