|Thursday, 1 May 2003|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : email@example.com
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardana Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 1 429429 / 331181
Fax : 94 1 429210
May Day reflections
Putting the worker right back into May Day seems to be the foremost task confronting everyone concerned with worker interests, as the country gears for another round of May Day related activities today. That this is the need of the day, is by no means a new discovery.
For some time now it has been felt that May Day celebrations in this country have had little to do with worker welfare - the prime focus of the originators of May Day or Workers' Day, in the West more than a century ago. The criticism holds that in Sri Lanka, May Day celebrations are seized by the majority of political parties and their trade unions to engage in just another round of political sloganizing and verbal lambasting of political adversaries. The politics of the day figure prominently once again, almost totally eclipsing issues pertaining to the interests of the workers.
While pointing to the degree to which the Lankan polity has been divisively politicized, these tendencies are a reflection also of the extent to which worker interests per se have been sidelined in the action programs and agendas of many political parties and their trade unions.
In saying this we do not intend to make a case for the clear separation of politics and worker issues. This is an unrealistic proposition, for, on the existential plane there is, very often, an intertwining of the two spheres. Advancing worker interests has been very much the stuff of everyday politics. In fact politics impinge very sharply on people's lives. In a highly politicized State such as ours, one's political leanings, for instance, could determine one's worldly welfare. There is no denying this fact.
However, there are issues which are peculiar to the working class of this country and which need to be sharply focussed on and campaigned for at least on the day which is dedicated to the workers of the land. Here's where many a trade union fails. The possibility of failure is great if it is linked to a major political party and this is very often the case.
As far as the masses of this country are concerned, it is the "rice and curry" issues which are of the utmost importance. The rising cost of living continues the dog the workers at their heels. It is the bounden duty of every trade union, worthy of this characterization, to work towards the alleviation of this burden. They are also duty-bound to campaign tirelessly for better living and working conditions for the masses. If these issues do not figure in the agendas of entities calling themselves trade unions, they have failed in their essential undertakings.
What needs to be probed is whether the growth model favoured by successive governments in this country, have led to a relative neglect of worker interests. Investment is, no doubt, important for economic advancement. So is human labour; for man is destined to live by the "sweat of his brow."
Produced by Lake House