Labour Day in Pakistan & other countries

 

Labour Day (Labor Day) celebrates workers' achievements in many countries including in Pakistan. ©iStockphoto.com/danishkhan
Labor Day (Labor Day) celebrates workers’ achievements in many countries including in Pakistan.
©iStockphoto.com/danishkhan

Labor Day (Labor Day) is a public holiday in Pakistan that is marked by rallies, marches, processions, labor/worker union sessions and organized street demonstrations. It is sometimes referred to as May Day and is annually held on May 1.

What Do People Do?

Labor unions throughout Pakistan organize seminars, rallies and parades where union leaders deliver speeches emphasizing the history of Labor Day and its importance. Workers and unions arrange street processions, and this portrays solidarity with workers around the world.

Pakistan is a developing country but the current scenario has improved compared to previous times. However, workers still do not enjoy as many rights as enjoyed by workers in more developed/industrialized countries. Many organized street demonstrations take place on Labor Day, where workers and labor unions protest against labor repression and demand for more rights, better wages and benefits.

Public Life

Labor Day is a public holiday in Pakistan on May 1. All government and non-government organizations, factories and educational institutions remain closed. Laborers may willingly work on Labor Day, with or without payment of higher than normal wages.

Public transport may be less frequent on certain routes. Those wishing to travel in Pakistan via public transport during Labor Day should check with the local transport authorities before travelling. Many important avenues and streets are blocked to accommodate Labor Day parades and processions. Therefore, there may be traffic jams at certain times of day on certain routes.

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Background

Pakistan’s first labor policy was devised in 1972, in which May 1 was declared an official holiday. This policy also formulated the creation of the Social Security Network, Old Age Benefit Schemes and Workers Welfare Fund. Pakistan’s constitution also contains various provisions and articles about labor rights.

It is important to note that Pakistan became a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) right after its independence in 1947. The ILO is a United Nations (UN) specialized agency that promotes social justice and universally acknowledged human and social rights. Pakistan has ratified 36 ILO conventions of which eight are core conventions.

Symbols

There are no specific symbols associated with Labor Day in Pakistan. Images of hammers and sickles are frequently seen on placards and banners carried by workers during Labor Day parades and rallies.

About Labor Day in other countries

In the United Kingdom, May Day is still celebrated in many towns with the crowning of the May Queen. Maypoles can still be found in some towns and May Day traditions may include hobby horses and local people dressed in costumes.  In Oxford, traditions are upheld for May Day celebrations, starting with the choir of Magdalen College singing from the top of the chapel tower.

Labor Day stems from the efforts of the labor union movement to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. In Mexico, it is referred to as Primero de Mayo, and is a national holiday honoring workers. Some groups organize parades or protests to promote and protect workers’ rights.

Public Life

May 1 is a national holiday many European countries including (but not exclusive to): Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.  It is also celebrated in countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica and Panama, and in some parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba. It is also a national holiday in Mexico. In South America, it is observed in countries such as: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. May 1 is also a national holiday in the Russian Federation and Asian countries such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Labor Day holiday, or Labor Day, is celebrated in the United States and countries such as Australia and Canada at different times of the year.

About May Day/Labor Day

Originally a celebration of spring and the rebirth taking place in nature, May Day dates back pagan cults that worshiped trees and other symbols of nature. Traditionally, May Day is characterized by the gathering of flowers and the fertility rite of dancing around the maypole. In recent years, particularly in socialist and Communist countries, May Day has become a labor festival honoring the military and industrial efforts of the country.

The eight-hour movement to reduce the working day from 10 to eight hours began after the Civil War. It was a major aim of the National Labor Union, whose first congress met in 1866. By 1868 congress and six states passed an eight-hour legislation. In 1884 the National Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Assemblies decided to call for a general strike on May 1, 1886, to enforce demands for employers to observe the eight-hour day. In 1947, amidst the anti-Communist Cold War hysteria, the US Veterans of Foreign Wars renamed May 1 as “Loyalty Day” and a joint session of Congress later made the pronouncement official.

In many countries, the May 1 holiday was obtained by trade union agitation supported by socialist parties. However, in Germany where such agitation had proved fruitless, it was instituted in 1933 as a gift from Hitler, being promptly followed by the abolition of trade unions. In the United Kingdom, a May Day Bank Holiday was instituted in 1978 for trade unionists to celebrate, but was held on the first Monday in May to minimize the damage to business.

In China, Labor Day was extended to 3 days during the 1990’s. The Chinese government made it a seven-day holiday by moving the prior and upcoming weekends together with these three days. This holiday allowed millions of Chinese people to travel during this period. The Chinese government reduced this holiday period down to one day in 2008, while simultaneously reviving three traditional Chinese holidays: the Dragon Boat Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Symbols and Superstition

Many ancient customs associated with May Day come from the old Roman festival of flowers. These include gathering branches and flowers, choosing or crowning a May Queen and dancing around a bush, tree or decorated pole (the May Pole). The sports and festivities held on this day symbolize the rebirth of nature as well as human fertility. In Spain, a tall pine tree is used as a Maypole. It is decorated with ribbons, beads, and eggshells as people dance around the pole and sing May songs.

 

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