International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day, celebrates efforts to improve workers’ rights
As Thompsons Solicitors celebrates 100 years of standing up for the injured and mistreated, it’s more important than ever to join together to reflect on an incredibly challenging 12 months and remember just how important the trade union movement is, says Thompsons’ head of personal injury strategy, Gerard Stilliard.
“The last 12 months has thrown into sharp focus the vital need for a strong labour movement to challenge a Conservative government that is at best, ill-equipped and at worst, downright unwilling to protect workers throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
“From inadequate supplies of PPE for frontline workers, to major employers capitalising on the crisis to save a few quid through morally bankrupt ‘fire and rehire’ tactics, the pandemic has brought to the fore the risks the working person faces when bad employers are left to their own devices – all because we have a government that would seemingly prefer to focus on dishing out lucrative contracts to its mates than support workers, many of whom put them in power in the first place.
“When you add Brexit into the fray, you’re left with a perfect storm. Many of the hard-earned legal rights won through the work of trade unions over the years are based in European law, which are now the government’s toys to play with since we’ve left the EU. Considering its track record, we’re not confident the outcome will be anything other than bad news for workers.
“But that’s where we, and the trade union movement, come in. The labour movement has fought to challenge bad employers and change the law to improve conditions for workers, helping protect them from injury or mistreatment. As we mark Thompsons’ centenary year, we are more motivated than ever to support those facing a tough 2021 and beyond, working alongside the trade union movement to challenge the government and rogue employers every step of the way.”
What is International Workers’ Day?
Also known as International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day, May Day can be traced back to the ‘Haymarket affair’ in Chicago more than 130 years ago, when tens of thousands of workers went on strike for the eight-hour working day.
Soon after, in May 1890, an international day of demonstrations for workers’ rights was held, with hundreds of thousands of participants in the UK. What began as a one-off protest grew with trade unionism in the decades that followed, evolving into an annual international celebration of the labour movement and workers’ rights.
May Day has been a bank holiday in the UK since 1978, introduced by the Labour government to acknowledge the importance of the labour movement. At various turbulent moments in history, the day has continued to be marked by protests in support of workers’ rights and against the exploitation of workers by capitalism.
Today it serves not only as a celebration of past worker victories, but also as a reminder that more needs to be done to help those who still endure unsafe or unfair working conditions in the UK and elsewhere.
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