We are approaching May Day at a time when the number and scale of protests of the working class are on the rise all over the world. Workers are fighting back with growing determination and waging more powerful, more united struggles against the capitalist offensive. There have been massive protests against the “austerity” measures being imposed on the working people, the cutbacks in social service and privatization of health services.
One of the largest manifestations of working class resistance has been the long series of protests, strikes, and marches by the workers in France defying labour law changes that the country’s rulers wanted to push down their throats. Since March 2016, a series of protests stopped various parts of France, as demonstrators and labor unions voiced their opposition to a set of proposed labor law reforms that will lengthen the work week to 48 hours from 35, and make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. The Union representing drivers and mechanics, who have been without a contract for over two years, went on a rotating strike in March 2017.
In Britain, about 3500 BMW workers voted overwhelmingly on 31st March in favour of going on strike over pensions. Despite reporting a 14% surge in pre-tax profits for the third quarter of 2016 over the same period the previous year, BMW has declared its intent to close its two defined-benefit pension schemes. It plans to replace it with a “defined-contribution pension scheme”, subjecting the workers to “market risk”, which means that their hard earned savings could be robbed by the capitalists.
London witnessed powerful mass protests on 4th March against the privatisation of health services, downgrading of facilities and closure of vital hospitals and units. Health professionals and the general public have been coming out over the past decade in protest against the direction in which the government is driving the National Hleath System in England and Wales. These protests have intensified over the last few years. The demonstrators vowed to intensify the fight to affirm that health care is a right, and to hold the government to account for its programme of wrecking this precious public asset.
In the United States of America, 17,000 AT&T workers struck work on 22nd March. The landline workers in California and Nevada, who are represented by the Communications Workers of America Union, are protesting against a unilateral change in job requirements made by the company without the agreement of the union. The contracts for AT&T workers in California and Nevada have expired since almost a year.
Airport workers in Germany went on a 24-hour strike on 11th March, and followed it up by a second 24-hour strike on 14th March, which was then extended for a further day. The workers are protesting their miserable working conditions that have worsened over the past 10 years. The ground staff receive just above minimum wages. Most employees receive short-term contracts, and many of the most difficult jobs involved in handling flights are carried out by temporary workers who often earn even less. At the same time, the workload of these workers has massively increased due to the extremely high passenger numbers in Berlin.
Nearly 1500 mining workers in the two largest copper mines of the world in Chile and Peru are on an indefinite strike since10th March. Mining companies in these two countries have benefitted over the past few years from rising global demand and prices, but workers have seen little to no benefit from the boom. As one worker said: “Copper prices have improved, production has improved, but wages for workers haven’t improved”.
Militant protests erupted in Brazil at the end of November 2016, against the government’s austerity drive. Brazil is experiencing its worst recession since the 1930s. More than 12 million people are out of work. The demonstrations brought together students, landless peasants and labour union activists.
South Korea saw large strikes across sectors in September 2016. 50,000 workers from Hyundai Motors’ labour union conducted its first nationwide, full-day walkout in on 26th September over demands for wage increases. In the same week, the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union began an all-out strike to protest the government's pay system. Other workers in the public and financial sectors were also on strike against the government’s attempts to push through a “merit”-based pay scheme that will be used to suppress wages by as much as 40 percent. It will also create pretexts to fire “underperforming” employees.
On 27th September, 2016, workers of Seoul’s two subway unions covering lines 1 through 8, along with the workers of the Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU), struck work jointly for the first time in 22 years. Some 2,380 subway workers, or about 30 percent of the total, took part in the strike. A similar number of railway workers walked off the job. On 23rd September, 65,000 bank workers organized under the banner of the Korean Financial Industry Union (KFIU) launched a strike.
In South Africa workers belonging to the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union went on strike in July 2016 to demand a living wage. More than 15,000 employees in the petroleum sector went on strike over wage negotiations against the employers in the chemical industry.
In sum, the working class and exploited majority of people in all capitalist countries are refusing to bear the burden of the capitalist crisis. They are not willing to put up with the inhuman offensive of the monopoly capitalists. There is rising anger against the attempts of governments to safeguard maximum profits for a miniscule minority at the expense of the livelihood and rights of the toiling majority.