This is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers and has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. The holiday began in 1880’s in the USA, linked to the battle for the eight-hour day and the Chicago Anarchists.

The struggle for the eight-hour day began in the 1860’s. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada organized in 1881. Upon changing its name in 1886 to American Federation of Labor (AFL) passed a resolution, which asserted this.

For most countries, Labour Day is synonymous with, INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY, which occurs on 1 May. For other countries, it is celebrated on a different date, often one with special significance for the labour movement in that country.

In Canada and the United States, the holiday is celebrated on the first Monday of September and considered the unofficial end of summer vacations and students returning to school.

In Kenya before independence, labour policies and laws were oppressive towards the employment of African Workers. Industrial relations were based on master-slave relationship.

Trade unionism was registered in Kenya 1934. Between 1943 and 1945, the trend of industrial relations changed with the launch of INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNIONISM and the British trade union congress in particular played a crucial role in the Kenyan trade unionism.

After 1945, the government started taking trade unions seriously by setting up trade unions registration office to regulate and control unionism. In 1946, a protective labour code was introduced improving labour conditions.

In 1952, after the declaration of the state of emergency, trade unions changed their direction to agitate for Kenya’s independence from colonial rule.

Tom Joseph Mboya was the general secretary of Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL) until 1957 and Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) was formed at this time. He later became the Minister of Labour making other aspects of trade unions to be forgotten.

In 1962, Tom Joseph Mboya called the trade unions and employers associations together. They formulated the INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS CHARTER, a Social Agreement between the Government, Trade Union and Employers.

In 1965, there was a split in the KFL and the 2 factions were disbanded. This led to the creation of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) to act as an umbrella body through sessional paper No 10.

Happy Labour Day!