[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Are workers' rights being ignored?
A seamstresses in the Chentex factory in Tipitapa, Nicaragua

Today is the first of May, which is traditionally a holiday to mark the struggle for workers' rights.

However, in recent years May Day has become associated with protests against capitalism, globalisation, and even the war in Iraq.

In many countries, union membership is at an all-time low. Only 28.5% of the UK workforce is unionised. In the USA, the figure is around 13%.

Many workers in the developing world are banned from joining unions, and those that try can face threats of detention, violence and murder.

Is there enough protection for workers? Are you a union member? What can be done to strengthen workers' rights around the world? What role has the fall of communism and the rise of the global economy played?

We discussed workers' rights with the General Secretary of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions, Guy Ryder in our global phone-in programme, Talking Point. You can watch or hear the programme again by clicking on the links above.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I don't have union representation, even though I would like it
Maria, Cardiff, Wales
I would love to join my union, the AUT. Unfortunately, they have recently proved to be extremely racist and not to have their members' best interests at heart. So sadly, I don't have union representation, even though I would like it.
Maria, Cardiff, Wales

Nobody accepts the rights of the workers in Bolivia therefore you have to work pleasing your boss or you are lost.
Javier Sanchez, La Paz, Bolivia

Unions need to become truly international in order to combat corporate globalization. They need to redirect efforts in the US and Europe towards unorganized sectors and areas. They need to become a real movement again instead of an interest group. With all the misdirected money and effort in the US labor movement being involved with the Democratic Party, we could be rebuilding our unions and expanding the movement across the world. Sure we have a hostile business and political climate, but that is the way it has always been. People died for unions in the last two centuries. What do we have to fear compared to the past?
Burr Corley, Morgantown, USA

Workers' rights have more to do with treating everyone with dignity than any capitalist motive of profit
SB, New Jersey, US
The very notion of treating the poor worker like a human being, and not just another machine part, is not radical. The comments regarding everyone who fights for equal rights being a communist are absurd. Those who make such comments have not experienced discrimination in hiring, pay raise, promotions, etc. Workers' rights have more to do with treating everyone with dignity than any capitalist motive of profit. No one who has ever worked 19 hours a day, seven days a week in the hot sun and the freezing rain will ever make such comments.
SB, New Jersey, US

After spending three years working in the US I can safely say that yes, workers' rights here are being ignored. This is the country of the 10 days off a year for holiday. This is the country that in the main starts its workers working at 8am so as to gain a full eight hours of production from them. Corporate America just does not get the fact that more vacation time and workers' rights leads to more production and a more willing workforce.
Ed H, UK/ currently US

Corporate criminals through their ownership of the communications media have been able to destroy worker confidence in unity, with a concomitant decrease in union membership and power. President Eisenhower once said that in order to negotiate effectively, one must speak from a position of strength. Unions are the only hope for fair treatment and wages for the workers and the only bulwark against corporate tyranny. The breakdown of worker unity is turning the state of the working person, into a de facto state of slavery.
Gerald Hovis, Saginaw, USA

Our boss refers to us as bodies, as in "we need some bodies over here"
KC
Some say workers are just numbers to the employers. Our boss refers to us as bodies, as in "we need some bodies over here." When one of our workers passed away at home, the supervisor was angry because his schedule was disrupted. And I am an American with a 'decent' job in the private sector.
KC

I know of a person who repeatedly turned up drunk to work. Rather than being sacked his employer was forced (through union pressure) to pay for him to go on an alcohol rehab course. Yes, people should be protected from unfair treatment by their employers, but only if employers are allowed to deal with incompetent staff.
Joe, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffs

Since the state has, in effect, merged with the giant corporations here in the US, workers have lost all power. We are fast returning to a feudal system.
Bob, Taos, USA

The role of the union is now redundant
Trevor Browne, Barbados
The realities of globalisation have overtaken the genuine concerns traditionally articulated by the unions. In an environment where basic jobs are at risk due to challenges from others, often overseas, who are willing to operate at lower standards to take your jobs, the role of the union is now redundant.
Trevor Browne, Barbados

For every single person who moans about how unions put a crimp in the economy: the fact that today you enjoy the benefits of paid vacation, company insurance policies, a welfare state, actual time off and freedom from the fear of being sacked at any minute is all because unions campaigned for these things.
Mark, Leeds, UK

It needed the killing of workers to bring in the 8 hour working day and legal rights. There is a fine balancing act for both the workers and employees, neither to exploit each other.
Arun, Calcutta, India

Here in Spain, worker's rights have always been ignored by those who employ them. The most vulnerable ones are foreigners, who haven't got the required documents to enable them to work and earn a better salary.
Chernor Jalloh, Almeria, Spain

