Rallies and marches organized by workers across the world on May Day
Report by Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC) correspondent
Workers around the globe took out massive rallies against the attacks by capitalists and governments on their rights. This May Day witnessed participation of lakhs of workers in many countries of the world. In many countries there were attempts to restrict the rallies and force them indoors. But despite all the efforts, workers took to the streets and defended their right to protest.
In South Korea, an estimated 100,000 people participated in rallies that took place in different cities. Massive May Day rallies were organized and preparations for the same had started well before 1st May. About 30,000 people participated in the two big rallies that took place in the capital, Seoul. The striking workers were demanding better wages to fight the increased cost of living due to inflation and better working conditions. An activist at the rally said, “The price of everything has increased except for our wages. Increase our minimum wages! Reduce our working hours!”
Thousands of workers including youth gathered at Yoyogi Park in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo. Workers demanded an increase in their wages to compensate for the increasing economic burden on them caused due to inflation, when they were still reeling under the financial pressures of the pandemic. Workers criticized the government for investing in major military expansion and in turn increasing taxes that further imposed an economic burden on the people.
About 50,000 workers took part in May Day marches in the capital, Jakarta, organised by the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, which represents 32 labor unions. They demanded the repeal of a recent job creation law proposed by the government that would only benefit businesses at the expense of workers and the environment. They also criticized the government for not taking adequate steps to curb human trafficking and job outsourcing. They called upon the government to defend the rights of Indonesian workers who are working overseas. Besides Jakarta, rallies were organized in many cities like Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and other cities around the country.
Thousands of workers gathered at Ketagalan Boulevard in the capital, Taipei city, demanding better wages to cope with the rising cost of living. Workers and activists from many different organizations came together to demand their rights. Many medical workers also joined the rally.
In the city of Beirut in Lebanon, hundreds of workers and trade union activists organized rallies on May Day. Migrant workers also participated in these rallies in large numbers. They demanded compensation from the government to battle the ever-increasing burden of inflation. The economic crisis in the country is continuously worsening and has forced three-quarters of the population into poverty. The workers have been fighting for the last one year for increased wages.
Massive demonstrations were held in different parts of France to oppose the recent pension reforms, which have increased the retirement age from 62 to 64. Tens of thousands of workers took to the streets to oppose this. It is estimated that around 1.3 million people participated in more than 300 strikes that took place all over the country.
In Spain thousands of workers participated in May Day rallies and demanded increase in their average pay in line with increasing inflation. There were about 70 demonstrations held in different parts of the country. Wages in Spain are one of the lowest when compared with the average salaries in the European Union. With the increasing cost of living, it has become very difficult for people to manage their lives. “Take steps to control inflation and also increase the wages of all sections of the workers” was the demand of the workers
All rallies were banned in Pakistan, stating security reasons. Despite the efforts to stop workers from organizing any kind of program on May Day, workers organized huge indoor meetings. They discussed the current condition of workers and political situation in the country. Workers and activists of various labor organizations and trade unions participated in these meetings in large numbers.
A massive rally was organized on 1st May by the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), an umbrella organization representing around six million members from eight trade unions, in Koblenz, Germany. Workers from air, rail and road transport sector, public services, health care, and municipal cleaning services participated in the rally. German workers have been participating in numerous strikes since the beginning of the year, over pay and working conditions. Public service workers have come out in large protests in the last one year. About 398 events were organized in different parts of Germany in which an estimated 300,000 people took part.
Demonstrations were held in many cities in Italy. Workers participated actively in the protest actions in Rome, demanding increase in wages and reforms in the country’s tax policies. Demonstrators also raised slogans for ending the war between Ukraine and Russia.
International Labour Day witnessed protest actions across the Netherlands in support of their demand for higher wages to compensate for the high cost of living. Earlier this year the employees were offered a wage increase of 3-7% for the year, followed by a 5% increase next year. But workers rejected the proposed increase which does not compensate for the price rise and hence results in no increase in their real wages.
Sri Lanka is going through one of its worst economic crises right now. The government is moving fast to privatize all the state-owned sectors. The workers have been protesting against this for a long time now. In the beginning of this year, the Sri Lankan government announced a fresh austerity drive under which there will be no government recruitment. Hundreds of workers gathered on May Day to protest against the government’s policies which are based on the IMF’s prescriptions to raise taxes, cut down on 1.5 million government jobs and privatize all state-owned enterprises, as conditions of its bail-out of the economy. They protested against the economic reforms that shift the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of people.
In Turkey thousands of workers organized demonstrations on May Day. Hundreds of youth also participated in several rallies. Workers trying to organize demonstrations in Taksim, the historic May Day square, were violently attacked by the police and stopped. But despite all the efforts to stop the workers from protesting, tens of thousands of people gathered in Maltepe Square in Istanbul. Massive May Day demonstrations were organized all across Turkey including Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Diyarbakır, Konya, Kayseri, Artvin, Samsun, Yalova, Zonguldak, and Eskişehir. Around 6,000 workers joined in a rally in Adana organized by the labor trade union confederation in Turkey.
Over ten thousand workers participated in a militant May Day rally in London. Thousands of nurses in England organized a 28 hour strike, starting from 30th April 8 pm to midnight of 1st May. The nurses that participated in strikes were from around half of England’s hospitals, mental health and other community services. The striking nurses were demanding better working conditions and improved employment opportunities. For the first time nurses from 125 National Health Service (NHS) trusts in England walked out to raise their voices for their demands.