|Year 2007 No. 20, May 14, 2007||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBBOOKS||SUBSCRIBE|
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Hundreds of people took part in May Day events across Tyneside. On Tuesday, May 1, a rally took place at the Newcastle Monument organised by PCS who were on strike against job cutbacks and worsening conditions of work. On the evening a meeting and celebration took place in South Tyneside. On Saturday, May 5, the May Day march and rally took place in Newcastle. Hundreds of people joined in the march led by Broughton Brass Band through Newcastle to Exhibition Park.
At the Rally at Exhibition Park Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB, fittingly summed up these events as the opening speaker in the May Day Rally. He said that it was about the dignity of labour, of our struggle, of our values in the movement of decency, of rights of people. He said that when people talk of migrant workers for example and they are characterised as illegal workers there is no such thing as illegal workers there are only workers. He went on to say that when we talk about the labour movement in relation to the workers we have some fantastic values and that it is this movement that has always fought for change. He concluded by saying that the celebration of May Day is a fantastic thing for all of us. The fact that we meet today in an atmosphere of determination to fight back for our public services and for our dignity in our society is testament not just of our values but also to the values of those that have gone before us.
Mary Ferguson, PCS NEC member, spoke about the struggle of the PCS workers. She spoke about their campaign for further action in defence of jobs, job security and services. The real issues, she said, are jobs for everyone, fair pay and defending public services and protecting workers rights.
Kath Sainsbury of Justice First spoke about the injustice of the asylum system in Britain, giving a poignant example of their work to assist people to win their claim against the inhumanity of the law and government decisions in these cases.
Dominique Kayembe, a Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) member from the Democratic Republic of Congo spoke at the rally. She said that many people think that we just came to Britain for benefits. "This is not true: we are refugees. It is not safe for us in our own countries. In recent years, over 4 million people have died in a war in my country. The British government says because there have been elections it is safe now, but people are still being killed. It is not possible for me to go back at the present time, and I need the chance to build a new life here. But the British government wont let us work so many of us are forced to work illegally just to stay alive. We demand the right to legal work," she said.
David Golding of Developing Co-ordinator Make Poverty History NE opposed Blairs assertions that in the relationship between rich and poor countries that there was a need change from the "old relationship of charity" to "partnership" as little of either "charity" or "partnership". He spoke about the widespread state of denial about the reality of the relationship between the rich and poor of the world which is the greatest obstacle, bar none, to "making poverty history". He said that only when this is both widely known and openly acknowledged will we see real progress.
Joy Mitchell of Trident Ploughshares said that Trident is illegal, immoral and a waste of resources. It does nothing to increase world security and it undermines international efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. She said that this is the most important issue facing everyone at May Day. With Trident there can be no peace in the world, and the billions its replacement will cost are funds that need to be spent for social justice.
John McDonnell MP, candidate for the Labour Party leadership concluded the rally. After speaking against New Labour policies of privatisation and attacks on employment rights, he demanded of this government an enactment of the Trade Union Freedom Bill which would restore trade union rights and which the government talked out. On the same day, he said they did the same to the Agency Workers Bill which would have prevented agency workers being used as strikebreakers. He said they were coming back in October with these two pieces of legislation and he called for support in lobbying for when those bills come back into parliament. He sent solidarity to the people of Cuba who are confronted with the US blockade still. He demanded an end to the funding by the British government of military aid to the Colombian government who murder trade unionists and other progressive people on a daily basis. He sent solidarity especially this month to the revolution in Venezuela when they bring into public ownership the oil resources of Venezuela and use them to tackle poverty and redistribute wealth. He said that when Blair stands down on Thursday we will be wanting to mount a challenge from the left. He put forward his programme as a candidate in the leadership election that included peace and not war, withdrawal from Iraq now and no deal with Bush to site the new anti-ballistic weapons systems in our country and the starting of another nuclear arms race. The programme he put forward was in favour of public services and not privatisation and raising pensions and child benefit to tackle poverty. He spoke about the importance of education and scrapping the tuition fees every other attack on our education system. And spoke about the need to protect the environment which is being plundered for profit. He finished by saying that most importantly he wanted to see a government that protects trade union rights and civil liberties and never again the disgrace of legislation that means people can be arrested in Parliament Square for reading out the names of the dead in Iraq.
by Tom Mellen, Morning Star, May 2, 2007
Workers from all over the world united to celebrate international workers day in central London on May 1, with a special focus on the need to defend public services from private profiteers.
