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May Day: Solidarity and empathy amid Covid-19

  • Published at 12:49 pm May 1st, 2021
RMG worker Dhaka
A woman at work in a garment factory in Dhaka Dhaka Tribune

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have issued separate messages marking the day

The historic May Day is being observed on Saturday as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic which has rendered millions of workers jobless across the world in recent months.

In normal times, the day is a public holiday in Bangladesh and marked with a slew of events. But there are no outdoor events this year, like 2020, as the country battles the second wave of the virus.

May Day, also called the International Workers' Solidarity Day, commemorates the historic uprising of the working class in Chicago for an eight-hour workday.

This year, the theme for this historic day in Bangladesh is “Sramik-Malik Nirbisesh, Mujib Borshe-Gorbo Desh” (workers and employers will join hands to build the country in Mujib Year).

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages ahead of the day.

President Hamid called upon the owners of mills and factories to assist the government in standing by the vulnerable workers bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

He paid gratitude to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for struggling throughout his life for the underprivileged people.

"Bangladesh received ILO membership soon after independence in 1972 under the bold leadership of the Father of the Nation and ratified 29 conventions, including six core conventions of ILO,” he added.

Prime Minister Hasina also remembered the role of Bangabandhu in establishing the rights of the exploited and the working-class people.

"Bangabandhu formulated labour policy 1972 in order to establish an exploitation free and equal society. He nationalized the mills and factories to strengthen the economy while ensuring the rights of the workers," she said.

The premier said her government is working relentlessly to establish the rights of workers.

"Our government has established 100 special economic zones, which will generate employment for more than one crore people," she said. "We allocated Tk8,600 crore for workers’ wage to combat the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister said the government has allocated Tk50 crore to Labour Directorate to implement the social safety program for the unemployed and distressed workers.

Ten workers were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration in Chicago demanding an eight-hour working day instead of a 12-hour shift on May 1, 1886.

The authorities were eventually forced to accept the workers' demand, which resulted in an eight-hour day universally.

On July 14, 1889, an international workers' rally in Paris declared May 1 as the International Workers’ Solidarity Day in recognition of the Chicago workers' sacrifice.

The day has been observed globally as the International Workers’ Solidarity Day since 1890.