May Day 2010: `Workers will win!'

Graphic by Ashley Cecil.

Statements from left organisations around the world to mark international workers' day.

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Joint May Day 2010 statement from Asia

Click here to endorse the joint May Day statement 

All over the world workers are organising ...

We are organising to demand a living wage. For health and safety at work. For compensation and  rehabilitation. For the  rights of migrant workers and refugees, for citizenship rights for migrant workers and their families. For the right to employment on equal terms. Workers are organising against deportations, against racism, against discrimination. Workers are organising against wars that are a disaster to millions of workers.

Workers are organising for secure jobs.  Against  casualisation, contracting out and outsourcing. Workers are organising for the rights of women workers. For better working conditions, to stop work becoming harder, faster, more stressful and dangerous. For shorter working hours, for paid leave and paid holidays. For affordable housing and health care. For free education and welfare, against child labour and poverty and inequality. Workers are organising for the rights of Indigenous communities who have been stripped of their land and resources. Workers are organising to fight discrimination against minorities, women, lesbians and gays.

While we struggle against these problems, we see that our planet is being ruined through reckless, wasteful and unsustainable production for proft.

Workers can fix these problems. Workers can reorganise all industry to produce for peoples’ need instead of proft. Resources can be distributed to people and places who need them so that our children will have a future.

To do this workers have to dismantle imperialism and the capitalist system. We need to make decisions together in our own workplaces, unions and political organisations about the way production and sharing need to be restructured. We need this. We have the numbers.
We control production. Capitalists will be defeated. 

Read in bahasa.

Click here to endorse the joint May Day statement  

Endorsed by:

All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions

Anadolu Kultur Merkezi (Anatolian Cultural Centre, Australia)

Australia Asia Worker Links, Australia

Bangladesh Saniukta Tanti Samity (National Organisation of Self Employed Handloom Weavers Workers, Bangladesh)

Chennai Metro Construction & Unorganised Workers Union Tamilnadu, India


Committee for Asian Women, Thailand

Committee for a Workers' International, Malaysia

Communications Union CEPU (T&S Vic), Australia

Disability Support Pensioners Australia

Ejaz Ul Haque Siddiqui (Pakistan Workers Federation)

G.R.S.E. Workmen's Union, India

Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union

ITGLWF Philippines council

Jatio Garment Sramik Federation (National Garment Workers Federation, Bangladesh)

Jatiyo Sramik Jote (National Workers Unity, Bangladesh)

Kesatuan Kebangsaan Pekerja-Pekerja Perusahaan Alat-Alat Pengangkutan Dan Sekutu (National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers, Malaysia)

Konfederasi Kongres Aliansi Serikat Buruh Indonesia -- KASBI (Confederation Congress of Indonesia Unions Alliance)

Korea Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions

Latin American Solidarity Network -- LASNET, Australia (Red de Solidaridad con los Pueblos Latinoamericanos)

Migrant Workers Solidarity Network, Bangladesh

Migrants Rights Council, India

New Trade Union Initiative, India

Pakistan Labour Federation

Partai Rakyat Demokratik -- PRD (Peoples Democratic Party, Indonesia)

Parti Sosialis Malaysia -- PSM (Socialist Party of Malaysia)

Partido Lakas ng Masa (Strength of the People Party, Philippines)

Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party, Philippines)

Peace and Justice for Colombia, Australia

Perhimpunan Rakyat Pekerja (Working People Association, Indonesia)

Progressive Labour Party, Australia

Revolutionary Socialist Party, Australia

Socialist Alliance, Australia

Socialist Alternative, Australia

Socialist Party, Australia

Socialist Worker, Arotearoa New Zealand

Solidarity, Australia

Textile Garments Workers Federation, Bangladesh

Trade Unions of the Philippines and Allied Services

Unite, Australia

Workers' Liberty, Australia

Workers' Rights Coalition, Australia

Socialist Party of Malaysia May Day statement

On April 29, 2010, just two days before May Day (International Workers' Day), the Security Services Association of Malaysia (the employers’ union) boldly held a press conference to announce that it will not implement the pay hike for security guards promised by the federal government by July 1, 2010. The government’s response was to backtrack by resorting to its usual subterfuge of "studying" the matter (which effectively means sending it to cold storage). If that isn’t a damning indictment of who is the boss around here and what lies ahead for workers, what else is?

