Bangabandhu Declared May Day as National Day in Bangladesh

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Published on May 1, 2024
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May Day is an important day for workers around the world. This day reflects the history of the labor movement and pledges to build a fairer, more just society. In keeping with the original spirit of May Day, having the right to form trade unions is undoubtedly a vital aspect of labor rights for workers in Bangladesh and around the world to organize and voice their support for the empowerment of the working class. On May 4, 1886, in the Hay Market of the city of Chicago, United States, in the context of the shooting of 10-12 workers who were agitating for 8 hours of daily labor and killing 10-12 workers, World May Day was celebrated. Then they had to work 12-14 hours. In 1889, the International Federation of Socialist Groups and Trade Unions jointly decided to celebrate May 1 as International Workers' Day.  

One practical aspect of realizing the significance of May Day is providing a platform for workers to come together to unite the workers of the world and demand a change in conditions. What we know as the historic May Day is the International Workers' Day. The day is celebrated worldwide on May 1 every year to commemorate the long struggle and achievements of the global labor movement. The day has its roots in the historical struggles of workers, who have fought for better working conditions, fair wages, and the right to organize for centuries. He sacrificed his life. All over the world, workers have played an influential role as catalysts for interest movements.

The ongoing struggle to build a society based on equality, human dignity, and social justice is expanding the field of implementation. Involved in the Bangladesh Liberation War and the role of labor movement. Bangladesh is one of the largest sources of labor in the world, and billions of workers are engaged in various industries at home and abroad, such as textiles, agriculture, etc. Bangladesh Garment is the second largest garment exporter in the world after China. The Rana Plaza accident on 24 April 2013 killed 1,175 workers and injured over 2,000, making it the third worst industrial accident in world history.

This incident had a severe negative impact on Bangladesh's labor market. As we face the many challenges of the 21st century, May Day is a driving force in the ongoing struggle for workers' rights and the fight for a more just and equitable society. Recognizing the fundamental role of workers in society and ensuring fair treatment and economic security for them enhances the significance of May Day. Workers around the world are historically marginalized. Workers continue to face multiple forms of exploitation, unsafe working conditions, and denial of fundamental rights and other ancillary benefits. The traditional May Day labor awakening paves the way for workers to be given the dignity and due respect they deserve by ensuring that issues are resolved.

This day of the international labor movement and realization of labor rights has been celebrated worldwide for years. Hundreds of countries worldwide celebrate May Day as a national holiday in honor of workers. But how much do they know about this day? Many workers do not know its history. May Day was celebrated in the camps of freedom fighters during the Great Liberation War in 1971, showing respect for the rights and demands of the workers. May Day got national recognition after independence. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared May Day as National Day in his address to the nation on the occasion of the great May Day. Since then, May Day has been celebrated with due dignity.

The primary purpose of celebrating this day is to make workers aware of their rights. So that they can learn about the true history of May Day and establish their rights; however, the purpose for which we celebrate May Day can be questioned regarding its success. It is pretty standard to come. Workers can present their demands to the employers or the government. The distance between the workers and the owners is reducing a lot. Labor laws must be strictly enforced. Additionally, worker-friendly laws should be made that speak for the interests of workers. This will develop a non-discriminatory labor union in Bangladesh, and Bangladesh's economy will move forward. 1886 to 2024. 138 years of movement for the dignity, value, and fair wages of labor and reasonable working hours.

Human society and civilization have changed a lot in the last 138 years. However, the answer to this question is still to be found. Even though so much progress has been made, how far have workers' rights been established? May Day has been celebrated as a public holiday in Bangladesh since independence. The primary demand for 8 hours of work on May Day has been implemented in the case of more than 2.2 million government officials and employees. However, crores of private workers still do not get the benefits of 8 hours working day. Instead, 10 hours of work is being arranged strategically. Working people are trapped by low wages to such an extent that workers are now forced to work overtime; otherwise, it is impossible to make ends meet. Increasing worker's labor, time, and use of machinery.

As a result, working hours and production are increasing. Unemployment is increasing along with it. Every year, 20 to 22 million youths come to the labor market looking for work, of whom only two to three million can be employed by the state. After that, 7 to 1 million people migrated to work abroad. The rest try to find work in the country somehow. Out of the 63.4 million working people in the country, about 30 million work in the agricultural sector. Where there is no work for more than three months in a year, they try to survive through various types of informal work. Apart from this, 40 lakh workers are in garments; Over 3 million in the construction sector; 50 lakh in the transport sector; Over 1 million store employees; Jute, tea, leather, weaving, re-rolling, motor mechanic, salt, shrimp, media, hospital-clinic, bookbinding, hawker, rickshaw driver, easy-bike driver, security guard are working in various sectors.

