International Workers’ Day 2012: resistance is growing
The ITUC chose the eve of May Day – international workers’ day – to launch its new enquiry into the impact of the global financial crisis on workers’ rights around the world. Former head of the South African trade union movement Jay Naidoo, former Portuguese Labour Minister and ETUC Deputy General Secretary Maria Helena Andre and the former Prime Minister of Denmark Poul Nyrup Rasmussen will be on the enquiry panel. They will investigate at first hand how the crisis has impacted on workers and their unions in Bulgaria, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Portugal and Romania, where the right-wing Government was toppled last week because of its economic and social policies.
This enquiry is part of the growing resistance of workers and unions around the world to austerity policies which often target not only public services and public spending, but workers’ wages (pay and social benefits).
The ITUC argues that elites are using the excuse of the global financial crisis to further erode workers’ living standards and job security, despite the fact that growing inequality between the rich and the rest of us caused the crisis in the first place. 60% of workplace reforms by governments have taken away workers’ rights. 15 out of 25 countries studied by the ITUC have relaxed collective dismissal rights for economic reasons. 65% of workplace reforms have taken away rights from temporary workers.
But as May Day – and other recent developments like the first round of the French Presidential election – have shown, workers are beginning to fight back all over the world. Over 100,000 members of metalworker unions marched in Mexico. They demonstrated against precarious jobs, subcontracting and deunionisation in Istanbul. Public sector unions demonstrated in Kathmandhu in Nepal at Martyrs’ Gate, as well as in Indonesia. And trade unions demonstrated across Africa in one of the most powerful shows of strength for decades, in countries like Cameroon, Mali and Tunisia. There were marches across Europe, in Athens, Lille, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin and elsewhere. In Spanish cities like Barcelona, young people were key parts of the marches; as they were on the New York Occupy May Day march (and a big hello to Occupy LSX who finally did what it says on the tin!)
Statements were issued by the global unions about how to create a sustainable recovery, and the ETUC called for social justice and jobs for the 5.5 million unemployed young people in Europe. Leader of the US trade union movement Rich Trumka said: “America’s working families will continue to stand together in their fight to reestablish fairness and opportunity so everyone can have access to their own American dream.” There will be many more demonstrations this weekend, including in the UK (the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally is on Saturday, as is one on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, Australia), and there are many other events and initiatives – like the publication May Day: A Graphic History of Protest.
You can find much more news about May Day protests on 1 May and the days to follow at LabourStart.