What is the reality of life come May 1, 2010, for 70% of the Malaysian population? For this 70% comprising the working class and other labouring people life has gotten bleaker with the Malaysian government wholeheartedly embracing the neoliberal globalisation economic model. Everything possible is done to appease and entice both domestic and foreign capital, all based on boosting profits by cutting costs for investors.

Since the cost of factors of production such as overheads and raw material cannot be tweaked, the brunt of this cost saving is transferred to workers. And so workers get no minimum wage, with employers paying wages as low as RM400 or even less a month for eight hours of work. Three million migrant workers who do the three Ds -- dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs -- are here courtesy of the government to keep wages depressed. Employers are free to cut costs by cutting down the workforce and driving their workers to produce for them in two 12-hour shifts what used to be done in three eight-hour shifts.

Meanwhile the cost of living continues to skyrocket, as the government turns over public services and basic amenities for profit making to capitalists. The ongoing privatisation of water, health care and education, assets once held in trust by the government for the people, compound the problem of low wages by depriving people of what was previously enjoyed at very subsidised rates. Quality education, health care and transport are now only for those who can afford, thus lowering living standards and making the lowly paid working class second-class citizens in their own country.

The well-fed ruling elite have tried to cover up the huge divide between the working masses and the exploitative capitalist class by using all kinds of propaganda and diversionary tactics. Its "One Malaysia" slogan, for example, aims to lull workers into believing that all Malaysians are one big happy family, even though our gini coefficient ranks us the second worst in all of Asia in terms of income inequality in our society.

The only message we can draw this May Day from the rapidly worsening situation of workers is that enough is enough: it is time for workers to unite and wrest back at least the benefits we have lost. Let us remember and be guided by the heroic struggle of May 1, 1886, and the sacrifice of the Chicago Haymarket Square workers of the May Day movement for an eight-hour workday. Their struggle led to the realisation of the eight-hour workday and the declaration of the May 1 as a public holiday.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) stands in solidarity with all working peoples in the struggle for a world in which the producers of wealth are able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. As a party whose raison d’etre is justice for the working masses, the PSM has endeavoured to stay focused on issues facing the working class, with our most recent campaign against the goods and services tax, succeeding in postponing its implementation.

Revolutionary May Day greetings! Workers of the world unite!

Rani Rasiah, deputy secretary general, PSM

Socialist Alliance, Australia: May Day 2010 -- Let’s get serious about building an alternative

What more do federal and state Labor governments have to do to workers before we start getting serious about building a working-class political alternative to the Australian Labor Party?

Look at the first four months of 2010:

  • Occupational health and safety standards have been reduced in the name of “harmonisation”, even as deaths on building sites have climbed since the Australian Building and Construction Commission gestapo was set up;
  • [Deputy prime minister] Julia Gillard has called on high school parents to strike break and oversee literacy and numeracy tests if the Australian Education Union goes ahead with a ban on their introduction;
  • Since “modern, simplified” awards came into force under Fair Work Australia, tens of thousands of workers face wage cuts and are being driven to appeal to Fair Work Australia to ensure they will not be worse off;
  • The latest report of the International Labor Organisation’s Committee of Experts has confirmed that the ABCC breaches conventions signed by Australia. The ILO is waiting for Canberra “to indicate any measures taken to instruct the ABCC to refrain from imposing penalties or commencing legal proceedings” while new legislation is before parliament. But Julia Gillard has ignored the ILO’s request. She has also made a point of visiting the Pilbara to show her solidarity with the mining bosses and—effectively backing the ABCC—scold workers at the Pluto LNG processing plant who struck “illegally” against Woodside Petroleum’s plan to force them from fixed to motel accommodation.
  • Bosses are using the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) to tie unions up in endless costly litigation, as in the Tahmoor (NSW) mineworkers' EBA struggle. For 18 long months multinational mining giant Xstrata has refused to negotiate the EBA in good faith, using dirty tactics such as lock-outs to wear the mineworkers down.

The Labor government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s industrial law is making it near impossible for the union movement to defend workers around issues not covered by their EBA. In the face of the pay cut of $10-$25 a week due to the wage freeze imposed by the last decision of the Fair Pay Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is claiming a $27 increase in the minimum wage, affecting 1.4 million workers. ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence recently took four of these workers to hear him address the National Press Club and challenged “anyone to look them in the eye and tell them they don’t deserve a pay rise”.

