Every year, May Day (May 1) is celebrated the world over to commemorate the social and economic achievements of the labour movement. This is a special day for all the workers as it signifies freedom and dignity of labour. The movement started off with the idea of workers’ holiday in Australia as far back as in 1856. That set the tone for later developments to make the workers’ life more comfortable. Many perople have the wrong notion of equating May Day with political protests, but it is a day to highlight the labour movement. The Day has come a long way from the Haymarket affair that started with a three day general strike in Chicago participated in by labourers, artisans, merchants and immigrants. In the police firing that followed four strikers were killed. Twelve died during the strike including seven policemen, and four of the anarchists were publicly hanged. Since then May Day has been celebrated to mark this occasion and to pay homage to those who lost their life fighting for the rights of the labourers. This has ever since been an impetus for the workers for their rights with the value of labour recognised.
May Day is marked globally and also holds significance for the Nepali labour movement. Even now we find many labourers working for more than the stipulated eight hours per day. The employers are expected to provide them with paid holidays and other benefits. Humans cannot be expected to work without basic amenities. The constitution of the country guarantees basic rights to the workers, including the minimum basic wages, and commensurate facilities. In solidarity with the workers in other countries, the Nepalese workers mark this day too and take stock of the achievements they have made, and also what more they can do to ameliorate their lot. Even now the workers mostly work on a daily wage basis, and their existence is virtually from hand to mouth. Besides, the wages they are paid are a pittance as compared to neighbouring countries, not to talk about the developed West.
The workers should be provided with the opportunity for advancement, and their toil be duly recognized. At the same time, there should be a harmonious relationship between the employers and the workers, and both the sides should see each others’ point of view. Both the employers and workers must respect each other as they complement each other in every activitity. However, in Nepal’s case we see violations of the requirements as enshrined in the constitution. The employers must abide by the commitments that they are obliged to adhere to considering the workers remuneration, and working condition and other such labour related issues. The labourers on the other hand should not make unreasonable and unfair demands. However, as their future grows with economic prosperity and social advancement, it is in the interest of all to take these into account. The private sector too should be made to abide by certain norms and conditions that are in the interest of the labourers. Thus, as Nepali workers too celebrate May Day today, let the ultimate sacrifices made by their predecessors impress on them.