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Workers demand worldwide Respect on May 1st
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Friday, 11 April 2003
Brussels, April 11, 2003 (ICFTU online): Plans for trade union activities on May 1st are advancing, as unions from all five continents respond to the call for actions under a single worldwide theme. The 158 million member International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), along with its partners in the Global Unions group represent trade union organisations from every sector. They will be calling for "Respect" in events uniting workers from all corners of the world. Activities varying from mass demonstrations to sports events to conferences are being planned by unions who will be demanding "Respect" on a range of issues including workers rights, quality public services, workers health and safety, tackling poverty, and rights and opportunities for young workers.

"By uniting under one global theme, unions will send out a strong message. Respect for workers rights is a major part of the agenda we are putting forward, particularly as we gear up for the next WTO Trade Ministerial meeting in Cancun in September this year. We are encouraged by the response we are already seeing to this Global Unions call", said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The list of planned actions for May 1st is growing.

In Kenya, newly elected President Mwai Kibaki will join the ICFTU-affiliated COTU in launching a new anti-HIV/AIDS program aimed at workers.

ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder will participate in demonstrations organised in Moscow where the Youth Council of the ICFTU-affiliated FNPR will also play a special role.

A British TUC march through central London will include a call for Respect for workers rights, while in France, Force Ouvrières (FO) May 1st actions will also link into the global theme.

Although many May 1st activities are planned by national trade union centres, or their regional structures, sectoral or industrial unions are also getting more involved. The plans of transport sector unions in Malaysia, Kenya, Pakistan and Mauritius, for instance, are all well advanced. Public sector unions in countries including Japan, Portugal and Iceland will also be joining the Global Unions action.

There are also instances of unions cooperating internationally on their May 1st activities, showing that the issues they confront are not confined to one country. In the Balkan region, cross-border activities are planned in Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, where young trade unionists will launch a "Respect for Young Workers" campaign.

May 1st also provides an opportunity to underline the international aspects of union organising activities. In the United States, a Taiwan-based employer has refused to recognize a union of employees at a Chinese language newspaper in California. The AFL-CIO-affiliated Communication Workers of America will be linking up with the May 1st mobilisation to fight for Respect for these employees.

Many union activities in May 1st will be link closely with issues of local significance, such as in Venezuela, where unemployed people and other civil society groups will join trade unions in protesting against unemployment, poverty, and the persecution against opposition leaders being carried out by President Hugo Chavez. In South Korea, both the ICFTU-affiliated union centres will be calling for reunification and reconciliation between North and South Korea.

The ICFTU has also been informed of trade union centres linking their activities to the global theme in Japan, Benin, Albania, Burkina Faso and other countries. In the run up to May 1st, the ICFTU will post listings of May 1st actions all around the world on the Global Unions website. For more information on the Global Unions May 1st mobilisation: http://www.global-unions.org/may1.

"At a time of great uncertainty in the world, and against the background of the war in Iraq, Global Unions is stressing the importance of May 1st this year as an opportunity for the worlds trade unions to push for Respect for workers and their families. Furthermore, there are many issues which unite all of us, inside and outside the trade union movement - we also demand Respect for all people by continuing the fight to end poverty, and to defend quality public services", concluded Guy Ryder.

A sample list of planned May 1st actions:

The ICFTU represents 158 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org

For more information, please contact the ICFTU Press Department on +32 2 224 0245 or +32 477 86 19 03.
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