The Maldives today celebrates Labour Day, the second time the country has observed the public holiday after it was instituted in 2011 by former President Mohamed Nasheed to promote and protect the rights of workers.
May 1 is celebrated in other countries as International Workers Day, or May Day. The date is celebrated throughout the world and is a national holiday in over 80 countries, during which the rights of workers are promoted through demonstrations and marches.
The day will involve demonstrations by a combination of labour organisations in the Maldives capital, Male’.
Vice President of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM) Mauroof Zakir said that an event was been held this morning between 7:30am and 11:00am at which information was given about the employment act and workers rights in the country.
As well as TEAM, the gathering was also attended by representatives from Solidarity Workers USA and the Asian Migrant Workers Forum as well as members of the Human Rights Commissions of the Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
He also said that another demonstration would be held this afternoon, beginning at 4:00pm at the social centre on Majeedhee Magu from where the group intends to march to the Tsunami monument area at Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu. This march has taken place on May Day for the past two years and Zakir expects between 300 and 500 people to attend.
Zakir described the main concerns within the Maldivian labour movement as being “employment protection, lack of permanent employment, and a rapidly increasing trend of ‘casualisation’. The outsourcing of jobs is also a huge problem.”
“Salaries are being delayed or not paid. This is mostly in the construction industry, but also in the resorts. Workers wages are too low for the standard of living in the Maldives,” said Zakir.
The workers of the state-owned Maldives International Fisheries Company Ltd (MIFCO) are today demonstrating for increased wages amongst other things, reports Haveeru. The local workers had delivered a petition of demands to the company with a deadline of April 25 to which no reply was received.
Amongst the reported demands in the petition, signed by 260 of 354 Maldivian workers at MIFCO’s factory on Felivaru, were calls for wage rises of 35-40 percent, better food and accommodation and equal treatment of all employees.
May Day was traditionally celebrated as a spring festival in the Northern Hemisphere before the day was chosen in 1886 by North American Labour movements to agitate for improved workers rights, with an eight-hour working day the primary focus.
In 1889, the nascent international socialist movement called for a general strike on May 1 as an annual demonstration of labour solidarity. The day was soon recognised throughout Europe as a public holiday but, keen to distance itself from what was viewed as a holiday, the United States chose to celebrate its ‘Labor Day’ in September.
The first South Asian nation to celebrate the tradition was India in 1923 and it is now a national a public holiday. The day is also referred to in India as Maharashtra Day after the day in which the western region attained statehood. On May 1 Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan will all mark the day with demonstrations of workers solidarity.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labour and Employment organised a rally in Dhaka this morning, reports local online paper bdnews24.com. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated a two day long fair in the capital Dhaka to celebrate the occasion.
Large rallies are planned in Sri Lanka today in celebration of the occasion, prompting the deployment of over 10,000 policemen to handle security and control traffic.