Unions have long since outlived their usefulness; they're nothing more than modern day racketeers. They are fatally linked to the failed communist ideology.
Sebastian, San Francisco, USA

I am not a union member because the union is more interested in lining its own pockets
Mark Wood, Shetland
The UK wage gap has become more and more polarised. I work for the government but need a second job to make ends meet, taking home less than 1000 a month for a family of six. I am not a union member because the union is spineless and is more interested in lining its own pockets than those of its clients.
Mark Wood, Shetland

Cleaners where I work have been given a massive rise - backdated. Last year, everyone out of the several thousand employees was interviewed. Of the 16 in my department, 15 took drops in salary ranging from 700 to over 2500 per annum. Despite the employers dressing it up, the bottom line was to pay for the cleaners rises. Is that fair?
Vic Wearmouth, Marton, England

I am a fashion designer and manufacturer, and the only way to give workers control over their own conditions is to employ them as subcontractors. They get more than they would in a sweat shop, and can do as much or as little work as they want. This way they are in control because they run their own small business. This is a return to how it was before the industrial revolution, when workers had more control.
Hilary Rowley, Dunedin, New Zealand

Workers are entitled to a safe work environment and that's about it. No one is entitled to a job, and people should have the liberty to negotiate their wage with their employer.
Greg Burton, Atlanta, GA USA

Workers' rights are very poor and primitive in the UK
Christopher Wheatley, London
Workers' rights are very poor and primitive in the UK. One example is the age discrimination that goes unchecked by this awful Labour government.
Christopher Wheatley, London

The concept of workers' rights originated in the West and spread outwards to the developing world, as did the concept of human rights. I can't think of a better example of the merits of globalisation!
Andrew, London, UK

In Germany the rights of unemployed workers are being ignored, as they are forced into working in jobs for one Euro per hour, usually ending up doing the work no one else wants to do (cleaning etc). I personally know a woman in this situation. She earns 100 Euros per month and has to pay half of this in childcare. If they refuse to do the jobs their unemployment benefit is cut.
Olive Drab, Berlin, Germany

I have seen many of my peers laid off over the years. The lay-offs occur, on schedule, before quarterly earnings reports in order to boost revenue by a couple of cents per share. The result is a few more dollars in profit, and the destruction of many families. It is sad to see that many corporations feel no responsibility to the greater good of its community. People, sadly, have been reduced to commodities.
Nick, Chicago, USA

he best way to protect workers' rights is to have a booming economy and plentiful jobs
Rob, New York, USA
The best way to protect workers' rights is to have a booming economy and plentiful jobs. When there were many jobs here in US in late 90s, I immediately moved to a new job if my employer did not do as I please. But now, with jobs being scarce, employers are aware of it and do what ever they want to us. Like working unpaid weekends and nights. My motto is stability is in mobility.
Rob, New York, USA

It is disgusting, in supposedly employee-centric Japan, most of the county does not have an overtime system. Most of the overtimes are unpaid. If the company has some plans, employees have to work even in weekends. It is amazing that some of the supposedly developed world, yet don't want to advance the minds towards their employees.
S Iyer, Tokyo, Japan

Companies are there for one reason. To make money! Employees are little more than a number. No matter how many rights you have in law, if you are not part of a union you are open to abuse and pressure no matter where you are in the world.
Paul, UK

Here in Finland the vast majority of workers are unionised. The government in general is very pro-worker, and forming a union is encouraged. Workers' rights are considered extremely important as well. It is a shame that not many choose to follow the Finnish model.
Mika Laitinen, Vantaa, Finland

I am a business owner and do not get paid days off or any work-free holidays. I work at least 16 hours a day and it has taken me more than five years to get to the point where I earn a comfortable living. People think business owners are rich and lazy (and some are), but if I calculated my wage in per hour terms, it wouldn't look so wonderful.
Trygve, Dubai/US

Workers' rights will always be under pressure when a small minority control natural resources and capital
Tom Paine, Mauritius
Workers' rights will always be under pressure when a small minority control natural resources and capital. Only when workers have control can they improve their lives.
Tom Paine, Mauritius

Workers rights! I'm more concerned about the rights of those still suffering from the Vietnam War and the use of chemicals similar to Agent Orange.
T Newman, Bournemouth UK

To the many here who are so critical of business and complain of being underpaid and undervalued - find another employer. Simple.
Mark, Sheffield, England

Get real, folks! The best and most reliable way to get "rights" is to be so skilled and useful to employers that you can dicate your own terms. And be ready to move elsewhere if you are not being treated well. Anything else - you are just a disempowered supplicant.
Paul Roberts, Colchester, UK

