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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) of Ghana is the main umbrella organization for trade union activities in Ghana:

It is made up of eighteen affiliated national unions. These are autonomous bodies which pursue their own activities but within the frame-work of their constitutions and their areas of legally accepted jurisdiction.


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Workers' International Solidarity Day

Ghanaian workers will join their global counterparts to joyously celebrate this year's 117th May Day annual event with the national parade at the Independent Square in Accra to commemorate the occasion.

The theme for Ghana's 41st: "Labour and Nation Building: Fifty Years and Beyond" has been chosen by the joint sponsors of the celebration called "Organised Labour" to reflect the country's current golden jubilee.

The global anniversary was first observed on May 1, 1890 after its proclamation by the first international congress of socialist parties in Europe held on July 14, 1889 in Paris, France, to dedicate May 1 every year as a "Workers' Day of International Unity and Solidarity." As is the usual practice on such occasions, the Head of State, President John Agyekum Kufuor has been invited to address the 2007 National May Day parade.

The origin of May Day

This global workers' day dates back to May 1-4, 1886 when some courageous leaders in the United States of America called a general strike to back their demand for a legal guarantee for an eight-hour working day.

It was reported that at the famous Haymarket Square in Chicago City, USA, violence erupted when the police fired on the striking workers, which resulted in the killing of eight armed police and other people.

As a result of that disturbance, the four courageous ringleaders, namely August Spies; George Engel; Adolf Fischer and Albert Richard Parson were arrested, convicted and hanged on November 11, 1887. Others like Oscar W. Reebe and Michael Scwab were sentenced to life imprisonment.

These Haymarket Square martyrs were later honoured with a special monument at their graveside in Chicago, which was dedicated on June 25, 1893.

On the following day, June 26, 1893, the Governor of Illinois, USA overruled the earlier court judgement of life sentence for the remaining surviving striking leaders in jail and freed them.

As a sequel, a boon befell the USA workers in February 1889 when the American Federation of Labour (AFL) eventually petitioned and obtained their desired minimum wage and an eight-hour working day. This was later incorporated into an international Agreement on Safety at Workplaces held at the Bordeaux Congress and the automatic adoption by the French Trade Unions and other institutions.

Subsequently, this workers' revolt against capitalism later spread like wild fire to many European countries which culminated in the convening of the first international Congress of Socialist Parties in Paris, France, on July 14, 1889 which gave birth to the celebration of the international solidarity workers' day which has become a glorious tradition for workers' movements throughout the world up to today. It was reported that the first May Day celebration focused on a slogan: "For Peace and Against Threats of War" which added more vigour to their earlier demands for an eight-hour working day. This demand of May Day was intensified in Western Europe and Russia, which propelled the Great October Revolution to usher in Communism.

The maiden global May Day celebration was reportedly marked with massive demonstrations and strikes in Germany; France; Belgium; Austria; Hungary; Italy; Switzerland; the Scandinavian countries; Romania; USA; RUSSIA; Mexico; Argentina and Cuba.

It is pertinent to point out that in those days most African countries, with the exception of perhaps Ethiopia, Liberia and Egypt, were all colonies of various European powers, especially Britain, France, Spain and Portugal.

So when Ghana became independent in 1957, Ghanaian workers observed their first May Day in 1965, three years after a full-fledged Republican status at which Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, an intimate friend of labour, was declared the "First Number One Worker" and was decorated with a May Day Award by the TUC under the leadership of Mr J.K. Tettegah, Secretary-General.

The May Day celebration was suspended in the wake of the first military coup on 24 February 1966, which toppled Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah's Convention People's party (CPP) Government. The celebration was resumed in 1967 after the January 13, 1972 military coup led by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. This event was marked with a Grand National parade held at the forecourt of the Accra Community Centre.

It was attended by hundreds of workers from the Accra-Tema Metropolitan Area which saw the formal institutionalisation of May Day awards to selected dedicated workers of the TUC led by Secretary-General Alhaji A.M. Issiful.

Regional Rotation of Parades

After the country's third military coup of December 31, 1981 which was dubbed "December 31 Revolution" the Executive Board of the TUC decided to decentralize the national parades to the regional capitals by rotation to enable each region to experience the hosting of such important workers' anniversary events.

In pursuit of this rotation system, Koforidua held it in 1989 followed by Tamale; Takoradi; Obuasi (Ashanti); Cape coast and Ho (2002). Wa, Bolgatanga and Sunyani are three regions left for the rotational system to complete.

Over the years, these colourful parades are often characterized with floats and jubilations by workers, both unionised and non-unionised, such as farmers, fishers, market traders and various voluntary organisations.

This year's celebration under the sponsorship of Organised Labour will involve the TUC, Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT); the Civil Servants Association and Ghana Registered Nurses Association among other organisations.

Interestingly, the May Day Awards which were institutionalised in 1967 with only "certificates of honour" have now been up-graded to such souvenirs as electronic gadgets in addition to certificates and badges to workers from the 17 National Unions at both national and regional parades for the dedicated and meritorious services rendered to the 42-year old TUC.

Credit to Shaw Q. Adibi

The birth and significance of May Day.