There is no doubt that May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on May 1. It is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake is usually part of the festivities to commemorate the day. May Day got its start as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London.
In a bid to commemorate this year’s May Day celebration, workers trooped out in every country across the globe in protest as the day was marred by violence in many countries of the world. NIYI OYEDEJI gathers the reports.
Clashes mar May Day protests in Paris
Anti-capitalist protesters torched a McDonald’s restaurant and clashed with police in Paris on the fringes of a May Day rally in Paris Tuesday.
Shouting slogans such as “Rise up, Paris” and “Everyone hates the police”, over 1,000 youths with black jackets and face masks joined the traditional union-led demonstration for worker’s rights, AFP journalists reported.
Some carried placards with the Anarchist symbol and banners with references to the far left “black bloc” protesters who regularly clash with police at international summits.
The far-left demonstrators went on a rampage, setting fire to a McDonald’s and torching a car, a mechanical digger and a scooter.
Along the route of the march they looted and set fire to a McDonald’s restaurant and also torched a car, a mechanical digger and a scooter. The police used tear gas and water cannon to try to disperse them.
At least two people were arrested over the unrest, which comes at a time of heightened tensions over President Emmanuel Macron’s reform of the public sector.
“Macron makes us mad,” read a banner held by one masked demonstrator.
Tens of thousands of people took part in marches nationwide, including over 20,000 in Paris, the police said
“Everything is being done to end this serious disturbance to the peace an find those responsible for these unspeakable acts,” he tweeted.
Trade unions had set out to try rally workers on May Day against Macron’s reforms of state rail operator SNCF and public universities, which they see as part of a rollback of France’s cherished public service.
Tens of thousands of people took part in marches nationwide, including over 20,000 in Paris, the police said.
Some of the participants took aim at Macron’s fiscal policy, seen as favouring business and the rich over the working- and middle classes.
The unrest comes at a time of heightened tensions over President Emmanuel Macron’s reform of the public sector
“Macron is the president of the rich,” Genevieve Durand, a retired public servant who took part in a march in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand told AFP, echoing a label that has clung to the 40-year-old centrist.
Police clash with protesters in Istanbul
Turkish police arrested dozens of protesters on Tuesday as they attempted to mark May Day by marching through Istanbul’s Taksim Square, despite a long-running ban on congregating there.
The square, which has historically been a gathering point for anti-government demonstrations, was entirely cordoned off by police.
The city’s main shopping street, Istiklal Avenue, was also blocked off. According to Anadolu Agency, 84 protesters were arrested in total in Istanbul and taken to buses for questioning.
In spite of the restrictions, thousands took part in celebrations of May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, across Turkey, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the contribution of Turkish labourers in a speech.
“With no preconditions or prejudices, we have come together with all labour unions and civil society organisations whose real agenda is workers’ rights and benefits; we have had discussions and reached agreements,” he said in a message issued on Sunday.
“We have taken care not to be one of those who instrumentalises workers and labourers on such a meaningful day as 1 May.”
Despite his comments, the organisations taking part in the protests were overwhelmingly critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and included a range of socialist, feminist, atheist, Islamic and football supporters’ groups.
The Istanbul district of Maltepe became the main venue for the officially sanctioned May Day gathering, which took on the appearance of an anti-AKP demonstration.
“Today’s march is a way for the working class to breathe and to raise our demands,” said protester Huda at Maltepe, according to AFP
Among the groups represented were supporters of the opposition Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), the Turkish Labour Party (EMEP), the Confederation of Public Workers Union (KESK), the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) and the left-wing Anticapitalist Muslims collective.
Workers march against short-term contract in Philippine
Thousands of Philippine workers and activists marched in a May Day rally in Manila on Tuesday in protest against what they said was President Rodrigo Duterte`s failure to keep a campaign promise to get rid of short-term employment contracts.
There were no reports of violence, but the presidential palace complex was locked down, initially denying journalists’ access as protesters burned Duterte’s effigy with a sign “Liar King” several hundred meters outside.
A pledge to act against employers who hire workers short-term and without adequate benefits helped Duterte, a former city mayor, win the presidency in May 2016.
Shortly after assuming power, Duterte warned that any company that failed to stop hiring short-term labour risked closure.
But trade unions say the practice has persisted, particularly in shopping malls and the fast-food industry.
A leader of the left-wing Bayan (Nation) movement, Renato Reyes, said the president had done what other leaders had failed to do in 30 years – unite fragmented labour groups.