And what if the new minimum wage panel of Fair Work Australia decides they don’t? Unions can’t launch industrial action in defence of the low-paid without breaking the law. They would also face massive fines if they walked off to demand serious action on global warming, to protest Labor’s own industrial law or to show solidarity with workers in struggle anywhere.

And that’s just at the federal level. In NSW and Queensland workers and unions have been fighting hated privatisations. No wonder that polling by Unions NSW shows that a majority of union members would vote Green, independent or the conservative Liberal-National Coalition at the next NSW election, and that more unionists would vote Liberal-National than ALP!

ALP link a millstone

So why should unions continue to support Labor? We’ve all heard the standard reply—the Liberal-National Coalition would be worse and Labor has to be supported to keep them out of office. The latest expression of this line is the ACTU’s campaign against federal Liberal Party opposition leader Tony Abbott—he’d bring back Work Choices by another name.

As long as this argument rules in the union movement we are doomed to permanent retreat—bound to support one slightly less anti-union party over the other. And Labor governments will always get away with implementing the smallest possible improvements—safe in the knowledge that their union supporters will paint these as massive pro-worker reforms.

Take the ACTU’s recent celebration of the first year of the Fair Work Act. Because it has abolished Australian workplace agreements, partially restored protection from unfair dismissal, put in place a slightly improved safety net and an arbitration system with draconian powers (“independent umpire”) Jeff Lawrence describes Fair Work Australia  as “light years away from Work Choices”!

Of course Abbott will try to put as much of Work Choices back on the agenda as he can. Yet while unions must warn about this danger, why do they have to remain virtually silent about Labor’s failure to rip up Work Choices? Why does the ACTU never point out that Fair Work Australia is actually worse than Howard’s 1996 Workplace Relations Act? Why must it mean that Labor gets almost unconditional support, both political and financial?

Let’s not forget that Labor has refused to repeal Malcolm Fraser's Liberal-National Coalition government’s 1977 secondary boycott laws and all subsequent penal provisions. These make organised labour unequal in law with employer organisations.

Under Fair Work Australia our right to organise is also stuck at an enterprise level—unlike the employers who can set their prices and conditions of sale across entire industries. That defeat was imposed by the Paul Keating federal Labor government. As a result our unions as a whole have become weaker even with every success at the negotiating table.

That’s because the best EBA result still accepts a legal framework which binds us to show no solidarity with our fellow workers. Stronger unions may win good agreements, but weaker ones lose out and workers increasingly wonder about the value of unions at all.

To stop this retreat we must grasp that support for the Labor Party is not key to keeping the Liberals out of office. The best way—which also keeps the Labor Party under pressure—is for unions to remain independent of the ALP and run strong campaigns for their members. Then workers who see that the ALP has failed to deliver will be much less likely to vote for the worse option of the Liberal Party.

At election time our unions should support all candidates prepared to stand with organised labour in pursuit of our rights—socialists, Greens, independents and even Labor candidates who pledge to put workers interests first.

Getting serious about an alternative to Labor

There are heartening signs that some in the trade union movement are searching for an alternative to the political retreat of our movement. Victorian Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell has called for unions to break their ties with Labor; the ETU Queensland branch has sacked two MPs who refused to oppose the state ALP government’s privatisations; the Victorian branch of the CFMEU has called for a Senate vote for the Greens. These signs must be strengthened.

The crucial step is to spread the growing discussion on union political representation out to all union members. This could start with special delegate seminars where the arguments for and against unions breaking with the ALP could be debated.

The discussion would involve financing existing political parties. One important point would be to deduct all fines—starting with fines imposed through the ABCC— from donations to the ALP, redistributing them to alternative parties and independents.

Thirdly, unions committed to creating an alternative political voice for working people should discuss with all left, progressive and community organisations how they might become involved. That approach would also put positive pressure on the divided left to seek greater unity.

For its part, the Socialist Alliance is 100% committed to helping build a political voice—a new workers’ party—that would truly represent and fight for our interests. Let us work together and help meet the most important challenge facing working people in this country!

Socialism – An idea whose time has come!

Socialist Party USA statement

“Ideas”, someone once wrote, “move rapidly when their time comes”. As we gather to celebrate May Day 2010, the continuing capitalist crisis makes socialism an idea ready to move rapidly. While the banks have received trillion-dollar bailouts, working people still face mass unemployment, state and local budget cuts and deepening personal debt. Capitalist crisis has made the socialist vision of a world where human needs are put ahead of individual profits even more relevant. Our task on May Day is to convert socialism from a good idea into a movement to transform our society.

