Monday, 11 June 2007

A Great Memorable Day for Workers – The Labour Day

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Press Statement: 26 April 2007

The 2007 May Day Organizing Committee would like to invite all working men and women from Johor Bahru and southern Johor area to attend a peaceful assembly on the coming 1st May.

The program will start from 10am, at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru. It is not only to celebrate the eight-hour workday that our predecessors had fought for, but also to defend the basic rights that belong to all. The Labour Day Organizing Committee is a non-partisan group consisting of non-government organizations and political parties from the southern region of Johor that are concerned about the well-being of the workers and democracy. The Committee will demonstrate the very tradition and spirit of the Labour Day in Johor Bahru this year.

Since 1994, we have been upholding the tradition and spirit of the Labour Day dated back to 1st of May 1886 by way of holding major assemblies of the working class to put forward their demands. The workers in the United States of America at the time worked for 14-16 hours a day, some even up to 18 hours while merely earning low wages. On 1st of May 1886, workers from the U.S.A. and Canada staged a major strike to force the capitalists to implement the eight-hour workday standard. Despite endless attacks and suppressions from the capitalists and the government, the workers’ perseverance in the struggle eventually won them the eight-hour workday.

The Labour Day is to commemorate the working class of the past who made efforts to fight for basic rights, such as eight-hour workday which had been deprived by the capitalists. This serves to inspire the present and future working men and women to carry on with the spirit and to better the achievement of the predecessors. This is the true tradition and spirit of the Labour Day.

Half a century after we achieved Independence, the well-being of the people should be the priority and the rights of the people should be respected. However, the basic rights of the working class are still being jeopardised. Urban pioneers/settlers, being the low-income group in the urban area, are deprived of the fundamental right of adequate housing, as illustrated in the recent Kg Berembang case where houses were callously demolished. Factory workers are forced to work over-time while the right to unionize is being suppressed by the employers. Prevalent sexual harassment and gender discrimination in work places ceaselessly threaten female workers. Plights of foreign labour being cheated and bullied are widely reported. Privatization policies to be implemented will no doubt further deteriorate the living condition of workers. Hence, May Day Organizing Committee 2007 has made “50 Years of Independence, Workers Remain Enslaved” as the theme of the Labour Day celebration this year.

Presently, the employers make use of the Labour Day vacation to organize carnival-like activities for their employees, in the hope that the workers will eventually forget about the traditional spirit of the day. The capitalists will coerce workers into longer working hours in the name of increasing productivity, thereby causing physical exhaustion and mental depression among workers.

1st of May in the year 1994 was a historic day for workers in Malaysia. More than 3000 people, consisting mostly of estate workers and urban settlers, held a large-scale demonstration at the Merdeka Square. Main organizers of the event included CDC (Central Development Committee), JSPB (Committee of Urban Pioneers Support) and Alaigal (meaning in Tamil – “continuous struggle”), who have been involving themselves in the struggle for equal rights of the oppressed and marginalized groups in our society.

Since then, the celebration has been successfully held on May Day every year. The theme of celebration of each year is shown below:

1994 – Estate Workers and Urban Settlers Are Entitled to Housing Rights; Abolish Forced Eviction
1995 – Estate Community Should Be Included in the Rural Development Plan
1996 – For “Monthly Wage Campaign”
1997 – People Want Justice – Wage, House/Land and Inflation
1998 – Economic Crisis: Employer Are Protected, Workers Are Oppressed
1999 – Malaysian Workers Want Genuine Change
2000 – Workers Want Minimum Wage Act
2001 – A Just Development for All
2002 – Return Us Workers’ Rights: Wage, Job and Union
2003 – Capitalists’ War, Workers in Destitute
2004 – Workers for Genuine Democracy
2005 – Globalization Jeopardizes Workers’ Rights; Stop Privatization of Water and Hospital
2006 – Stop the Privatization of Water Supply and Healthcare Service
2007 – 50 years of Independence, Workers Remain Enslaved

Although the theme of the celebration differs each year, we have been consistent in our principal position, that is, to express the aspirations of workers and to demand for workers’ rights regardless of social circumstances.

The world history of the Labour Day shows that workers’ rights, including the freedom of assembly, were obtained by persistent and unrelenting struggles. Prior to 2003, the Labour Day celebration was carried out without police permit. However, the police took the initiative to grant the celebration an assembly permit in 2003. This shows that the police could have granted the assembly permit without our own application. After years of effort, we have successfully overcome numerous obstacles, including the repression by the authority. There is now new democratic practice of allowing the annual celebration of workers’ day without any permit.

2007 May Day Organising Committee,

Salleh 016-7524355
Nazman 013-7437472
MoonHui 012-7209981


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