May Day and the Struggle to Regulate Working Hours

May 1st recalls the historic Haymarket Square incident and is known around the world as International Labour Day or May Day. The day is extremely important since it represents the struggle of workers to secure their rights. Despite being adopted by several countries, the idea of reducing working hours to improve social welfare remains a pipe dream for many in India. Instead, we witness a growing trend of extending working hours in the pretext of enhancing productivity, particularly in the textile and electronic industries.

The Importance of International Labour Day

  • Respecting the labour movement: International working Day is an opportunity to recognise the working movement and the contributions of workers worldwide.
  • Employees’ rights: The day is an occasion to honour employees’ hard-won rights, such as the right to fair salaries, safe working conditions, and the right to organise unions.
  • Advocating for workers’ rights: International Labour Day also serves as a platform to raise awareness about the importance of protecting and advocating for workers’ rights, particularly in countries where labour laws are weak or non-existent.
  • Recognising the significance of labour unions: Labour unions have been instrumental in gaining better working conditions and benefits for workers. The efforts of labour unions are recognised and honoured on International Labour Day.
  • Promoting social justice: The day advocates for fair treatment of workers regardless of their gender, colour, or other factors that may lead to discrimination or exploitation.
  • Struggle remembrance: International Labour Day is also a chance to reflect on historical labour battles and the sacrifices made by those who battled for workers’ rights.
  • Building worker solidarity: The day promotes worker solidarity by urging workers to band together to promote their rights and push for better working conditions.

What are the causes of the growing trend of longer working hours?

  • Companies are under pressure to work longer hours in order to stay up with worldwide competition and maintain their market share.
  • Cost-cutting: Instead of hiring more workers, employers may lengthen working hours to save money and increase productivity.
  • Increased demand: As the demand for goods and services develops, businesses may feel compelled to work longer hours to keep up.
  • Technology advances have made it easier to work remotely, leading to an expectation of being available and connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Employers may offer more flexible schedules, but with the assumption that employees will work longer hours to finish responsibilities.
  • Economic growth is prioritised by mainstream economists, even if it comes at the expense of labour and human rights. They believe that expanding exports and working longer hours will contribute to economic prosperity.
  • Subsidies and exemptions: To attract global and local capital, regional governments offer subsidies and exemptions, and businesses may prefer weaker unions in exchange for these benefits.

What are the worries about longer working hours?

  • Adversely Influencing Health: Extending working hours can cause physical and emotional tiredness, stress, and burnout, all of which can harm workers’ health. As a result, absenteeism, accidents, and medical costs may increase.
  • Diminished Marginal Productivity: As the number of hours worked increases, the worker’s efficiency and productivity may drop, resulting in a decrease in output quality. It can also reduce workers’ quality of life because they have less time for family and leisure activities.
  • Increased Working Hours: Increasing working hours can be a breach of workers’ fundamental rights since it denies them the right to rest and leisure, which are vital for their physical and mental well-being.
  • Increased working hours might lead to job insecurity since firms may replace workers with automation or outsourcing to save money. It may also result in wage decreases because companies may argue that they are paying for additional working hours.
  • Increased Working Hours Have a Negative Impact on Women Workers: Increasing working hours might disproportionately harm women workers, who may be responsible for household tasks and childcare. Long working hours can result in a loss in physical and mental health as well as an increase in workload, which can have a negative impact on their family life.

Why is it vital to set work hours?

  • Workers’ health protection: Working long hours can be harmful to workers’ physical and emotional health. It can cause exhaustion, stress, sleep disturbances, and other health problems.
  • Improving workplace safety: Overworked employees may get weary, increasing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. Working hours might be regulated to help promote a safe and healthy work environment.
  • Promoting work-life balance: Working long hours can have a negative impact on employees’ personal lives, diminishing their time with family and friends and limiting their capacity to participate in other activities outside of work. Working hours can be regulated to promote a good work-life balance.
  • Improving Productivity: Studies have shown that working long hours can reduce productivity and increase errors and accidents. Employers can ensure that their employees are well-rested and productive by restricting working hours.
  • Preserving workers’ rights: Working hours regulation is a critical component of preserving workers’ rights. It aids in the prevention of exploitation and guarantees that workers are adequately compensated for their time and labour.

@the end

May Day commemorates the struggle of workers for their rights. In this setting, India must prioritise labour welfare and limit working hours to boost social welfare. The government must ensure that labour rules are not eroded, and trade unions must band together to preserve workers’ rights. Multinational firms must be held accountable for training their employees and not taking advantage of the cheap labour available in developing countries. Only then will India be able to progress towards inclusive and sustainable development.

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