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Empowering the Workforce

International Labour Day and the Ongoing Quest for Equality and Dignity
12:00 AM May 01, 2024 IST | Rameez Rasool Mir
empowering the workforce

Every year on May 1st, International Labour Day, also called May Day or International Workers' Day, is observed to acknowledge the significant role of workers in society's development. Its origins date back to the Haymarket Riot in 1886, where clashes between police and workers occurred. Many nations globally commemorate this day to advocate for justice, equality, and fairness for the labouring class.


This day holds immense importance across various sectors, symbolising the crucial contribution of labourers to societal progress. Discussions on workers' rights persist, with many facing unsafe working conditions and inadequate recognition. It's imperative that we, as a society, recognise and respect the labouring class, as their role not only benefits society but also sheds light on broader societal issues.




International Workers' Day presents an occasion to show appreciation for the efforts of workers in constructing infrastructure and delivering crucial services to society. It also serves as a reminder to acknowledge the challenges and movements of workers in advocating for their rights and better working conditions.


In the contemporary era, disparities in social standing persist among workers in various industries and nations. May Day provides a platform for these workers to amplify their voices and call upon policymakers and politicians to prioritise social justice.


The Legacy of Labour Movements


Laws to Protect Workers: Labour movements fought for laws that made sure workers were treated fairly. These laws include things like getting paid a minimum wage, not working too many hours, getting paid extra for working overtime, and having safe workplaces. They also fought for the right for workers to join together in unions.


Workers Joining Together: Labor movements helped workers form groups called unions. Unions help workers talk to their bosses as a team to ask for better pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces.

Weekends and Holidays: Labour movements worked to make sure that workers get days off to rest and spend time with family and friends. They wanted people to have time for fun and relaxation.

Money for When You're Old: Labour movements worked to make sure that when people get old and can't work anymore, they still have enough money to live on.

Healthcare at Work: Labour movements fought to get healthcare for workers and their families. This means that when workers get sick, their job helps them pay for a doctor to get better.

Stopping Discrimination: Labour movements fight against treating people unfairly at work because of things like their race, gender, where they're from, or who they love.

Protecting Kids: Labour movements made sure that kids were not forced to work in dangerous jobs. They want kids to go to school and play, not work like adults.

Safety Rules at Work: Labour movements pushed for rules that make sure workplaces are safe. They want to make sure nobody gets hurt while they're working.

Fair Trade: Labour movements want things to be made and sold in a fair way. They don't want people to be treated badly while making things.

Having a Say in Laws: Labour movements try to talk to people in charge to make sure laws are fair for workers. They want to make sure everyone has a good life at work and at home.

The Unseen Struggle of India's Working Families:

In India, many people work hard in jobs like factories and construction, but their lives are really tough. They don't have proper safety measures at work, and they don't get paid much or regularly. This means it's hard for them to support their families and plan for the future. They have to work long hours just to make ends meet, and they don't have much time for fun or to spend with family.

A lot of these workers didn't get much education, so they can't get better jobs with better pay. They often live in crowded places with not enough schools or hospitals nearby. Plus, they're always worried about losing their jobs because there's not much security.

All this stress doesn't just stay at work—it affects their families too. And because they don't have much power, they can't really ask for better treatment or pay.

But things could be better. If workers got paid more, had better job security, and could access education and support, they could have better lives. And that's important because they're not just workers—they're people who deserve respect and a chance to be happy and healthy.

Empowering Workers:

Speak Up for Better Laws: Ask leaders to make fair rules for workers' rights, safety, and pay. Make sure they enforce these rules well and add new ones to keep workers safe and treated right.

Join Together in Unions: Encourage workers to team up and form groups called unions. Unions help workers ask for better pay, benefits, and safe workplaces. Support them!

Learn and Grow: Tell people about programmes where workers can learn new skills for better jobs. Everyone should have a chance to learn and earn more.

Tell Others: Let people know about the problems workers face, especially those who are struggling. We can all help each other and make things better if we stick together.

Hold Big Companies Accountable: Make sure companies treat workers fairly, pay them well, and keep them safe. They should listen when workers speak up.

Support Local Efforts: Help out with community projects that aim to make things fairer for everyone who works, no matter where they come from or what they do.

Help with Money Matters: Teach people about managing money and getting bank accounts. Everyone should be able to plan for their future and take care of their families.

Ask for Help When Needed: Tell leaders we need programmes to help workers with healthcare, childcare, housing, and money when they're out of work. We all deserve a safety net when times are tough.

In conclusion, International Workers' Day serves as a poignant reminder of the tireless efforts and essential contributions of workers worldwide. From advocating for fair wages and safe working conditions to striving for equality and social justice, the labour movement has left an indelible legacy. Despite the challenges faced by many working families, there is hope in collective action and solidarity. By amplifying their voices, supporting unions, and advocating for better laws and workplace conditions, we can strive towards a more equitable and respectful society where every worker is valued and empowered. Together, let's continue to stand up for fairness and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live well and be respected.

Author is a professional social worker.