International Workers Day

International Workers’ Day


1 May marks the celebration of Workers’ Day in South Africa. The day celebrates the role played by Trade Unions, the Communist Party and other labour movements in the struggle against Apartheid. The day is recognized internationally, and carries different meanings in each observed country.


What is the Purpose of International Workers’ Day


The purpose of International Workers’ Day is to celebrate the labourers and the working classes, the ones that are promoted by the international labour movement. In the past year there have been multiple worldwide demonstrations against austerity, for better wages and against secret trade deals.


It is meant to educate the working class about their right to freedom of association by forming trade unions. The share of well paid jobs is shrinking daily and though employment in the public sector used to be well-protected, more than half of the workers are now in unstable jobs. Women hold most of the lowest paid and least protected jobs.



The History of International Workers’ Day


1 May was announced as an official national public holiday following the first democratic elections in South African in 1994. International Workers’ Day (also called May Day), is widely celebrated, there are around 80 countries honouring the day and what it stands for.


Though it is a fairly recent observance in South Africa, the history of the day goes back to the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. The police attempted to disperse a large crowd of striking workers that were protesting for shorter work hours. Though events escalated, it was not until 1891, after successful annual demonstrations on 1 May around the globe, that Workers’ Day was formally recognized in the official calendars of many countries.


The adoption of this observance is to emphasise the need to establish fair labour practices. Though this holiday deserves much more fuss than it currently receives, it is a constant reminder to governments of the power of the working class.



How Can You Become Involved in International Workers’ Day


Tweet it or Facebook it, share with us the way you are spending your well-deserved day off! Sit back, relax and enjoy not going to work, celebrate all the hard work you do. Look out for events in your area, join in and commemorate those who fought for the freedom we have today.



Written by: Ryette Dempsey

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