From the TUC

Bank holidays: fighting to make them fair

04 May 2011, by in Working Life

“More time off” has always been a good trade union demand, which is one reason why the TUC has always been concerned with creating public holidays and making them fair.

Most employers simply paid their staff to take the day of the Royal Wedding as a day off, and honoured their contractual rights in cases where employees had to work. However, a miserly minority decided to treat the bank holiday as a normal working day, whilst some agency workers were sent home without pay.

The TUC has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable calling on him to changing the law on special bank holidays by making a simple amendment to the Working Time Regulations, so that the minimum statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks paid leave and public holidays is increased by one day in years when a special one-off holiday is proclaimed.

While too late for the royal wedding bank holiday this year, this change would ensure that the same problem does not arise again for the bank holiday to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee on 5 June 2012 and that everybody would at least get an extra day off at some point during the year.

Working people also have to defend what we have already achieved. In particular, later this year the Government will be consulting on moving May Day to October, with the aim of extending the domestic tourism season. Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis called May Day “an integral part of British cultural life” in Saturday’s Daily Mirror, whilst Brendan Barber said that it was “a spot of union bashing”. Some Tory back-benchers have never liked May, even calling it a “commie holiday, although this claim totally ignores the centuries of tradition that preceded the foundation of International Workers Day.

My own May Day holiday experience was visiting Abbey Hill Steam Rally in the morning and Kingsbury May Festival in the afternoon. What I saw on Monday was hundreds of people of all ages enjoying themselves.

However, both of these events were held in field on a grass surface, so I can’t see them transferring to October if the Government goes ahead with its plans, which would mean that there would then be rather less domestic tourism of that kind going on.