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Unions around the world gear up for historic May 1st
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Thursday, 01 May 2003
Brussels, April 29, 2003: An unprecedented mobilisation of trade unions will take place across the globe on Thursday, May 1st. From Vanuatu to South Africa, from the Balkans to the Andes, May 1st events will be united under a common banner, a call for "Respect". The theme was launched in February by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), on behalf of "Global Unions", a grouping of 12 international trade union organisations.

"Unions worldwide are responding to the call from their international trade union organisations, demanding Respect for workers, and for people in general, during these times of international economic and political uncertainty," said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder, who will be addressing a rally in front of Moscows town hall. "We live in a globalised world, where trade unions need to put forward global strategies and speak with a global voice. This is what the ICFTU, its affiliates and its Global Unions partners are expressing on May 1st by organising this joint global action." The ICFTU-backed May 1st mobilisation represents the first time in history that so many national and local trade union organisations have integrated a single international theme into their national activities.

A list of these activities, maintained by ICFTU, currently covering over 50 countries, continues to grow as May 1st approaches. The listing, available on the Internet (www.global-unions.org/may1) contains updates on May 1st plans around the world, information on how the activities will link up with the global Respect theme, and where available, links to further information on national and local websites.

In Russia, ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder will join the 3 ICFTU-affiliated trade union centres, FNPR, VKT and KTR, as they organise demonstrations, mainly in the form of rallies and processions in capitals and regional centres of the country. Ryder will be joining an expected 20,000 marchers who will rally in front of Moscows town hall.

In Japan, unions will use the "Respect" theme in the speech of the President of RENGO and in brochures about the ICFTU / Global Unions globalisation campaign to be distributed during rallies.

In Kenya, among other activities, a parade of union members will highlight HIV and child labour issues and will be followed by speeches of President Mwai Kibaki and the Health Minister. In rallies and marches across South Africa, union members will pledge to "deepen service to members and fight for Respect for workers rights".

Other activities will take place in Africa such as in Benin where a debate on the "Respect" theme and the handout of a list of demands to the Minister of Employment will take place, and at Rosso, on the border between Mauritania and Senegal, a cross border event organized by unions in the two countries will take place.

In Europe, where May 1st activities are expected to be widespread, with rallies in nearly every country, the theme "Respect" will also be a visible one. In the United Kingdom, the TUC is organizing a march through central London, and will make use of the Global Unions "Respect" theme. An ICFTU representative will join the General Secretary-elect of the TUC, Brendan Barber, in delivering May 1st messages to a rally which will culminate in Trafalgar Square.

In Italy, the CGIL, CISL and UIL will call for "Respect" in speeches delivered in almost 100 towns throughout the country. A National Rally will be held in Assisi where people will demonstrate for peace and against racism. More than 600,000 young people are expected to show up at a rock concert in Rome, where the opposition to the war in Iraq is expected to be another important theme.

In France, Force Ouvrière (FO) is calling for respect in a national poster campaign on pensions, in the run-up to May 1st, and the CFDT has asked its affiliated organisations to associate themselves with the worldwide call made by the ICFTU and its partner organisations in the Global Unions group, by calling for "Strong Unions for the Respect of workers worldwide".

In the Balkans, several youth sections of trade unions from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia will jointly launch a campaign calling for "Respect for youth workers", one of the sub themes of this years May Day manifestation.

In Brazil, May 1st will see some 1,500,000 in the streets of Sao Paulo in what probably constitutes the single biggest May 1st event in the world. Many famous artists are expected to perform at the concert which will be the centerpiece of the rally.

In the United States - where traditionally Labour Day is marked in September, trade unions will join in by organizing a series of activities. In Washington D.C. the AFL-CIO will launch a manual on workers rights as well as promoting the May 1st mobilisation among its affiliates. The AFL-CIO-affiliated HERE, will be organising actions calling for Respect in 42 US cities, while AFL-CIO affiliate CWA will be promoting organising campaigns in two companies calling for Respect.
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