Some questions on May Day

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Category : Kazi Liakat Hossain

Kazi Liakat Hossain
The historic May Day is being observed today throughout the country and elsewhere in the World as a mark of respect to the workers, who shed their blood for the establishment of the rights of the working class in 1886. On this day 119 years ago, the workers of the Hay Market of Chicago City, USA sacrificed their lives for ensuring eight hour working day for them. Since then, the day is observed all over the world as the day of solidarity with working people.

Three years later, the Second Socialist International in Paris decided to designate May 1 as the day for expressing solidarity of working people in memory of Hay Market martyrs.

The new major steps in the labour front was the establishment of International Labour Organisation (PLO) (three decades after the decision to observe May Day Internationally. The ILO was established in 1919 to promote social justice for working class everywhere. It formulates international policies and programmes to help improve working and living conditions, creates international labour standards to serve as guidelines for national authorities in putting those policies into action. The problems of labour and consciousness about labour rights did not come over night. In fact, the history is as old as civilisation. At the beginning, everyone worked with one’s own hands. The society came to be divided between the rich and poor representing the exploiter and the exploited.

The labour movement has a proud heritage in Bangladesh. The country is a signatory to the ILO convention and has a number of legislations for labour welfare.

Self styled labour leaders particularly after the emergence of Bangladesh have sprung up only for the lip service of the labour force. On this great day, some searching questions haunt the minds of those who really feel for the just cause of the working class. Why extraneous elements have found place as representatives of the labour class? Why and how they seized opportunity to create a place of their own outstripping the leaders from their own work place? Why did Bargaining Agents failed to occupy their rightful position and are not representing the workers? Why the government in the past and even the present one fiddling with fate of the helpless lot by creating more than one Union? The answers to all these questions will be in the negative.

Having closed down the biggest Adamjee Jute Mills, their workers have been made totally jobless. This decision was unwise and criticised by the conscious people of the country.

Labour management relations are at its lowest ebb. Let the workers, their representatives emerge from the same workplace instead of borrowed leadership. This concept must be changed for the restoration of congenial environment conducive to uninterrupted operation of all industrial establishments.

The labour unions in most of the cases have become unreasonable and come up with demands only to help in the closure of the units.

It must be understood that better employer-employee relations can only ensure productivity and welfare of the workers. They cannot always think in terms of agitation, strikes and Gherao-Jalao tactics ingrained into their minds by a section of labour representatives who are acting at the behest of vested quarters only to cause industrial breakdown in our country. The wages invariably have to be linked with productivity and the demand for higher wages cannot reasonably be pressed without increasing output.

The efforts to remove economic and social causes for swelling number of child labour have to be intensified. The celebration of May Day this year under democratic dispensation should inspire all those connected with labour movements, to have and act in a manner that does not jeopardise production at any cost.

The so called champions of labour welfare must also realise the gravity of the situation and help in resurrecting the fragile economy of Bangladesh at a time when the foreign aid and investment climate is not so favourable.

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