Home Europe Covid-19 lockdowns temper May Day rallies worldwide

Covid-19 lockdowns temper May Day rallies worldwide

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Workers were forced to scale back May Day rallies around the world on Friday because of coronavirus lockdowns, although some pushed on with online events and others hit the streets in face masks.

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The traditional festival of the workers' movement usually attracts millions of people to loud and boisterous marches through the streets – and occasional violent confrontations with police forces.

This year the date carries extra significance after the Covid-19 outbreak sent the global economy into a historic tailspin and put unprecedented numbers of people out of work.

But with drastic social distancing rules to halt the spread of the disease, labour leaders have opted to postpone the public gatherings or move events online.

With France still under lockdown, workers will mark the day on social networks or by calling from their balconies.

"This is an opportunity to bear the social demands that we have been defending for a long time and that the crisis has highlighted," said Philippe Martinez, the general secretary of umbrella trade union CGT.

"Even if today we are confined, our demands are not," added Yves Veyrier, head of the Force Ouvriere union, speaking on France Inter radio.

In France, coronavirus crisis has 'underlined issues of health and safety' in the workplace

During a speech on Friday to mark May 1, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the end of the national lockdown on May 11 would only be a first step as his hard-hit country looks to move out of the crisis created by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

"May 11 will not be the passage to normal life," Macron said. "There will be several phases and May 11 will be one of them."

In a message on his Twitter account, the French president lauded the traditional May Day parades and French workers, urging unity and solidarity during these tough times.

Call to delay rallies

In Greece, the government asked unions to delay public rallies by more than a week, but leading union GSEE called for a general strike to coincide with May Day.

It has also urged demonstrators to "raise their fist and salute" health workers and other professionals helping to keep supplies and telecoms running.

On International Workers Day, remember:

?3.7 million key workers earn less than £10 an hour.

?2.5 million women key workers earn less than £10 an hour.

?7 in 10 care workers earn less than £10 an hour.

The people keeping Britain going deserve a pay rise. #MayDay

— TradesUnionCongress (@The_TUC) May 1, 2020

Portugal's main CGTP trade union confederation is planning a gathering of union leaders on the vast esplanade where their traditional May Day parade ends each year.

The group said they would stand four metres from each other and waved flags and placards.

Indonesia's labour unions have called for an online protest against a pro-business bill aimed at simplifying layoffs, after calling off street rallies.

The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions has also organised donation drives to buy facemasks for factory workers and food for workers fired in the downturn sparked by the coronavirus.

'We've had to get creative'

In Finland, labour rallies are traditionally preceded by huge communal picnics in the largest public gathering of tRead More – Source