A Brief Background On Workers’ Day

by IAN MAPIRA

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A Brief Background On Workers' Day

Zimbabweans have always celebrated the Workers’ Day year after year. Some enjoy it because they don’t like being at work and others it’s an opportunity for a prolonged stay with their family. Trade unions and political parties have taken advantages of the Workers Day to position themselves in the people and sell their ideologies to the Zimbabwean public. However do the people know the history behind 1 May as a Workers Day holiday? Do they actually know what it is they are celebrating today?  This article takes you back to the origins of the Workers’ Day.

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Workers’ Day originates from the struggles by workers against 1800s working conditions in the United States of America. During the 1800s, workers had 10 to 16 working hours under poor conditions. Deaths and injuries were common during this era due to unsafe conditions in industries. There was no labour legislation in the country and wages were very low. This prompted the working class to agitate for the shortening of working hours to 8 hours.

Trade unions were formed and workers went on strike in a fight against the poor working conditions. Among the trade unions formed during the nineteenth century were the Federation on Organised Trades and Labour Unions and the National Labour Union. The National Labour Union vowed to continue fighting until their eight hours became the standardized working hours.  The Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions made a declaration that after 1 May 1886 eight hours shall become the standardised working hours.

During the implementation of the eight hours as the normalized working hours trade unionists were arrested and some of the demonstrators were killed or injured. Today many countries celebrate the workers day which led to better working conditions for the working class.

In Zimbabwe, the colonial times saw inequalities in wages between the black people and the white people. The black people were paid lower wages than the whites. Strikes against poor working conditions suppressed during the colonial period.

Today, the gap on wages between the black people and people has been closed. The Zimbabwean population now celebrates the day that changed the working conditions for the laborers worldwide. Trade unions meet to discuss on issues that affect workers in Zimbabwe on this day.

 

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