Why workers should organize Labour Day

By Wanzusi Robert Matukhu

World over Trade Unions are at the center of organizing the Labour Day celebrations because it is their day – they founded it and because it is gazette as an International Day, Government funds it and attends as a social partner together with the employers under the tripartite spirit. Determination of the day’s programme and the theme for each year is the responsibility of workers as guided by their Trade Unions. This is because the day is intended at enabling workers to reflect on the suffering of their fore fathers and on how they responded to difficult times.
The day is supposed to provide inspiration for the workers to maintain the struggle for liberation of the working people against any form of oppression by capital in its hot pursuit for profit even when such pursuit is at the disadvantage of workers. This inspiration aims at helping the workers to generate new energies, value and to cherish each other with an understanding that it is only in Unity and solidarity that they can achieve the set goals and objectives. It is a time for reflection and refocusing on the major purpose for their existence as a Labour movement. No one can organize this day to serve its purpose better than the workers and their Trade Unions themselves and an attempt to maintain the status quo is like Government’s insistence to for instance organize, determine themes and take charge of the programmes for the celebration of the Martyr’s day in Namugongo.
It is like Government determining how Eid Mubarak or Eid el fitr should be celebrated. It is like Government Organizing and issuing Christians with a theme or messages instructing them on how to celebrate Christmas or like Government managing or organizing the International Teachers or Nurses days. Government should only be invited to address the people but not to determine who should speak, for how long and to speak what. Only three years ago Trade Unions even had to beg and plead with Government just to be allowed at least to serve as Assistant Master of Ceremonies during their own day, the day that they themselves founded for posterity. The Master of Ceremonies and Assistants had all along been Government representatives. They pleaded because they wanted to be seen as doing something on their own day because the events at the regional and at the International platforms showed Trade Unions as being in charge of their day and it was being very shameful to the Ugandan Trade Unions.
When finally the Trade Unions are accorded a status of Assistant Master of Ceremonies, they now have to suffer another humiliation by the Master of ceremonies him / herself who wields the power to or not to accord chance for the Trade Union representative to preside. The patronage over the Assistant Master of Ceremonies by the Master of Ceremonies cannot allow the said assistant to exercise his or her right to freedom of expression. He/she is reduced to simply recognizing the Trade Union leaders present, announcing the workers and school children on parade not forgetting to participate in the already composed song of praising Government and employers just in case the microphone is withdrawn and he/she may never be given another chance to speak. Even before completion of that humble assignment by the Master of Ceremonies, the Microphone gets withdrawn marking the end of the Trade Union role until the next Labour Day celebrations. Description of events prior and during this day can never be condensed in a single article but overall, everything is done in a manner that either knowingly or unknowingly kills the spirit and undermines the purpose of this fundamentally very important day to the workers and their Trade Unions. Therefore, even in the disadvantaged state that we find ourselves, Trade Unions should make this matter an agenda item at different levels at which it relates for creating a better understanding and for providing remedy for the common good.

About the Author :
Mr Wanzusi Robert Matukhu
General Secretary, Infrastructure Workers’ Union; Workers Councilor at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA); Chairman Global Workers and Environmental Rights Network (GLOWERN).
Aspiring Workers Member of Parliament at 2021 Elections