May Day: Trade Unions Around the World Call For Respect for Workers' Rights


Brussels, 30th April 2004

"In an era of prosperity for the few, the battle for full workers' rights for the majority is far from over. On the occasion of May Day (1st May), the international labour movement is calling for global solidarity which is ever more necessary against a backdrop of worldwide exploitation and abuse of workers" said Guy Ryder of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

National efforts to address workers' rights abuses are essential and fully supported by the ICFTU. Across the world tomorrow, trade unionists will join leaders and members of the public to uphold the spirit of May Day; respect for workers.

International solidarity is key to making this spirit a reality for millions of workers across the world, especially those who live under undemocratic governments and anti-union employers, where workers' rights are virtually unknown phenomenon and where exploited labour rather than fair labour is the norm. Countries like Burma exemplify this where child labour and forced labour reign supreme and the authorities consistently flout internationally recognised core labour standards. On 1st May, the ICFTU will continue to press for respect for workers' rights.

In its May Day manifesto, the ICFTU is also calling for respect for women workers who remain vulnerable to some of the most startling abuses of workers' rights, subjected to poverty wages, exhausting working schedules and sexual harassment.

Recognising the negative effects of a "race to the bottom" which is forcing entire countries and their workforces to compete against each other for trade and investment, the ICFTU is repeating its calls for respect for those workers who, despite working punishingly long hours, continue to live in poverty.

Tomorrow, on May 1st 2004, workers across the world will celebrate the achievements of trade unions on these particular themes, and express their hopes for the future.

In Japan, around 150,000 workers are expected at May 1st events around the country, including at a rally in Tokyo which is expected to draw up to 36,000, carrying the theme of "Respect". Demonstrations will also mark opposition to government- sponsored pension reforms.

The Belgian capital city will be engaging in a double celebration. The ICFTU-affiliated FGTB is holding a music festival in the centre and the ICFTU is participating in an educational "open day" at the European Parliament, marking the arrival of 10 new member states to the European Union.

Trade unions in the Czech Republic will hold the first major May Day celebrations since 1989, marking the Czech accession to the EU, the ICFTU 1st May themes and organising cross-border events with Austrian and Slovak trade unions.

The "respect" themes are closely linked to the central principles of the Play Fair campaign, launched on 4th March 2004 by Global Unions (of which the ICFTU is a member), Clean Clothes Campaign and Oxfam. At the heart of the campaign are calls on the global sportswear manufacturers to treat labour standards as important a set of criteria as cost, time and quality. In countries such as Hong Kong, the "Play Fair" campaign will be highlighted at the May Day rally with campaigners distributing campaign banners and placards and circulating leaflets during the march.

Click here for the May Day manifesto: