Moving May Day could hit retailers and domestic tourism, warns TUC

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date: 8 June 2011

embargo: 00.01hrs Thursday 9 June 2011

Moving May Day could hit retailers, break established holiday patterns and disrupt domestic tourism, the TUC warns today (Thursday) in its submission to the government's pre-consultation on moving the May Day bank holiday as part of the domestic tourism strategy.

The TUC submission says that May Day is one of the oldest British celebrations, dating back at least as early as 365 AD. It also marks the formation of Great Britain (1 May 1707) and International Workers' Day since 1891 - the latter a bone of contention for some Conservative MPs.

May Day is associated with a large number of tourism-related events, including many outdoor activities across the UK due to the (generally) good weather, and is the busiest trading day of the year for garden centres and horticulture related businesses.

The TUC submission warns that moving May Day to late Autumn could threaten many of these outdoor activities, hit retailers and encourage holiday breaks abroad at the expense of the domestic tourism industry.

The submission highlights crucial problems with some of the alternative dates suggested for May Day:

  • St. Georges Day (23 April) is just a week before May Day, so there will be little change in terms of activities, and it can clash with Easter, creating an administrative headache for employers.
  • The celebration of Trafalgar Day (21 October) was abandoned in 1918 due to public revulsion towards the glorification of war.
  • Turning Armistice Day (11 November) - a well-established and sombre day of remembrance of the war dead - into a bank holiday would distract from the importance of the day and could cause great offence, particularly if it becomes a day of celebration.

The lack of any strong support from the tourist industry for moving May Day suggests that the proposal is more about pleasing a few Conservative backbenchers who ignorantly assume it to be a 'socialist holiday', rather than a real attempt to boost the UK domestic tourism industry or improve people's work-life balance, says the TUC.

The submission says that the government's time would be better spent examining the wellbeing of UK employees who work among the longest hours in Europe and have the stingiest allocation of public holidays.

Creating a new day off in late October - focused on volunteering and community work - would be a much better way to generate health, social and economic benefits from our calendar of public holidays, says the TUC.

The TUC, along with the UK's leading volunteering organisations, is calling on the government on the introduce a Community Day bank holiday in late October from 2013 that would be based around the celebration and encouragement of volunteering and community work.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'There's not much of a case for moving May Day, other than satisfying the grudges of a few Tory backbenchers, but there are many problems that moving it would create.

'May Day is an important day for the domestic retail, tourism and entertainment industries and moving it to late Autumn could threaten all this.

'Ministers would be wise not to mess around with a popular public holiday that enjoys a wide range of support - from trade unionists to gardening enthusiasts. Instead, they should examine the wellbeing and 'big society' benefits of creating a new bank holiday.

'Given that UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe and have the fewest bank holidays, an extra public holiday is long overdue.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The TUC submission to the pre-consultation is available from the press office.

- More information about the Department for Culture, Media and Sport pre-consultation is available at www.culture.gov.uk/consultations/8068.aspx

- The Community Day campaign is backed by the TUC, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Volunteering England, Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA).

- To found out more information and sign up to the Community Day campaign, visit www.communityday.org.uk.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk

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