In Singapore, May Day (or Labour Day) is celebrated on the 1st of May each year as a mark of solidarity amongst workers. The celebration of May Day as a public holiday began only in 1960 after the PAP came into power. Before then, only workers defined as such under the Labour Ordinance 1955 and those defined as industrial clerks under the Clerks Employment Ordinance 1957 were given paid holidays.
May Day is a day of special significance for organised workers, as it serves to remind others what their collective strength has achieved for workers. By making it a public holiday, the Government of Singapore had intended it to be a day set aside in honour of workers and their contributions to the country. It also makes it easier for workers to come together for celebrations.
In the past, rallies and resolutions also form the central features of May Day celebrations. Through these activities, organised workers symbolically express their unity of purpose and their faith in solidarity. Today, May Day celebrations are increasingly planned for the enjoyment of workers and their families, which include events like the May Day Family Fiesta.
History of May Day - In the early days of Singapore, May Day rallies had the atmosphere of a persecuted sect preparing for another round of war. Mr. S Rajarathnam, then Minister of Labour in 1968, quoted that May Day rallies were intended as demonstrations of worker's strength and solidarity. Militant speeches and militant attitudes were necessary as this was a time when organised labour had to struggle against the colonial government.
As labour relations improved through the years, May Day presented an opportunity to celebrate the solidarity and the achievements of the democratic trade unions, and to rededicate worker's alignments to the ideal of a just society in which men are not exploited by their fellow men, and in which labour enjoys a fair share of the fruits of labour.
In the 1969 May Day message, Mr. Peter Vincent, President of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) stated that "May Day celebrations have undergone a change of character… less of an aggressive spirit, little or no slogan shouting and few or none of the grandiloquent resolutions. In its place there is harmony of outlook oriented towards the advancement of our developing economy".