Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your Bank Holiday.
WORKING people are the engine of the world. The work we do, the services we provide and the money we earn (and then spend) drives the economy.
But we don't always get a lot of thanks for it. The profits of our labour don't tend to be shared out as much as they could, and while we may be fuelling the economy, we don't always feel the benefit of it.
I know, I'm starting to sound a less catchy Dolly Parton when she sings 9 to 5. But this Monday is about more than a well-deserved day off (if you even get the day off - I'm aware many don't). It's a time to celebrate the important contributions working people make.
It is also a good time to reflect on what is needed to improve the economic and social wellbeing for all workers.
For me, May Day is the most important bank holiday of them all.
It isn't a religious day or a state occasion - it is a day given to us in recognition of International Workers' Day.
It was the last Bank Holiday to be added to our calendar, introduced by the Labour government in 1978.
It was a hard won fight - although the notion of a workers' festival on May 1 was already almost a century old.
Even Margaret Thatcher couldn't snatch it back when she came to power the following year.
The day marks some important things - firstly the old pagan one in which peasants who had managed to survive the winter celebrated the beginning of better weather and a hope of making babies. Lest we forget they gave us the maypole - a potent fertility symbol for us all to dance around.
Then came the modern idea of a celebration of organised labour that has come to be known as Inter national Workers' Day.
It was born out of the struggle to gain the eight hour working day.
In the 19th century working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places.
In the 1880s the first unionised workplaces began to declare the eight-hour workday.
Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace.
International Workers' Day celebrates the work that's been done to try to end that for ordinary people around the world.
Unsurprisingly it has come under threat from the coalition government.
As soon as they came into power they announced a plan to scrap the holiday in favour of a 'Britain day' or a national day to mark military victories such as the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Ministers said the move would lengthen the tourist season.
I'm all in favour of them adding in another Bank Holiday. Most people work too hard and it would be good to introduce another public holiday to break up the year.
But May Day is special.
It is our day, as workers, to remember the struggles and the successes of the generations who fought for a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.
Let's celebrate it, and all those who fought to give it to us. Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your Bank Holiday.
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||May 3, 2014|
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