Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘International Labour Day 2009’

International Labour Day 2009

I see only hope

Today is May 1, 2009, International Labour Day and with the ongoing recession a deeply poignant one for all of us who labour. Today, business houses large and small, multi-national and national all around the world are in disarray, shutting down or struggling to survive. One vital component of production, labour has been a sad victim of this economic tsunami.

The situation is indeed grim, if not sorry and it’s only the capitalist who is making hay under the guise of recession.

My memory takes me back some years. To me sitting on a hard wooden bench with my elderly uncle. He was telling me how much his generation had fought for all these labour laws which we young people now take for granted, and he warned, that if we didn’t learn about our collective history and the need to protect our rights, it will be only a matter of time that they would all be taken away. And that day is finally upon us.

We as a lobby are crippled. We the ‘labour movement’ stand before the alter of the capitalist, head bowed, our hands and feet in shackles.

Most people say India is experiencing a boom time, it is riding high on the ‘outsourcing’ way, millions of offices are being closed in the US and Europe and their jobs outsourced to economically ‘cheaper’ destinations like India. India has a growing mass of young people entering the job market, with a minimal education of a graduation and no skills, they are being absorbed and the industry is hungry for more. Young people, fresh out of college, minimal skills and reasonably well paid, compared to the income of people a wee bit older. Loads of disposable income keeps these young people happy, shopping, partying, infatuated with the latest gizmos, but most importantly, stupid and ignorant of their role and position in the larger labour picture.

Today’s labour force is naive and unorganized, unschooled in its collective history and strength, unappreciative of its bargaining power. Everywhere you go you see huge corporate offices, glitzy and glassy, housing millions of workers, but these companies have no unions. Their labour less organized than the ‘unorganised sector’.

A perpetual optimist, I think this recession has brought numerous benefits. It has been a wake up call to millions of consumers in America and Europe, it has sounded the alarm bells and roused industries from their sleep. I think it has a wake up call for us too. Us the ‘Labour Force’.

Only today I saw pictures of protesting labour breaking into buildings and smashing the furniture in corporate offices. I could see their pent up anger, frustration, even rage. Their desire to fight back, to be recognized and heard, for their interests to be protected, and while I am no active supporter of violence, in their action I see hope. I see the sleeping giant of the ‘Labour Force’ waking up.

I sincerely hope this fire spreads to India, this awareness, this experience of strength in collectivity.  We in India are a young force, a power house with tremendous strength; we are a crucial ‘centre’ for rapid economic development. We can become a crucial centre for labour consciousness.

If you are a worker, whether in India or abroad, don’t sit by and flip on from blog to blog.

  • Start reading up about your rights and duties as a worker.
  • Read up about what your country’s legislations do for you.
  • Get to know about International Labour Laws.
  • Get to know about what the labour sector goes through in other countries.
  • Get involved in the Union at your company. Help set up one if there isn’t.


“Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to loose but our chains”, incase you didn’t know it, that quote is not by me, but by a great man named Karl Marx, who foresaw our plight a hundred years earlier.

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