UNI Global Union message: International Labour Day

Sunday 1 May 2016

May Day Message: UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings

Mayday is appropriately the international distress signal for those in peril. As millions of trade unionists take to the streets today in solidarity to celebrate the sacrifice and contribution of working people across the world, they too will be raising their voices in a Mayday call for the future of our planet. We are facing record levels of inequality, unemployment, global warming and greed.

UNI Global Union and our 20 million strong family will never accept business as usual. The Panama Papers debacle has shone a light down into the dark recesses of the tax dodging havens where the super-rich and powerful hide their wealth.  We do not accept a system of tax evasion which leaves hospitals, schools and infrastructure dangerously underfunded while the 1% feather their own nests. Unless workers are given a fair share of the wealth to invest in growth the global economy will not recover from the 2008 crisis that threatens to tip into a second deeper crisis from which we may never recover.  Governments applying crippling austerity measures to the 99% while the 1% salt away obscene bonuses is a recipe for an unsustainable future and one we will never accept.

The trade union movement, built on a bedrock of decent work, freedom of association and a seat at the table for workers has another vision of a sustainable future based on quality jobs, where technology serves humanity and not vice-versa. We are building that future now through agreements such as GFAs and the Bangladesh Accord to which more than 200 multinationals have signed up. They are working with UNI and our sister global union, IndustriALL to transform the Bangladeshi garment factories to avoid another Rana Plaza, the tragedy which claimed more than 1,300 lives three years ago. The Bangladesh Accord is a not only a game changer for the global garment supply chain it is a blueprint for responsible business.  We made it happen.

The labour movement also played a major role in bringing COP21 to a successful conclusion with the agreement signed only last month in New York. We know that there are no jobs on a dead planet and we are actively taking that message into the boardroom when we negotiate GFAs. Protecting and saving the environment has to be at the heart of the work we do as trade unionists.

Nor do we accept a world without equality of the sexes. Change begins at home, UNI Global Union introduced the 40 for 40 Declaration at our World Congress in Nagasaki in 2010, committing union leaders to ensure representation of at least 40% for both genders in all decision-making structures, and meeting delegations. We have seen the rise of powerful women leaders in the UNI family, not least our President, Ann Selin who will today address a 100,000 strong rally in Jakarta, Indonesia.

When we march proudly through the cities of the world today, we are showing that we remain wedded to our values and responsibilities. We know the size of the task ahead to make the world a safe and decent place for workers to live because the evidence to the contrary is painful and stark. Every 15 seconds a worker dies on the job; 7000 labourers are expected to go to their graves so that the Qatar World Cup can go ahead in 2022; and thousands of trade unionists are victimized and others killed for standing up for their human rights.

On this 1st of May, we are right to sound the alarm and send up a Mayday but we should also remind friend and foe alike that we are here to make it happen.

On behalf of UNI staff across the world, we thank you, our valued affiliates, for your trust in us and wish you all the best for your May 1st activities. We are united across our sectors and groups in acting to break through and change the world.”