Workers Vs Briani eaters

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There was something missing in the air on Wednesday (1st of May 2013). The aroma of the traditional May Day Briani. The caterers probably had no motivation to use that extra pinch of saffron as there was no competition from any adversaries. The Labour party decided not to hold any rally this year – a historic and oh how welcome move. For years, we have been seeing the same folklore of millions of rupees thrown equally at those who work, those who have never worked and those who are past working age, luring the masses of Briani-eaters out for the free booze and grub to later picnic on the beaches dressed in free tee shirts provided by the party which has won their loyalty for the day. For years, the crowd estimates have triggered emotional and, at times, even violent reactions. And, instead of standing for elections once every five years as is the case in most democracies, our politicians keep running for elections through May Day popularity contests. So, you won’t see us cry over what is hopefully the beginning of the end of that tradition.

But perhaps Labour Day, previously usurped by politicians, now at least partially given back to the workers, should invite deeper reflection than just moving away from the Briani eating and crowd battles. Perhaps in these hard times, it should be the celebration of something new. The fact of having a job – and staying in it – in the first place. Instead of trading punches across the table, workers and employers should perhaps be on the same page. Employers should recognise the contribution of the workforce to society and the economy and the workers need to realise that the

claims they make should move beyond having more on their plates to rather sustaining what is on these plates. Overwork – inhumane as it is – is no longer our worst enemy. Nor are the investors, job creators and employers on whose economic survival our jobs depend. Unemployment is the real enemy. We always sort of knew this; now we know to what extent.

A reflection is in order about the thousands of Mauritians who did not enjoy a break from their jobs on Wednesday because they don’t have any jobs. More and more, the job market is turning into a brutal game of musical chairs. And the one who might wriggle his way to our chair tomorrow is not necessarily our next-door neighbour but rather someone from a country we did not suspect yesterday. One who is more sensitive to the music, faster to get to the chair, skilled enough to sit on it and hard-working enough to get back to it when the music stops again. And every time the music stops, lives are being shredded.

As the people who are bloated from the Briani and drunk on cheap rum sober up, as those who did not leave their homes on May Day go back to their jobs if they have them and once the unions are done with their petty squabbles and are back from their ego trip, they perhaps need to model a new May Day for the years to come. One where unions are united and speak the same language. The language of creating and sustaining jobs. May Day should be about the dignity of the worker. Something he can have only if his job can be sustained.

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