SOME highlights of the 2016 May Day events from around the world include a massive rally by hundreds of thousands of Cubans which condemned the campaign to 'destabilize' leftist governments around Latin America.
In France, May Day came in the wake of a huge ongoing uprising of workers and youth against a proposed new labour law legislation that would be a major blow to workers’ rights. The Socialist Party Government introduced this proposed reform in February, unleashing waves of protests. On March 9, 500,000 people participated in a national day of action. 1.2 million joined trade union demonstrations in more than 250 cities and towns on March 31. On the night of March 31st, despite rain, hundreds gathered night in Paris’s Place de la République, in the first of the “Nuit Debout” occupations. On April 9, tens of thousands more marched in Paris and other French cities against the law. Nuit Debout night-time vigils and mass meetings are now being held all over France, against the proposed labour law and also calling for political change. The “state of emergency” declared in Paris since the November 13 terror attacks have given the police a green signal to crackdown on the protests against the labour law, with tear gas and violent beatings. In March, a video of high school student protesters being violently beaten by the police led to outrage and criminal charges against the officers. The Labour Minister Myriam El-Khomri has declared that the government would not "cede to the street." But as of now, it seems that the street won’t cede to the Government. Between May 1 and May 3, there have been huge demonstrations against the labour law, raising the slogan ‘Non Merci’ (No Thank You); the French Parliament is debating the labour law amendment bill (watered down now in the face of the protests but still unacceptable to people) since May 3 even as we go to press.
May Day saw gatherings all over India protesting the attacks on workers’ rights and the open and covert erosion of labour laws by the Modi Government.
In Delhi, workers and students charged with ‘sedition’ showed solidarity with each other. Jawaharlal Nehru University students have been punished by the University authorities for hosting or supporting a poetry reading event against atrocities in Kashmir. On May Day, contractual workers of the University, including sanitation and mess staff, who are part of the AICCTU-affiliated All Indian General Kamgar Union marched with students on the campus to the spot where 19 students are on hunger fast against the vindictive punishments. Comrades Urmila and Anju, who are leaders of the Union, reminded people that it was united student and worker protests that forced contractors and the University to implement minimum wage laws, maternity entitlements, provide gloves and masks, and so on. N 2007, students protesting for these workers’ rights had been rusticated by the University. They said the Government and University was branding those students as ‘anti-national’, who had stood up for the rights of workers and all oppressed people. The protest was also addressed by JNUSU GS Rama Naga and other hunger striking students, JNUSU VP Shehla Rashid and CPIML Politburo member Kavita Krishnan. In the evening, as a token of their love and solidarity, the workers also presented ‘PRICOL Solidarity’ postcards (supporting the workers of the Pricol factory of Coimbatore who have been unjustly convicted) to the hunger striking students.
In the evening, a massive march by all trade unions was held in Delhi, from Ramlila Grounds to the Town Hall, calling for a campaign to make the All India Workers’ Strike of September 2 a success.
AICCTU and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha jointly organized a rally and meeting on the occasion of May Day at Rasmarha Industrial area in Durg district, which was addressed by Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha leaders Bhimrao Bagde and Janaklal Thakur, AICCTU leaders Brijendra Tiwari, Ashok Miri, and others. The speakers condemned the anti-worker policies of the Raman Singh government.
At 5 PM a joint trade union meeting was held at Ambedkar Chowk, Power House, Bhilai, attended by AITUC, AICCTU, HMS, CMM, and AIUTUC. A workers’ meeting was held at the stone quarry in Mura, Raipur. A meeting of AICCTU activists was held at Korba which was addressed by BL Netam and others. CMM organized a meeting at Kota, Bilaspur.
In Punjab May Day rallies were organised in Barnala and Gurdaspur in which several hundreds of workers participated.
In Hyderabad, the May Day was celebrated by holding a programme with building construction workers in the city.
May Day programmes were also held in Guwahati, Nagaon and Tinsukia.
In Chennai and Ambattur of Tamil Nadu, workers from OLG, Innovator, Jay Engineering, Standard Chemicals, Mercury Fittings and TI Diamond Chain assembled in front of their respective factory gates in the morning and hoisted red flags. In the evening, a Public meeting was organized in Ambattur Industrial estate, thronged by workers belonging to both organized and unorganized sectors. The meeting was addressed by Comrade Kumarasamy, All India President of AICCTU and the MLA candidate for the Ambattur constituency, Com. Palanivel, a worker in TI Diamond Chain factory. In Coimbatore red flags were hoisted at Pricol plant 1, plant 3, Suba Plastics and Shanthi Gears factories. Mass meeting here were addressed by AICCTU, Pricol Union and CPIML leaders as well as Comrades Velmurugan and Natraj, MLA candidates of Goudampalayam and Mettupalayam constituencies. After the meeting, 200 workers joined the election campaign for these candidates. In Tiruvellore, Namakkal and several other districts also, after the hoisting of the flag, the workers left to campaign for CPIML candidates in the Assembly elections. In Tirunelveli, a motorbike rally marched through main streets of the town and culminated at Metal Factory at Industrial Estate.
In Puducherry also May Day was observed with much enthusiasm in midst of election campaign.
AITUC, AICCTU and CITU observed May Day together in Bhubaneshwar.
In Jharkhand, the Labour Ministry in Ranchi to snatch May Day from the workers. The Ministry tried to lure the workers by presenting them with shoes and caps and trying to convince them that the unions were no longer needed as they governments were taking care of them. The workers rebuffed these attempts and independently observed May Day in protest against the rampant violations of labour laws by State and Central Governments.
Colliery workers under the banner of the CMWU observed May Day in several areas of Dhanbad District. CMWU held a ‘May Day Week’ with week-long gatherings and protest events in the district. Colliery workers also held events in the Ara and Topar Collieries in the Kujju area. In Bokaro, the AICCTU organised a gathering of construction workers. In the evening, AICCTU together with CITU and UTUC held a May Day mass meeting. A march was held in Bermo and a mass meeting at Chandankyari. AICCTU, CITU and AITUC held a mass meeting together at Giddisi in Ramgarh district, announcing their intention to hold a May Day Week with week-long events. Workers at the Steel Plant in Hesla also held a mass meeting.
Workers of the Banjhedih Thermal Plant in Koderma District held a meeting at the Plant gate. Workers held meetings at Gumla and Palkot in Gumla district. Mid Day Meal workers in Garhwa District held a May Day mass meeting together with the Karmchari Mahasangh employees association. The Akaal Virodhi Manch (Platform Against Drought) comprising CPIML, All India People’s Forum, Jharkhand Jan Sangharsh Morcha, the Daily Wagers Union and other groups held a May Day street corner meeting. Workers marched on May Day in Kundhit block, Jamtada district. The Construction Workers’ Union held a March in Ranchi.
The Mid Day Meal Workers Union – President Rasoiya Sangh held meetings all over Ranchi, Palamu and Hazaribagh districts.