Workers around the world, commemorate the struggles to win their rights and highlight the need to strengthen the rights of all workers on 1 May, in the capitalist economic paradigm that prevails. In Sri Lanka, trade unions, political parties, community based organisations will also celebrate International Workers’ Day on 1 May, with widespread publicly demands for better working conditions for all workers.
This year, Sri Lankan trade unions are planning to highlight the rights of women workers as part of the issues that will be raised in the workers’ rallies on 1 May. A number of trade union women members will be raising banners and placards focusing on women workers’ rights in Sri Lanka.
This would be a unique event for public recognition of the economic and social value of women’s labour in all sectors of society.
In the recent past, there has been little recognition of the contribution of women who comprise 31.8% of the labour force. Should the economic value of women’s labour within households also be valued, undoubtedly, the assessment of the economic contribution of women’s labour would increase several fold.
Recognising and protecting the rights of women is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, given that the country earns the bulk of its foreign exchange income through the labour of women in the plantation sector, in the free trade zone and through remittances of their earnings working in countries West Asia and in other parts of the world.
May Day should also bring into focus the rights of millions of women who perform critical economic activities in the informal sector where there is little or no protection of labour rights, adequate working conditions or worker safety regulations.
Recognising workers’ rights on May Day must include the rights of all working women in the formal industrialised sector, the home-based sector as well as the informal sector.