Britain mulls scrapping May Day holiday

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Britain said Saturday it was thinking of moving the May Day public holiday to October, in a move that would delight the tourism industry but which unions said was an attack on international labour day.

Many countries across the world, from France to China, have a public holiday on May 1 often to commemorate the fight for more workers' rights.

In Britain, the holiday was introduced in 1978 by a Labour government. But celebrating May Day with traditional dancing and festivities dates back centuries and also marks the coming of summer.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition now plans to consult on scrapping the May holiday and moving it to October, possibly with the new name of "UK Day" or "Trafalgar Day".

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said moving the day off would better spread the public holidays across the year and be a boost to the tourism industry.

"An autumn bank holiday, possibly to be branded as a new 'UK Day', would not only help the industry, but also give us all a new focus for celebrating the best of what this country does," said Tourism Minister John Penrose.

He added that any change would be subject to consultation. The proposals are to be contained in a forthcoming tourism strategy and the holiday would not be moved until 2013.

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC), an umbrella group for many British unions, said that some Conservative lawmakers were not keen on May Day because of its links to international labour day.

"A few Tory backwoodsmen have a bee in their bonnet about the May Day bank holiday because of its association with international labour day," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"In fact, May Day is a traditional British celebration dating back to the fourth century."

Government sources however denied the proposal had any sort of political dimension and said it was solely in support of their tourism strategy.

© 2011 AFP

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