(30 April 2020) One year on the pandemic is still raging across the globe. India and Brazil are very sad testimonies of governments that failed to put workers’ and peoples’ interests before narrow, ideological and corporate elite interests. Most of us will celebrate 1st May online, and we will not meet in the streets and squares to show solidarity and to support the demands of our movement.
One demand of labour and of social movements is for the EU to agree to the waiver on intellectual property rights on COVID19 vaccines. Rich countries continue to block this, protecting big pharma companies. This shows the inequality and unequal power of countries. The pandemic has emphasised that the fact that we are not all equal. Overviews of infections show high rates of new cases in working class areas and in poorer neighbourhoods, and very few in the parts of towns where the rich and well-to-do live.
This labour day we demand that health inequalities are address by governments so that we all can enjoy the right to good health and care. This means dealing with staffing shortages in health and social care, improving pay and conditions and ensuring healthy and safe work-places for all.
To ensure the public funding for our public services we demand fair taxation and tax justice. Yes, the rich and corporations need to pay more tax and wealth needs to be redistributed to meet the needs of all of us, not the few. Corruption, big and small is to be addressed, as workers and people demand again and again. We are the victims when labour laws, health and safety regulations, environmental standards and taxation are circumvented and undermined, when there is outright profiteering from public contracts, and when public funds fill the coffers of corrupt politicians and corporate bosses.
On 1st May, we are reminded of the long-standing struggle to reach out to workers, and to recruit and organise, in order to grow and strengthen trade unions. Strong unions can negotiate good collective agreements and improve the lives of workers. Many governments are not siding with workers tough. They support business leaders that run union-busting campaigns, actively support corporate interests by weakening trade union rights and weaken the voices of workers. We demand that the global standards to ensure public contracts protect workers. For example, the ILO Convention 94 on labour clauses should be used by public authorities. More governments should sign and ratify it, and in the EU, we expect the Commission and Member States to follow proposals on the table in the European Parliament to strengthen collective bargaining. Public contracts should not go to companies that have not signed a collective agreement with the unions. The forthcoming EU Porto Social Summit will be a test case to see if the EU institutions are serious about delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights. And the full pillar, not a selection a la carte.
For public service unions, 1st May has special significance. We celebrate the workers that have been in the frontline.
Real improvements to public services are necessary. We cannot return to the failed austerity and liberalisation policies of the past or to the commercialisation of our services. The 1st May is a step towards 23 June, the European Action Day for public services workers. Together we can realise our dream of a better world for workers and for our communities. A world without the exploitation of women and men and of our environment. A world in which all can enjoy trade union and human rights.
On behalf of the EPSU team and the President and Vice-Presidents, I wish you all a very good, festive and combative 1 May.