Thursday, April 19, 2018 | ePaper

Historic May Day and some important questions

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Kazi Liakat Hossain :
The historic May Day is being observed today throughout the country and elsewhere in the world as a mark of respect to workers, who shed their blood for the establishment of the rights of the working class in 1886. On this day 131 years ago, the workers of the Hay Market of Chicago City, U.S.A sacrificed their lives for ensuring eight hour working day for them. Since then, the day is observed all over the world as the day of solidarity with working people.
Three years later, the Second Socialist International Paris decided to designate May 1 as the day for expressing solidarity of working people in memory of Hay market martyrs. A number of countries around the world observed the day as National Holiday with rallies and meetings.
The new major step in the labour front was the establishment of International Labour Organization (ILO) three decades after the decision to observe May Day internationally.
The ILO was established in 1919 to promote social justice for working class everywhere. It formulates international policies and programmes to help improve working and living condition, creates international labour standards to serve as guidelines for national authorities in putting those policies in action. The problems of labour and consciousness about labour rights did not come over night. In fact, the history is as old as civilization. At the beginning, everyone worked with one's own hands. The society came to divide between the rich and poor representing the exploiter and the exploited. The exploited humanity gradually turned into slaves.
They were put to hard labour and labour looked down upon. At one stage slavery was formally abolished, but vestiges remain. The dignity of labour is yet to be fully restored. The labour movement has a proud heritage in Bangladesh. The country is a signatory to the ILO convention and has a number of legislations for labour welfare. The government is also keen on improving lot of working class and their concern extends even to spheres, where the labour is not organized. Self-styled labour leaders particularly after the emergence of Bangladesh have sprung up only for the lip service of the labour force.
On this great day some searching questions haunt the minds of those who really feel for the just causes of the working class. Why extraneous elements have found place as representatives of the labour class?
Why and how they seized opportunity to create a place of there own outstripping the leaders from their own work place? Why bargaining agents failed to occupy their rightful position and are not representing the workers? Why the government in the past fiddled with fate of helpless lot by creating more than one union? What is the achievement of the government in creating confidence and restoring industrial peace harmony?
The answers to all these questions are negative. The questions need to be answered. The four party Alliance Government closed down the biggest Adamjee jute Mills, their workers have been made totally jobless. This decision of the past Government was unwise and it was criticized by the conscious people of the country. Labour management relations are at its lowest ebb. Let the workers representative emerge from the same work-place instead of borrowed leadership. This concept must be changed for the restoration of congenial environment conductive to uninterrupted operation of all industrial establishments. The labour unions in most of the cases have become unreasonable and come up with fantastic demands only to help in the closure of the units. It must be understood that better employer employee relations can only ensure productivity and welfare of the workers.
They can not always think in terms of agitation, strikes and gherao-jalao tactics ingrained into their minds by a section of labour representatives who are acting at the behest of vested quarters only to cause industrial break down in our country. The wages invariably have to be linked with productivity and the demand for higher wages cannot reasonably be pressed without increasing output.
The working atmosphere has to be made conducive, peaceful for women workers too. The efforts to remove economic and social causes for swelling number of Child labour have to be identified. Corruption in labour directorate has to be handled very seriously.
The Savar disaster jolted the country and the world also. In our country the poor labours are always neglected, they don't have their wages properly and timely.RMG workers should be given their rights to open trade union in all sectors. To stop this type of disaster particularly in the Garment sector steps should be taken immediately. Garment owners must follow the government's building code. If anybody violates the code, he should be brought to book.
In fine, it is our earnest appeal to government and world community labour unrest in Bangladesh should be brought under control by paying their dues regularly and timely.

- The writer is a columnist, national english dailies

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