Workers in various countries got out in force to commemorate International Workers Day yesterday. Below is a summary of the celebrations culled from various newspaper report.
Bulgaria. About 5,000 supporters of the opposition Socialist party gathered for a protest calling on the conservative government to resign for what they said was its failure to improve the country’s dismal living standards.
Athens. Thousands of protesters burned flags and chanted antiwar slogans outside the US Embassy. At least 7,000 people joined the demonstration through the city centre, where hundreds of riot police guarded the embassy and other sites. There were no reports of clashes.
Moscow. Thousands of people across the country gathered for May Day marches and rallies reminiscent of the Soviet era. Under sunny skies, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and the pro-presidential United Russia party held rallies in the Russian capital. Marchers demanded an increase in wages, higher student stipends and improved social services.
Berlin. A peaceful rally of 6,000 people, organised by the trade union congress, the DGB, whose leaders were focusing protests against Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s controversial cost-cutting package of social and economic reforms to help the lagging German economy, took place in eastern Berlin. The rally was marred by clashes with police.
South Africa. Eighty trade unionists were feared dead after their bus crashed into a reservoir on the way to a rally. The union members were on their way to May Day celebrations in the town of Qwa Qwa in the Free State province.
Seoul. South Korean marchers demanded that their working week be shortened from six days to five. They also chanted anti-globalization messages, including “Down down WTO!” referring to the World Trade Organization, which promotes global trade. Hundreds of police watched the rally but did not intervene.
Hong Kong. Workers complained that employers were using the disease as an excuse to cut wages and welfare benefits. Chanting slogans and carrying banners, more than 500 union members from the travel, hotel, transport and construction industries marched from a downtown park to the government headquarters.
Sri Lanka. Demonstrators gathered across the island, rallying for better pay and tougher laws to protect workers. The marchers were demanding a 25 percent monthly pay increase for unskilled laborers, who earn about 5,000 rupees (US$83) per month.
Jakarta. About 2,000 marched to the presidential palace in the capital, Jakarta, and unfurled banners that read: “Hike wages by 100 percent” and “Stop U.S. colonialism in Iraq.”
Manila. About 4,000 protestors spent May Day venting their frustration with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Kuala Lumpur. The May Day gathering, organised by a coalition comprising various non-governmental organisations, labour groups and opposition parties at the Dataran Merdeka, went without a hitch as the police did not intervene. More than 1000 people from across the country – plantation and factory workers, farmers, urban settlers and students – turned up at the event which featured songs, speeches and a sketch.About 100 police officers and men were present and for the first time perhaps, Dang Wangi district police chief Hadi Ho Abdullah commended the crowd for showing discipline and behaviour.
May Day rallies also took place in Greece, Spain and the Czech Republic, many with anti-American messages.
Singapore. Are you kidding? (The police banned a protest march organised by the Open Singapore Centre.)