Workers day South Africa which is otherwise known as May Day all over the world is a chance to commemorate the labourers of every nation, and the contributions they make towards the growth of the nation. There is a lot of history about this as labourers across the globe are appreciated, and their struggles acknowledged. Truth be told, it has not always been easy.
Workers day 2019 like any of the years before, is a commemoration of workers struggles and a celebration of the strides made in the sector as far as protecting their rights go. Employees have come a long way from working very long hours to reduced hours of 8 hours daily.
Reasons why we celebrate May 1st
To appreciate why these celebrations are done, a bit of background on how the date came to exists is important. Western countries have struggled with getting shorter working hours for their employees. The struggle dates back to 1800s. It was not until 1884 that the Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions in America and Canada came to an agreement that 8 hours make an acceptable working duration for any labourer.
They also settled on May 1st as the ideal date for the commemoration of labourers. The British labour and socialist leader Tom Mann, upon visiting in 1910, criticised the South African Labour Party for neglecting the African workers, urging the white labour movement to think of a way to organise African labourers. This was the beginning of the labour journey in South Africa.
World War 1 in August 1914 had severe consequences on the development of socialist labour politics in South Africa. In 1913, there was a mine-employees strike, coupled with the strike by railwaymen known to support the war and those who were anti-war. As such, the Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) was formed in 1916, and in 1917 May Day got new international importance because of the Russian Revolution.
The ISL organised a May Day rally in South Africa, where Horatio Mbelle, an African; an articled clerk, was billed to be among the speakers. Unfortunately, the rally did not happen.
History and background
In 1916, May Day was a small affair, celebrated by a social and a visit to the graves of employees killed in the 1914 strike. It was not until 1928 that May day was taken up by many Africans. This year saw a lot of African labourers take part in the labour march. During the 64th anniversary of May Day, in 1950, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) called for a strike on that date to protest against the suppression of Communism Act. The strike led to police violence that caused the death of 18 people across Soweto.
In barely 2 months, CPSA forcefully dissolved, prompting the ANC to take over the planning for the “day of mourning” to remember those who died in the strike. The Congress of the People followed soon after in 1955 and the Freedom Charter was started. This consolidated the alliance of all anti-apartheid forces.
It was not until 1985 that The South African labour Federation Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) was started. This was followed by a demand to change the May day to Workers day and a demand to make it a public event. For those asking, is workers day a public holiday? You now have an idea of the genesis of the celebration.
Importance of workers day
According to history, this celebration originated from the struggle of workers to get fair employment terms. It is also a chance to remember those that fought against racism and discrimination as well as those who fought for equal rights at the workplace and outside. The history of fighting for workers rights to the extent that these rights are now enshrined in the constitution has not been an easy journey. It is worthy of celebration. Check out the different pictures of workers day in South Africa to know just how important this date is for many employees out there.
Workers day South Africa is a special date for labourers just as it is in most countries across the globe. It is important to celebrate the small wins as you fight for better deals in the future. So why do we celebrate labours day? Now you can tell everybody about it!
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