Defying gloomy predictions of a low turnout this year, tens of thousands of trade unionists and their supporters held a massive rally from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square, temporarily turning the metropolis into a festival against exploitation.
PCS member Nicky Ferguson, who travelled all the way from Northampton to join her fellow unionists on the picket lines, explained that she and thousands of others were on strike because 25,000 PCS members face redundancy as a result of government cuts. Ms Ferguson, a help-desk clerk, said that she wanted to challenge "the public perception that we are bowler-hatted bureaucrats on £26,000 a year," pointing out that, in the office where she works, helping members of the public make claims against excessive bank charges, "most people earn between £14,000 and £15,000, which is simply not enough to live on." Ms Ferguson explained that she felt a weight of responsibility on her shoulders as she joined the picket lines, as "first they are going for us, but they are planning to roll out real wage cuts and imposed redundancies across the public sector."
UCATT shop steward Tom Lannon called on the government to put more public money into employing health and safety managers on Britains building sites, pointing out that 80 workers in the construction industry alone have died since the beginning of the year.
GMB London regional secretary Tahir Bhatti reported that his union was picketing supermarket giant Marks and Spencers headquarters over health and safety issues with M&S supplier Bakkavor, where workers have lost fingers as a result of bosses failing to comply with health and safety regulations. Mr Bhatti reported that, despite the GMB having 250,000 members at the Bakkavor plant in Park Royal, west London, arrogant management has refused to sit down and discuss the unions concerns.
GMB young members advisory committee member Yue Ting Cheng was upbeat about his efforts to reinvigorate the GMB national youth committee by bringing more young workers into the trade union movement. Mr Yue said that he was winning young people over to the idea that their aspirations in life "do not conflict with the collectivism of the unions but can only truly be realised through such collectivism".
by Louise Nousratpour and Paul Donovan, Morning Star, May 8, 2007
Thousands of migrant workers staged a mass rally in London on May 7 to demand legal status to stay. The Strangers into Citizens campaign was joined by union leaders, immigrants, community activists, MPs and church groups in its call for a one-off "earned amnesty" for an estimated 500,000 irregular migrant workers living in Britain.
A colourful procession passed through Whitehall prior to a rally in Trafalgar Square featuring drummers, whistle-blowers and Latin American bands, playing in spite of driving rain. Some carried banners reading: "Abolish all racist immigration controls". Other placards read: "No-one is illegal. Regularisation for all."
The event marked the launch of the first broad-based campaign to lobby for a "pathway into citizenship" through a two-year work permit for migrants who have been in Britain for over four years. Campaigners said that regularisation would bring thousands out of a "dehumanising limbo" and clear asylum logjams, bringing "huge" economic benefits to the state.
Addressing the rally, industry union Unite joint deputy leader Jack Dromey recalled the experience of his Irish parents who arrived in London in the 1930s and struggled to find lodgings because of signs put up in the capital such as, "No dogs, no Irish". He stressed that the trade union movement had been built on a history of migration. "These are decent men and women, these undocumented workers 340,000 in London alone," said Mr Dromey, whose union represents the biggest section of Britains migrant workers. "It would be impractical and immoral for any government to pretend that you can hunt down and deport them. Lets see regularisation so that these good men and women can emerge out of the twilight world of exploitation, fear and insecurity to join the rest of the citizens in building this country." Mr Dromey attacked the current immigration system which "forces desperate people into the hands of the rogues" and called for "fresh thinking" on rights and regularisation.
Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas told the rally that regularisation made sense on "humanitarian, practical and political grounds. In humanitarian terms, undocumented workers are subject to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and traffickers," he said. "In practical terms, it will not be possible to deport 500,000 people at a cost of some £11,000 per person. And, on political grounds, the continued oppression of migrants is playing to the agenda of the BNP as was reflected in recent local elections where the party stood candidates. Stop talking about deportation and ID cards and start addressing the issue of implementing a regularisation of undocumented workers."
And public-sector union Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the crowd that many of Britains public services are dependent on migrant workers to operate. "They deserve dignity and respect," he said. "It cannot be allowed for workers in London hospitals to be bullied by employers simply because they demand a living wage. Migrant workers should be proud. You are part of our society and our public services."
Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy OConnor added: "Our government and the governments all over the world must treat migrant workers with justice and with dignity."
by Lynda Walker, Morning Star, May 8, 2007
The May Day celebrations in Belfast on May 5 were undoubtedly the best yet, with hundreds of people coming from all over Ireland and Britain.
Beginning at the Customs House Square, people gathered in a leisurely fashion to listen to the speeches. The Square was alive with men, women and children. Bands played, including the traditional brass bands, drumming bands and samba bands.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions vice-president Patricia McKeown, Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) general secretary Tony Woodley, Kerry Fleck of the Belfast and District Trade Union Council and Services Industrial Professional Technical Union general secretary Jack OConnor all made speeches. Chairman for the day was Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland committee chairman Eugene McGlone, who read out several messages of support including one from Sheffield Trades Council.
The theme of the march was the centenary of the 1907 dockers' and carters strike in Belfast and Ger OLeary, who is a look alike of strike leader Jim Larkin, re-enacted a Larkin speech. Arguably the most significant event in the history of the trade union movement in the north of Ireland, thousands came out on strike behind the leadership of Larkin and Alex Boyd of the Independent Orange Order and unity among the workers was great. As the May Day leaflet said, "The story of that summer is one of hope, strife, unity and struggle." Even the Royal Irish Constabulary went on strike.
Saturdays march was led off by the three most significant organisations that are descended from the unions of the day SIPTU, which was formerly the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, the T&G and Belfast Trades Council. They followed a route going up towards Shankill Road, across to Falls Road and on into Belfast city centre to St Georges Market, where music, stalls and refreshments were provided.
The May Day parade began on the historic José Martí Plaza de la Revolución in Havana. Raúl Castro, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, headed the central event for International Workers Day.
The huge crowd of more than one million capital residents demanded justice for the five Cubans incarcerated in US jails and denounced the release from prison of Luis Posada Carriles, the greatest terrorist in the Western hemisphere and mastermind of the mid-flight sabotage of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 which led to the death of all 73 aboard, including a junior fencing team.
As an expression of the fact that Cuba is not alone, 1,645 representatives of trade unions and social movements from 242 organisations and 74 countries were present at the main event in the capital, including delegates from the International Youth in Solidarity with the Five Conference that had just ended in Havana.
Similar mobilisations had been organised in all the islands cities to celebrate International Workers Day and to demand justice for the Cuban people. Santiago de Cuba, the islands second city, was the first to parade and thousands of residents accompanied by various friends of Cuba were in its main plaza.
Granma International English Edition
A national meeting marked the 117th anniversary of May Day, the international holiday of working people, at the Central Workers Hall in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) on May 1. Ryom Sun Gil, chairman of the Central Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, addressed the meeting. He stressed the need to promote international solidarity with the working people around the world under the ideal of independence, peace and friendship.
Working people throughout the DPRK celebrated the 117th anniversary of May Day.
A May Day reunification-oriented rally of northern and southern Korean workers for implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration took place in Changwon of South Kyongsang Province, south Korea between April 29 and May 1. During the rally, various events including a unity rally, a joint football match and a meeting were held.
From The Pyongyang Times, May 5, 2007
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