Labour Day on 1 May has taken on great significance as a national holiday in Botswana. It is also referred to as Workers Day or May Day, but whatever name it goes by, it is a day to focus on workers’ rights and the empowerment of labour unions.
|2020||1 May||Fri||Labour Day|
|2021||1 May||Sat||Labour Day|
In recent years, government workers have been allowed to unionise, whereas in the past they were barred from doing so. Major changes took place under the New Public Service Act, which commenced on 1 May 2010. Some have claimed unfair firing practices by the government, but the new measures are meant to curtail abuse of public sector employees.
Also, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions is seeing more and more unions join so that the goal of a united workers front to “speak with one voice” is becoming more of a reality. Government workers get Labour Day and other national holidays as paid days off, and some private sector workers do too.
The origin of the holiday is the 4 May 1886 Haymarket Massacre during a labour protest in Chicago, USA. As the world industrialised in the mid to late 1800’s, the dismal working conditions in many factories led to a protest movement.
The Haymarket Massacre became a key moment in the movement, leading to the establishment of Labour Day, then called “International Workers Day”, to demand things like an 8-hour work day, safer working conditions, and increased pay.