Workers’ Day: Not just a holiday

Workers’ Day: Not just a holiday
01 May 2017
Internationally, 1 May is known as May Day, or Labour Day, but in South Africa, we acknowledge it as Workers’ Day. But what is Workers’ Day about, and what can we do to improve the working conditions of our teams?

The integration of Workers’ Day into the South African calendar holds two important meanings. Firstly, it’s a day that celebrates and brings into public focus, the rights of every worker in the country. Secondly, the struggle towards having this day included in our national calendar was closely tied to the Apartheid struggle. Prior to 1995, as trade unions fought for equal rights and compensation for Black workers, the call to include an annual observance of May Day for South African workers was a key rallying point.

A Changing Workforce
Historically and across the globe, workers or labourers have had to fight to work towards eliminating inhumane working conditions. But the struggle is far from won. For example, it was only during the 1800s that moves were made towards regulating working hours, with the eight-hour work day we are all accustomed to, only becoming common-place late into that century. But, as the world of innovation and technology has migrated us towards a more mobile workforce, the idea of an eight-hour work day now seems almost impossible. That’s why, in early 2017, France effectively banned the sending of after-hours emails – a move that’s been widely hailed as positive and an expression of putting humans first. France’s forward-thinking labour laws also include a recommended 35-hour work week, and have inspired global companies to act on after-hours connections to the office.

Occupational Health and Safety
Despite misconceptions, occupational health and safety regulations are an important tool for every workplace, no matter the industry. Certain industries are, of course, required to abide by additional regulations, but the Department of Labour makes available, through its website, a broad range of resources that can guide employers towards ensuring that their workplace caters well for their employees’ needs.

Employer Responsibilities
Unfortunately, the very necessary conversations around worker health, safety and human rights are often thrust into the spotlight through tragedy. In South Africa, the Lily Mine accident, which saw three miners - Pretty Mabuza, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi – remain un-rescued, brought both pain and protest to the podium. Now more than a year later, Lily Mine has closed, and calls have been made to ensure that such an accident does not occur again, with Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, stating that: “the health and safety of employees is critical for the long-term sustainability of the mining industry. We continue to urge all stakeholders in the mining industry to make this a priority” at the 2017 Mining Indaba. But it’s not just underground where employees are subject to tragic outcomes, with headlines outlining that advertising industry workers across the globe have died at their desks due to overwork and extreme demands.

Strong Moves Towards Change
As organisational and global focus moves more and more towards creating person-centric workplaces, environmentally friendly offices and a push for equitable compensation, coupled with rights-based work schedules, our world of work is changing. More and more companies are moving towards flexi-time schedules, or shortening the work day, putting their people first and their profit line is responding positively too. Where the focus moves to productivity, and not just punching in time, people and companies will succeed.

LifeDoc Can Help
LifeDoc™ is here to help. Now available for download as an Android app (with iOS coming soon!), LifeDoc™ helps you take charge of your personal health information, while making it easier to keep track of appointments, schedule those important check-ups and securely store your personal medical history. LifeDoc™ can also help you manage your occupational health and safety programme, with useful resources posted to our blog. Register here or like the LifeDoc™ Facebook page for regular updates. You can also stay on track with LifeDoc™ developments on Twitter.