May Day, or International Workers’ Day, which was two days ago, is a commemoration of the international labour right movement, and is meant to recognise the contributions of the working classes everywhere, but, in the case of Bangladesh, the impact of this day hits even closer to home because of the recent tragedies that have killed and maimed so many of our workers.
Back in 1886, police fired on workers in Chicago, USA – they had held a general strike for an eight-hour workday – and killed four demonstrators. The situation in this country, however, is vastly different, but no less tragic for our workers. The collapse of the Spectra building that killed 64 workers and injured at least 80, the shooting of protesting Bangladeshi migrant workers in Greece, the Tazreen factory fire which killed 112 workers, and, finally the Rana Plaza collapse in which, at last count, 429 have been confirmed dead, and hundreds more injured, come to mind.
The reality is that our country’s workers are often treated little better than slave labour. Migrant workers are even more helpless. Labour rights are nothing more than a joke. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The time is now to throw the door wide open on worker abuse, and force the public to sit up and take notice. The time is now to bring corrupt practices to a halt, to keep the spotlight shining on all abuses that go on, so as to prevent all liable parties from sweeping them under the rug.
Let this be a reminder to stand beside our fellow workers in support, and work towards ensuring their labour rights. Let us truly embrace the purpose of International Labour Day. Besides, if it hadn’t been for such workers who made a stand, we might all still be working as virtual slave labourers. Something to think about.