1 crore 2 lakh of the labor force work in the formal sector and the rest in the informal sector. Although there is a system of determining the minimum wages of the workers of 43 sectors through the wage board, the remaining crores of workers are made to work on the principle of no work or no wages. There are numerous legal and extra-legal barriers to workers' organizing. Due to automation, many labor-intensive tasks will be mechanized. Machine power will reduce human labor. As a result, more production will be produced in less time - despite this expectation, in reality, the labor time of the worker is not reduced. The influx of women in the industry has increased, but they must bear the double burden of motherhood and household work. Overwork at work and monotonous family work are squeezing women's labor force. Workers are the majority but weak and exploited in the conflict between profit and wages.

 As a result, despite the increase in the production of food products and practical goods worldwide, people are suffering due to the increase in the price of goods. Nutritious food items are going beyond the reach of the common man. As a large part of the income is spent on food, rent, clothing, and medical treatment, there is no saving, and the worker can't spend extra to acquire skills. But the government is working for the welfare of the workers. The legal framework has been strengthened to improve and protect their quality of life. The government is working to ensure minimum wages for workers commensurate with the cost of living, job security, and recognition of labor welfare and trade union rights.

Besides, effective initiatives have been taken to eliminate the wage disparity between male and female workers. In addition to the government's initiative to build a cordial relationship between workers and employers, the government has increased workers' minimum wage in 40 sectors out of 43 industrial sectors in the country by 100% and set it at 8 thousand 300 taka. Bangladesh is an agricultural-based economy country. Along with converting agriculture into industry, the government has recognized those engaged in agricultural work as laborers. Measures have also been taken to prevent planned sabotage in the garment industry and accidental accidents in factories. For this purpose, the legal framework has been strengthened regarding labor law policy, elimination of child labor, protection of domestic workers, and provision of occupational safety.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the Awami League government is following the footsteps of the father of the nation and is implementing various programs to improve the quality of life and welfare of the country's working people. May 1st, 1886, is the historic day of glorious sacrifice to establish the rights of working and toiling people worldwide. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, struggled for the rights of the exploited, deprived, and working people throughout his life. He formulated the labor policy in 1972 to establish a society without exploitation. He strengthened the country's economy by nationalizing abandoned factories and ensuring fair rights for workers.

Bangladesh Labor (Amendment) Act-2018 has been enacted to modernize and modernize the Bangladesh Labor Act to ensure a safe working environment, social security, and labor welfare by maintaining harmony and good relations between employers and workers. Bangladesh Sramik Kalyan Foundation has been formed to ensure the welfare of workers in various sectors of the country. From this fund, any worker gets financial assistance in case of permanent disability or death due to an accident while working, emergency medical expenses, and treatment of terminal illness, and also for the higher education of workers' children.

We have formed a central fund to provide financial assistance for the overall welfare of workers in the export-oriented garment industry and continued cooperation. Salaries and allowances have also been increased for workers in all sectors. National Labor Policy-2012, National Child Labor Elimination Policy-2010, National Occupational Health and Safety Policy-2013, Bangladesh Labor Rules-2015, and Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2015 have been formulated to ensure the social status, health, and safety of workers, which has been able to prove Bangladesh as a country of stable industrial relations and emerging economy in the world. As a result of the government's sincere efforts, Bangladesh's relations and activities with the International Labor Organization have become more robust.

The Directorate of Inspection of Factories and Establishments has been upgraded to a Directorate to ensure industry compliance. The Department of Labor has been converted into a Directorate to expand and strengthen various services for the welfare of workers and their families. A 24/7 toll-free helpline (16357) has been launched to receive complaints, resolve complaints, and provide necessary advice to labor brothers and sisters regarding any problem. Proper inspection and monitoring systems are ongoing to ensure safety in industrial factories, especially in the garment industry.

Besides, the National Occupational Health and Safety Research and Training Institute is being constructed in Rajshahi as part of efforts to provide a decent working environment for workers. Inspired by the ideals of the Great May Day, workers and employers will maintain good relations and be dedicated to increasing national production. Through the welfare of the working people and the country's overall development, the developed and prosperous golden Bangladesh of the dream of the father of the nation will be created.

Writer: Hiren Pandit; Researcher, and columnist.