Salute to workers!

Labourers carry a giant log on their shoulders at Customs Terminal in Khulna district ahead of May Day.File Photo

International Workers Day, often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of labour and working classes, promoted by the international labour movement.

In 1889 the Marxist International Socialist Congress (ISC) met in Paris and established the Second International for political reasons. They adopted a resolution for a “great international demonstration” in support of working class demands for the eight-hour day. The date had been chosen by the American Federation of Labour (AFL) to continue an earlier campaign in the US, which had been the cause of a general strike beginning on 1 May 1886. In 1904, the Sixth Conference of the Second International called on all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day. This date was chosen for the spring festival.

Dark secrets still lie behind the smiling face of a worker. Most of them are not getting their due respect, wages, bonus, and eight-hour work

The first of May is a national, public holiday in many countries. The United States and Canada celebrate it on the first Monday of September. Celebration on 1 May has two views. On one hand, May Day is known for maypole flowers and welcoming spring. On the other hand, it is a day of worker solidarity and protest. As TIME explained in 1929, to old-fashioned people this day means flowers, grass and clean frocks. To the up-and-doing Socialists and Communists it means speeches, bombs and conscientious violence.

The first of May 1886 became known as the Hay Market Affair. A total of 400,000 workers participated in this movement. It was a bloody day. The person who threw the bomb was never identified. One of them was sent to prison for 15 years.

The May Day holiday commemorates the achievements of the labour movement. Workers have proven their strength of unity and brought about a remarkable revolution. They gathered together for their rights and they established a standard eight-hour work day. They created history. Labourers are availing facilities because of their ancestors' great movement. Dark secrets still lie behind the smiling face of a worker. Most of them are not getting their due respect, wages, bonus, and eight-hour work. A worker is your dream money machine. By utilising their skills, time, energy, sweat, people are grabbing success.

Islam plays a significant role for the protection and promotion of labour rights. Allah (SWT) ordains not to overburden the labourers. (28:27 Bukhari). General guidelines are provided by the Holy Quran regarding rest and leisure. These are basic rights (28:73, 33:53). According to the Quran - wages are a right, not a favour or kindness from the owner. The Quran says, “those who believe and perform honourable deeds (good work) - their earnings will never be withheld from them (95:06)”. According to the Bible (Deuteronomy 24:14) - Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy. Whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your town (NIV). Proverbs (14:23) - All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (NIV).

We all are workers. We make an effort to make our home, society, community a wonderful, safe, secure and a peaceful place to live now and for our next generation. This is not possible without the person we called worker. Our existence depends on them. You have to provide them a safe and secure working place, have to look after their health and hygiene. During COVID-19, mental health is getting worse, so you have to work on improving mental health. Do good and good will return to you. Do not believe in words only but believe in action.

The Father of the Nation believed in skilled manpower. He himself paid labourers to bring a smile to a worker's face. He paid labourers to make this country a “Sonar Bangla”. He paid respect to all, so do we. All workers should be respected at all times.

Salute to workers! Happy May Day!

* Sharda Zaman is a columnist and works as an invigilator, Exam Services, British Council, Dhaka