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International workers' day or labour day celebrated worldwide

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On May 1, in 1886, ten workers were killed by police opening fire on a demonstration in Chicago, USA. They were demanding an eight-hour working day instead of a 12-hour shift. This agitation on their part eventually forced the relevant authorities to accept their demand and the eight-hour day work schedule. This was gradually introduced in almost all countries in the world. Since then this day, also known as the International Workers' Solidarity Day, is commemorated across the globe and greatly respected for the manner in which it honours the rights of working people.

In Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had fought for the rights of the working people throughout his life. Bangabandhu was a true friend of working people and therefore, after independence, 'May Day' received state recognition and he declared May Day a public holiday. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also demonstrated her keenness towards ensuring compliance with regard to establishing workers' rights-including providing them with fair wages as well as ensuring a safe and hygienic working environment-to attain the requisite sustainable development goals (SDG). This measure has been followed to help enhance productivity.

There have been good steps but many workers have still not yet been ensured conditions of work, including occupational safety and health, wages and hours of work. This has drawn, on many occasions, the attention of the relevant international institutions. It is strongly believed that safer working conditions that ensure dignity for our workers, as part of human rights obligations, will assist us in our efforts towards greater socio-economic development. It would also be appropriate to take note that trade unions and political parties should not use this scenario to advance their own political ambitions. 

Being imbued with the spirit of the May Day, the workers and owners should both devote themselves towards increasing the national production. Simultaneously, the government should also force the owners to ensure safety and restore the working friendly environment in the factories.

In this context, one needs to have a broad view in the manner in which important nations -- both developing and developed, including middle-income countries --  celebrate Labour Day on May 1. 

In Egypt, May 1 is known as Labour Day and is considered a paid holiday with the President of Egypt traditionally presiding over the official May Day celebrations.

In South Africa, Workers' Day has been celebrated as a national public holiday on May 1 each year since 1995. It has its origins within the historical struggles of workers and their trade unions internationally for solidarity between working people in their struggles to win fair employment standards and more importantly, to establish a culture of human and worker rights and to ensure that these are enshrined in international law and the national law.

In Belgium, Labour Day has been observed on May 1 as an official holiday since 1948. Various socialist and communist organisations hold parades and other events in different cities. 

In Denmark, the day is not an official holiday, but a variety of individuals, mostly in the public sector, construction industry, and production industry, get a half or a whole day off. It was first celebrated in Copenhagen in 1890.

In France, the day is a public holiday. It is, in fact, the only day of the year when employees are legally obliged to be given leave, save professions that cannot be interrupted due to their nature (such as workers in hospitals and public transport). Demonstrations and marches are a Labour Day tradition in France, where trade unions organise parades in major cities to defend workers' rights.

In Greece May 1 is an optional public holiday. The Ministry of Labour in that country retains the right to classify it as an official public holiday on an annual basis, and it customarily does so. The day is called "Workers' 1 May" and celebrations are marked by demonstrations in which left-wing political parties, anti-authority groups, and workers' unions participate.

The first May Day celebration in Italy took place in 1890. It started initially as an attempt to celebrate workers' achievements in their struggle for their rights and for better social and economic conditions. Over the years a "1st of May Concert" is organised by Italian labour unions in Rome and it has become an important event in recent years. Every year the concert is attended by a large audience of mostly young people and involves the participation of many famous bands and songwriters, lasting from early afternoon until midnight.

May Day, also known in Russia as the "Day of International Workers Solidarity, the 1st of May" was celebrated illegally in the country until the first legal celebration took place in 1917.  In 1991, which preceded the last year that demonstrations were held in Red Square, May Day grew into high-spirited political action. Around 50,000 people participated in a rally in Red Square in 1991 after which the tradition was interrupted for 13 years. In the early post-Soviet period, the holiday turned into massive political gatherings of supporters of radically minded politicians. Since 1992, May Day is officially called "Spring and Labor Day", and remains a major holiday in present-day Russia.

After the death of Francisco Franco in Spain in 1975 and the move towards democracy, the first large rallies on May 1 began again in 1977. It was re-introduced as a public holiday in 1978. Commonly, peaceful demonstrations and parades occur in major and minor cities.

May 1 has been an important part of Swedish history since the late 19th century. The day was declared to be a public holiday in 1938. Recognising the central contributions of workers and international worker solidarity in Swedish social, economic, political and cultural development, May Day demonstrations are an important part of Swedish politics and culture for social democrats, left parties, and unions.

In Switzerland Labour Day is an official "day off". This is equal in practice to an official public holiday, but is not based on federal law and cantonal regulations may differ in details. The largest Labour Day celebrations in Switzerland are held in the city of Zurich. On that day the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions organises a festival and May day rally. It is the largest rally held on a regular basis in Switzerland.

A public bank holiday in the United Kingdom is known as May Day. It was created in 1978 and is held on the first Monday in May each year. There are many traditional rites and celebrations, some of which have been held for hundreds of years. However, it was not until the late 20th century that May Day in Great Britain became linked to International Workers' Day, and the holiday is not officially a "Labour Day".

In India, Labour Day is a public holiday held on every May 1. The holiday is tied to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties. Since Labour day is not a national holiday, Labour day is observed as a public holiday at the discretion of State Governments.

International Labour Day is observed in Pakistan on May 1 to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers. It is a public and national holiday. Many organised street demonstrations take place on Labour Day, where workers and labour unions protest against labour repression and demand for more rights, better wages and benefits.

In Sri Lanka, May Day was declared a public, bank, and mercantile holiday in 1956. Since then, the government has held official May Day celebrations in major towns and cities, with the largest being in the capital, Colombo. During celebrations, it is common to witness party leaders greeting the crowds. 

May Day, also referred to locally as Labour Day in Indonesia, was first observed as a public holiday from 2014. Every year, on this day, labourers take to the streets in major cities across the country, voicing their demands for better financial support by different Ministries.

In Singapore, it is known as Labour Day and is a public holiday.

May 1 is a statutory holiday in the People's Republic of China. It was a three-day holiday until 2008, but was only one day between 2008 and 2019. It was restored to three days after 2019. During Golden Week, surrounding weekends are rescheduled so that workers always have seven continuous days off.

May Day is not officially designated by the Japanese government as a national holiday, but as it lies between other national holidays, it is a day off work for the vast majority of Japanese workers. Many employers give it as a day off, and otherwise workers take it as "paid leave". It is quite clear from the above descriptions that this is a significant day that is generally honoured all over the world.

This year, Bangladesh has also been part of the world's observance of the day with all its connotations. However, there are certain dimensions that need to be addressed -- sooner than later. Journalist Muhammad Yeasin has reported that the Labour Appellate Tribunal is being run without a Chairman for quite some time, causing sufferings to the justice-seekers.

This is important because such a functional Tribunal renders the opportunity to file an appeal to the Labour Appellate Tribunal against any Labour Court judgement. However, absence of a Chairman at the Labour Appellate Tribunal has made the scenario difficult. The media has reported that at least 1,107 cases are currently pending with the Appellate Tribunal. 4596 with the Dhaka first Court, 5,273 with the Dhaka second Court, 4,005 cases with the Dhaka third Court, more than 2,000 cases in Chittagong Courts, 214 cases with the Khulna Court and 415 cases with the Rajshahi Court.

Such a scenario is obviously unfortunate. Bangladesh should take necessary measures urgently to correct and remedy the situation.

Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance.
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