May Day 2023, Workers Unite for Better Working Conditions

In the face of rising workers’ rights abuse, a ray of hope in this annual celebration of the working class.

May Day is an international celebration of laborers and the working class every year on the 1st of May starting from 1890. This day is viewed as a national public holiday in many countries, including India. Each May Day sees workers’ rallies and protests as a show of the strength of the working class to demand better working conditions.

France has been facing huge protests over the past few weeks due to their new pension reforms which raised the minimum age of retirement from 62 to 64. Union groups across the country claim to mobilize hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of protestors against the reform on May 1st, and the authorities have prepared in kind. The French protest included sanitation workers refusing to work, and the burning of the Bordeaux town hall in March.

Similarly, in England, The Royal College of Nursing participated in its biggest walkout ever, affecting half of England’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts. However, to ensure the “preservation of life and limb”, the RCN reached a national agreement to provide healthcare in some key areas by meeting the minimum standards of coverage and the legal requirement on trade unions. The walkout happened because of stagnant wages despite an increase in workload and dangerous conditions following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen joins the protest

South Korea now bears witness to a 100,000-strong rally in what is being called the biggest May Day gatherings since the pandemic. Participants are calling for the increase of the minimum wage, to properly punish corporations for industrial accidents, and demonstrating against the government’s anti-labor policies and their union-crushing practices. 

Indonesian workers, still angry at the new Job Creation Law, a law which the workers claim will benefit the companies at the expense of its workers, gathered at the National monument with the labor group flags flying high, marching towards the Constitutional Court and the Presidential Palace, demanding the law be repealed. Similar protests across the country called on the government to help and support Indonesian migrant workers overseas and prevent the ongoing human trafficking and slave labor still rampant in the country.

The current protests all across the world for better working conditions are an extension of the true purpose of May Day. The protests, demonstrations, and strikes of the workers and their supporters led to many laws and regulations that we enjoy today, like the 8-hour work day, 5-day work week, various workplace safety regulations, Prevention of Child Labor, prevention of Slave Labor, Minimum Wage, and many more. 

What will make the workplace a better place for us in the present, and for those in the future, is continued support for the workers who protest against predatory practices like mandatory overtime, or the gig economy just to name a few. Legislatures in several countries have been loosening around corporations, which is allowing many companies to cut corners on product safety, environment safety, and worker safety. If there is no opposition to such a lack of regulations, it will only result in more pain, suffering, and deaths of the people on whose backs our countries and economies are balanced.

Leave a Comment