Monday, 1 October 2018

Happy Labour Day!

It's always good to have a day off work, and public holidays are a great way to enshrine the balance between life and work into law. Labour Day is unique along public holidays in that it celebrates this victory for the rights of workers.

Yet it's another day off.

We don't really celebrate labour day here, not in the sense that we celebrate Anzac Day or Christmas. There's no reminder of what importance the day has, nor what it was like before for workers.

Yet it's another day off.

What was fought for and won by the labour movement is more important than ever at a time when wages are stagnant and working conditions are gradually being eroded in the name of efficiency (i.e. shareholder profits). We have a proven way to give better working conditions and help share the success of the economy among the people.

Unions should be using this as an opportunity to show their relevance, especially at a time when they are only ever in the media when there's corruption or strikes. Without collective bargaining, the forces of supply and demand fix wages. Unskilled or low-skilled work is vulnerable to tougher conditions, lower pay, and exploitation.

Yet it's another day off.

We need more attention given to why it is we have this day off because without that attention there's too much power for those who can gradually erode the gains made by the labour movement. We are seeing the effects of that already, and as technology and globalisation continue to push forward, we will see greater effects.

It's no wonder MAGA was a thing, or Brexit was a thing, or that far-right national parties around the world are taking more and more of the protest vote of vulnerable workers feeling betrayed and marginalised by a political system that seems to serve the wealthy. It's no wonder many young people see communism as a solution despite every implementation of communism being a dismal failure that made workers worse off than a market-driven economy.

Yet it's another day off.

Every company wants to maximise its profits, and that means trying to get the most out of the workers for the least amount of money. The human capital - our wellbeing and our lives above and beyond work - doesn't factor into it. That's our responsibility, and we can only get that as a greater society reflecting on itself.

Labour Day is important because it's a reminder of how everyone can be made better off by collective action, and that we as a society ought to be having the conversation of how we want to live. It's a reminder that conditions can improve and that we aren't fully beholden to the relentless pursuit of profit.

It's another day off, and that's worth celebrating.

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