MP COLUMN: May Day is a reminder of the battles for workers' rights

This weekend saw the celebration of May Day and a bank holiday, as well as success on the pitch for Ashington Football Club who won the Northern League Division 1 League Cup – a great achievement to all involved with the club.

By Ian Lavery, Wansbeck MP
Friday, 6th May 2022, 6:00 am
May Day celebrations taking place previously in Northumberland.
May Day celebrations taking place previously in Northumberland.

Although May Day is associated with the old pagan fertility festival, the celebration of the festival is nowadays driven by the celebration of victories won in the battle for workers’ rights and a reminder of the battle workers face each day to protect those hard fought rights that dates all the way back to the late 19th century and the fight for an eight hour day.

300,000 protesters arrived in Hyde Park alone to show their solidarity in what marked an immense display of collectivism that was so instrumental in winning over many of the rights that today we all too often take for granted and part of the awakening of working class organising that eventually led to the founding of the Labour Party led by the great Keir Hardie.

Since then, May Day has often been a date that symbolises the class struggle all across the world from India to Sweden to Chile to Spain, where the holiday was re-embraced in the late 70’s following the death of the fascist Franco who banned the holiday over fear of the threat organised workers posed to his fascist regime.

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Today the symbolism and message of May Day is as relevant as it has ever been.

We have a government who are more than happy to turn a blind eye as large corporations use the current disruption of the pandemic and our exit from the European Union to rip up existing workers’ rights, motivated by nothing more than their destructive averous and greed.

This includes the rise of fire and rehire, which the Tories could have stopped by backing Barry Gardiner’s Private Members Bill which they refused to do, as well as the 800 seafarers working for P&O Ferries being fired without warning via a pre-recorded zoom call to be replaced with cheap agency workers from abroad being paid less than £4 an hour without so much as a slap on the wrist for the government.

The eight hour day, the weekend, maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, and much, much more are not God given rights.

They are the result of blood sweat and tears from previous generations and May Day is a reminder of just how fragile they are – especially with this government in charge of the country.