By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
2021 MAY DAY came around at a time when many things are in transition globally. We in Sri Lanka too, are passing through the same process. The challenges faced by humanity are unique due to many respects. Unprecedented, unpredictable and crucial. On this day dedicated to resolutions of the workers we have to take note of this situation.
Most of the time we fail to be contemporaneous with the present. Our visions are tuned according to the memory and the past experiences. Even if the present is completely awesome and unusual, we tend to fail to identify the new challenges that have to be resolved as “History advances in disguise”. For many, May Day, is another day to display their parades of pomp and glory. The remarks made by different union bosses after the announcement of the cancellation of May Day celebrations this year bear ample evidence of this trivial mentality.
With this state of affairs in the background we have to take a look at the realities and the threats before us. In the macro scenario, what we experience locally are much the same as the rest of the world. As workers constitute a formidable layer of the society that can influence its direction, labor unions are considered as capable of improving the economic, social and political landscape. Hence workers have to play a dynamic role in any society to bring about the desired changes to improve the quality of life and to meet the challenges confronted by the society. This role can only be played by the work force volunteering to participate with a positive outlook in the affairs as ‘partners of social progress’.
Unfortunately, the workers are more divided and scattered than any other social group. They rarely unite purposefully. The sectarianism binding them has virtually defeated the broad purpose of their unity and organization. Those who control and hold their reins keep them confined well within the realm of their selfish interests and objectives. Hence playing a useful role by organized working class contributing positively towards policy making or constructive activity has become a remote affair.
Workers if united can organize locally at country level as well as internationally by affiliating with International Trade Union Organizations AT APEX LEVEL. Through this they will become forceful bodies that can influence their governments while exerting pressure to influence actions that warrant public interventions at the International level. In todays context this is an important step to voice opinions on behalf of the people as organized sections of the society.
The prevailing Pandemic situation is a good example. Public at large have to be represented at the decision- making levels in order to address their burning issues. Trade Union organizations can effectively participate in this function. Workers Organizations can also be useful intermediaries in many areas such as social security, health and safety and general welfare of workers. The participation can extend to any field, development, Health, Education, economic affairs, diplomatic relations, international agreements etc.etc. Recognized International Trade Union Centers are given representations at the ILO, UN bodies and other International forums as consultative social groups in broad policy formations as well as in matters concerning International affairs.
It is regrettable that Trade Unions have neglected this role thereby creating a vacuum in the representation process. If Unions have to be heard they have to be strong , independent and should be alert and responsible to respond to current affairs. It will be a fitting move to seriously give consideration to this aspect on this May Day by all Trade Unions. T.Rusiripala 1/5/2021