“The historic unity of the working class is the direct result of the failure of the regime to bring an end to contractualisation, a major campaign promise of the president,” Reyes said in a statement.
“For two years, the executive dribbled the ball, only to pass it to Congress at the last minute.”
About 8,000 police and soldiers kept watching at the march. Police estimated up to 10,000 people, waving flags and carrying banners, took part.
In central Cebu, Duterte asked Congress to pass a law amending the “outdated” Labour Code “to keep it attuned to the realities of our time”.
“I remain firm in my commitment to put an end to ‘ENDO’ and illegal contractualisation,” Duterte said, referring to the commonly used term of “end of contract” among minimum wage earners.
“A mere executive order is not enough. I cannot be a legislator. It is not allowed. But, I can only implement.”
He signed an executive order prohibiting illegal contracting or sub-contracting and asked the labour department to submit a list of companies “engaged in or suspected to be engaged in labour-only contraction.
There were also protests in other key cities outside the capital as workers’ groups demanded higher wages, improved working conditions, including for millions of migrant workers abroad. The Philippines is locked in a dispute with Kuwait over reports of abuse of Philippine domestic helpers there.
Last month, the labour department ordered fast-food chain Jollibee Foods Corp to regularise more than 6,000 workers by making them permanent.
Thousands gather to support embattled trade unions in South Korea
In South Korea, hordes of people gathered in the main square in Seoul to offer support to embattled trade unions in the country
They chanted slogans urging the government to implement a 10,000 won (£6.82) minimum wage and convert all non-regular employees to regular workers with equal pay and treatment.
The rally was organised by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The police estimated the crowd at 10,000 people.
The union members also demanded that the government scrap the restructuring of the shipbuilding and car industries, and reform the huge conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy.
German workers satisfied with jobs, protest against racism
People in a number of German cities took to the streets on Tuesday for rallies and processions to mark May Day, which is celebrated in many countries around the world as a day to protest in support of workers’ rights.
In the German capital, Berlin, thousands gathered at the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate.
In the southern city of Nuremberg, the head of the influential German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), Reiner Hoffmann, called for opposition to racism and nationalism.
He appealed to the crowd of about 6,500 people to fight for self-determination, peace and freedom throughout Europe, saying basic social rights should have priority over economic freedoms.
Turning to the work situation in Germany itself, he lamented the amount of unpaid overtime, putting it at more than 800 million hours, and said that some employers were still failing to pay the minimum wage.
Hoffmann said the new German government had agreed on important goals in its coalition contract, but that unions would keep a close watch on whether these were met “without delays or loopholes.”
Although the May Day rallies are traditionally used to call for increased workers’ rights, figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on Monday showed that most employees in Germany describe themselves as being relatively satisfied with their jobs.
Eighty-nine percent of workers said they were content; 33 percent even said they were very satisfied.
These statistics were cast in a critical light by the Hans Böckler Foundation, which carries out research on working conditions in association with the DGB.
Russians protest ban on telegram app on May Day
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg to protest against government attempts to curtail Internet freedom — marching defiantly while more than 100,000 other Russians took part in the traditional May Day parade.
Moscow’s Federation of Trade Unions said about 120,000 people marched from Red Square on the main streets of the Russian capital on May 1 to mark May Day.
The May Day parade has become a highly orchestrated show of power by Russian authorities and the ruling United Russia party in recent years, with demonstrators refraining from criticizing the government.
But demonstrators this year marched through the streets to protest the government’s ban on the popular messaging app Telegram.
About 10,000 people rallied in Moscow to protest the blocking of Telegram, chanting that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a thief!”
The event was organized by the Libertarian Party of Russia, which has called the attempts to block Telegram “a national shame.”
Workers protest against Brexit in London
Hundreds of campaigners, who are also protesting about the Grenfell Tower fire fallout and the Windrush scandal, marched to Trafalgar Square this afternoon.
People, some with their faces covered, let off flares that filled the London streets with thick smoke.
Many of those taking part were holding red flags with the communist hammer and sickle symbol.
Once at the famous London landmark, some clambered on top of the square’s monuments and chanted anti-Government slogans.
Others carried placards supporting Labour and slamming Theresa May’s Government.
A swathe of busy roads in the capital was closed to make way for the marchers.
“After Brexit we have to fight for our employment and social rights.
“We also have to expose the continuing racist attitudes that have most recently been shown up by the treatment of the Windrush generation.”
The London action coincided with a strike by some staff at fast food giant McDonald’s over pay and union recognition.
Today’s demonstration was organised by United Voices of the World and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.