Friday, 3 May 2013

May Day - Our Day

On the weekend on May 4-5, across Scotland and the whole of the world, May Day events will be held.  Following a period in which traditional May Day marches and rallies dwindled, real efforts are being made by Trades Union Councils and others to rebuild May Day as a major event in Scottish calendar.

Although the origins of May Day predate 1989, the specific origin of the current May Day holiday lies in the fight for rights at work, and specifically, an eight-hour working day. In 1890 leaders of the recently formed socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890.  This call coincided with the plans of the American Federation of Labor for its own demonstration on the same date.  Thus, while May Day developed as a wider manifestation and celebration of workers power, it retained a clear protest element at different times and different places throughout history.

In the UK, 1 May was made a bank holiday by the Labour government in 1978 and although in 2011 the Tories were reported to be considering scrapping May Day, this appears to have faded from their agenda.  

May Day events have varied in size and significance over recent decades but were particularly important during the miners’ strike.  Scottish May Day events have also been strongly internationalist in flavour. 

This year’s events will bring together two themes.  They will highlight the necessary fight against attacks on workers and trade unions celebrate the role that union reps play in the workplace, fighting for justice, bargaining for fairness as well as making a vital contribution to the sustainable growth in the workplaces in which they operate.

But the events will also highlight the need to unite with the wisest possible community of interest including those who are campaigning against attacks on welfare and the hated ‘Bedroom Tax’. Trade unions have traditionally sought to provide support for such communities and that is precisely what our Congress agreed to do last month when it pledged to work alongside the No2Bedroom Tax and other anti-bedroom tax campaigns in seeking to reverse government policy and to persuade the Scottish Government and local councils to protect those affected.

Stronger unions and stronger communities is the message. May Day provides us with opportunity to bring these things together under the banner of the ‘Better Way’ campaign.

Dave Moxham

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