Capitalism exposed

The recent economic crisis was more than a banking crisis or a housing price bubble. It was a demonstration that there is a fundamental problem at the centre of capitalism. That problem lies in the nature of corporations themselves. Noam Chomsky once described corporations as “unaccountable private tyrannies”. There is no democracy inside of a corporation and, as a result, there is no democracy on our worksites. Corporations are undemocratic entities created only to make profits from exploiting the labour of workers.

The undemocratic corporate model now also dominates US politics. A corrupting system of campaign donations and lobbying ensures that both Democrats and Republicans serve the interests of corporate America. When corporate profits declined, politicians began handing out trillions of dollars in public money to them. When these same corporations fired millions of workers, neither Democrat nor Republican attempted to stop them.

Socialist solutions

Socialism offers an alternative to undemocratic profit-mad capitalism. By ensuring that people’s needs for housing, healthcare, education and employment are guaranteed, a socialist society will offer equality of opportunity. By bringing democracy to the economy through worker’s control of production, we will make sure that the place where most people spend their adult lives operates democratically. By organising participatory budgeting, we will put people at the center of the system – fully empowered to make decisions concerning the future of the society they live in.

The powerful necessity of socialist ideas can be seen most clearly with the issue of immigration. The capitalist state presents restrictions and police actions as the proper way to keep immigrants in line. Conversely, socialists support the rights of all workers regardless of their status. We support the creation of an unconditional amnesty program and seek to build solidarity amongst workers throughout the world. Where capitalism offers raids and the border police, we support human freedom and social solidarity

May Day -- our day

May Day is our day. A day when trade unionists, anarchists and socialists gather to state clearly that another world is possible. This other world is a democratic participatory one, where resources are shared for the betterment of humanity. However, democratic socialism will not come about spontaneously – we must get organised. So, today we invoke the names of Eugene Debs, of Caesar Chavez, of Dr. Martin Luther King to call on all working people to join the struggle for socialism. Move rapidly, act boldly, we have a world to win!

[Socialist Party USA:]

Malaysia: Rally against the GST come May Day!

May Day is not something new in Malaysia. In fact 2010 will be the 16th time May Day is celebrated in Malaysia to mark the annual celebration to commemorate workers' struggles for their rights. It also highlights the plight of marginalised workers in the country.

May Day which will see a peaceful rally against the goods and services tax (GST) to spread awareness to the people at large about its negative implications upon them should the GST be implemented. The theme for this year's annual celebration cannot be more appropriate than "GST: Makes Poor Poorer".

A little walk along the road of history though; the May Day celebration which is the idea of the May Day Committee first came about in Malaysia in 1994 and ever since it has been an annual event which sees NGOs, political figures and people of all walks of life gather at a focus point in a chosen state. Last year's May Day was held at Dataran Seremban in Negeri Sembilan and the theme was the recession and how the people should be "saved" and not the capitalist cronies.

2010 May Day

This year's  celebration will be jointly organised by two bodies, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MUTC) and the May Day Committee. It will be held at Dataran Merdeka at 11 am, starting with speeches followed by a walk to Kampung Atap where the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia's building is situated. There will be distribution of pamphlets to the general public -- all in the good name of creating awareness.

In conjunction with the upcoming May Day celebration, the committee's secretariat held a press conference on April 20 at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall to give a better view of the 2010 celebration.

No to GST

This year's theme, "GST: Makes Poor Poorer" is one of the core factors which accelerates the struggle on the committee to champion the rights of the working class. The committee comprises social bodies and NGOs such as the Oppressed People's Network (JERIT); Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram); Malaysian Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA) and Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), among others. Political parties such as PAS and the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) also make up the ambitious components of the May Day committee.

Where the GST is concerned, Aruthchelvan, secretary-general of PSM isaid the new tax would hit the working class and lower income groups hardest. He explained that income disparity has widened and the government's New Economic Model (NEM) clearly indicates that.

"Government statistics shows that income disparity is going up and with such situation, how can the GST, which takes the burden off the rich and shifts it to the poor help?", he said during the press conference. The GST will reduce corporate and income tax but lower income people must pay the GST even if they do not earn enough to pay income tax.

[Abridged from via JERIT.]