In my view, workers' rights are being ignored by the trade unions. The whole concept of globalization is destroying British jobs by the hundreds of thousands and the trade unions keep supporting the government that is promoting globalization.
Carlos Cortiglia, London, United Kingdom

If you don't want to work long hours, have poor conditions and feel utterly worthless, change jobs. Go on training courses, back into education, work hard and have your talents recognised. It's laziness and a "poor me" attitude that is the problem, not overbearing employers
Ed, London UK

Those who are arrogant about workers and feel they do not need rights, need to think, what if one chooses not to work for an employer? Then he or she is called lazy? Not everyone can start his own business because most rely on natural resources, such as land, coal, oil, metals, wood, etc. that have long since gone to the few by way of government grants and sales. So support your unions, or stop persecuting the "homeless," those who opt out of the corporations and refuse to work for them.
M Blue, Olympia USA

The best chance for first world employees is to demand rights for the third world. No one from the first world can compete directly with a Chinese worker.
Erik, Ft, Collins, U.S.

Profit before people is immoral and it is a workers ethical duty to protest at that
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
Mayday has always been about protest and dissent. It has its roots in protest and dissent. It's not, however, a truly working class movement anymore. Since the fifties and sixties, middle class interests have played a role that has weakened the efforts of workers in protest situation. It's no wonder that the majority have simply given up. The UK, along with other Western nations, is rushing headlong into a culture of greed and valueless human beings. This is what the protests are about, and rightly so. Profit before people is immoral and it is a workers ethical duty to protest at that. Thousands die in the developing world protesting, and here, we look at as some kind of sickness. This country should be ashamed of itself.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK

I am greatly saddened to see how our country has increasingly allowed US corporations to marginalize workers regarding health benefits, pensions, et cetera. Yet, CEOs have increasingly, over the years, received bonuses and more and more money as they give less and less to workers.
Carol Haverly, Lakeville, USA

May Day, represents the shining hope of every man, woman and child to struggle for a better tomorrow. The prevailing view that there is no alternative to our myopic capitalist system only serves to obscure that light and shatter the dreams of billions of workers.
Jacob Wijnberg, New York City, USA

I only have my own experience in the US as a reference but people today lead better lives materially than any time in the past. What has changed are people's expectations.
Eric Ross, Oregon, USA

A Trade Union serves no useful purpose when your employers weave your contract so carefully that any representation becomes obsolete. Many of the May Day protesters are students who are feverishly working away so that they may join the high paying global companies that they protest about.
J Wright, Newcastle upon Tyne

Paid for sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, paid time off for union meetings, phased return to work after spurious bouts of illness, appeals, fag breaks, provision for prayers, time off when the kids are ill - "workers" are really hard done by where I am employed!
Tony, Chesterfield

Throughout history, the United States has been on an unholy crusade against workers' rights
Steve, New Rochelle, NY
Throughout history, the United States has been on an unholy crusade against workers' rights. With the US at the helm of the world economy, the workers of the world shouldn't expect much. Slavery ended only to arise in a different form.
Steve, New Rochelle, NY

The May Day bank holiday has very little to do with workers' rights. It is just a way of getting double time pay out of employers.
Mike Rodway, Blackpool, UK

I once worked for a private company where the two owners sold the company for a good sum. No one was critical of this as they had risked everything to build the company up and provide and excellent working environment.
Neil Small, Scotland

The developed world has created this problem by doing business with sweat shops in countries that do not care about the average worker. It will take the West insisting on basic workers rights for there ever to be any changes. I doubt this will happen, because we are too dependent on the low cost goods which the developing world provides us.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio USA

There should always be a balance between rights and duties
Arvnind, Germany
There should always be a balance between rights and duties. If one overshadows the other, there is always discontentment in the system. Most of the times the workers' rights are ignored even when they are committed in their duties. In many cases, the workers demand rights and are less concerned about their duties and in that case the employee deserves to have stringent working rules.
Arvnind, Germany

Why not start your own business?
Mark, Aberdeen

We have been conditioned into feeling there is little more to life than earning money and spending money! More holidays please!
Toby Cockburn, UK

In western economies the relationship between employer and employee is completely out of balance. It seems that only two options remain: either you follow the mainstream and get exploited in return for some goodies, or you don't and become a marginal. I have chosen the latter option; I don't own a lot of things, I have to adapt to make ends meet, but nobody owns my soul. The economy should be a means to an end, i.e. a liveable and just society. But today the ghost of Adam Smith dictates the corporate agenda, making the economy a goal in itself, for which one is supposed to sacrifice what is left of one's dignity. For future generations, our idea of what is profitable will prove to have been a mistake. It's time to bury Adam Smith.
Jef Peeters, Brussels, