Monday, May 01, 2006

Asian, European Workers Demand Better Wages, Working Conditions

Associated Press
May 1, 2006

Protests in Asia:

As people protest against the proposed immigration bill today in the United States, citizens of Asia and Europe take the day to protest unemployment, poor working conditions, and low wages. Although the protestors promise a friendly demonstration, police were on high alert in Asia with helicopters hovering overhead in Indonesia and riot police guarding the presidential palace in the Philippines. In the Philippines, government troops and police armed with batons and shields turned away hundreds of activists who marched to the Philippine presidential palace to demand a wage hike and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's ouster.

In Sri Lanka, “where violence between Tamil Tiger rebels and the military has sparked fears of a return to civil war, the government decided to cancel all May Day rallies in the capital.” Fifty thousand people in Jakarta chanted, “Don’t change the law,” in response to Indonesia’s plans to revise current labor laws by cutting severance packages and introducing more flexible contracts that would decrease worker security. In Cambodia, thousands of police brought the capital to a standstill during a government hold on an unauthorized May Day demonstrations. The government denied permission for the rally, allowing only one official May Day demonstration at Chenla Theater. Police armed with riot shields and batons physically prevented protesters from marching.

Protests in Europe:

“Meanwhile, in Moscow, official events set up by the ruling pro-United Russia party overshadowed traditional protest marches by the opposition Communists as 25,000 people gathered opposite the mayor's office in the central Tverskaya Street to hear speeches from trade union leaders and the mayor and listen to a concert.” In total, 1.5 million people participated in May Day rallies in Russia.

Labor unions in Germany protested the impact of globalization and the sacrifice of jobs of a quick profit. The labor unions also urged the government to introduce a minimum wage. Unfortunately for Germans, unemployment stands at 11.5 percent, “undermining government finances and the country's generous welfare state.” In Vienna, about 120,000 members of the opposition Social Democratic Party participated in a traditional march, which focused on Austria’s 8 percent unemployment rate.

Finally, in Bosnia the unemployed marched down the main street in Sarajevo, demanding new elections and the resignation of the government, which they claim is not doing enough to lower the unemployment rate, which has been above 40 percent for years.

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