MAY DAY 1972 Message by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang
(Issued on 30th April 1972)
May Day 1972 comes at a moment of growing industrial unrest, which will increase in intensity in the coming month.
The basic causes of the mounting labour unrest are:
1. The anti-labour laws of the government which virtually confer unlimited powers on the managements to exploit and dismiss workers at will; reject the basic right of workers to free assembly and collective bargaining; and treats workers as mere work-slaves and not partners with capital, with right to human dignity and respect as partners in the common task to build up the national economy.
2. The growing unemployment in the country which now stands at 10% of the work force, so that there is little scarcity value for labour and thus little bargaining power.
3. The deliberate policy of the government to depress the workers’ wages and weaken the trade union movement so that there is a vast reservoir of cheap and docile labour for exploitation by capitalists to fatten their profits.
The anti-labour attitude of the government is best illustrated by its refusal to honour the role the workers are playing in national development and reconstruction by making May Day – the labour day – as a public holiday. In fact, the Government is so opposed to the concept of May Day as a day for the workers’ contribution to national development that the police has refused to throughout the country to celebrate May Day.
The workers must unite and assert and fight for their rights for a full share of the fruits of their labour. To restore to workers’ their rightful place in Malaysian society, they must:
1. Secure the repeal of all anti-labour laws in the country, and their replacement by pro-labour laws which is sympathetic to the labour struggle and aspirations;
2. The creation of a united, effective, dedicated trade union movement and leadership, which represents the majority of the working population, and not as at present where the organised trade union movement represents hardly 15%, and which is further weakened by its fragmentation into multiple peanut trade unions.
3. The solution of the unemployment problem in Malaysia.
If workers can unite under a dynamic, dedicated leadership, they can establish for themselves a rightful place in Malaysia, live in human dignity and share fairly in the fruits of their labour.
For a start, I would suggest that all organised unions spearhead a national campaign to make May Day an occasion celebrated meaningfully by all workers, and build up pressure to compel the government to recognize May Day as a public holiday. If this is done, it will mean not only that the government has been forced to recognize the role of workers in Malaysian economy, but it means also the awakening of the workers to their basic rights and interest.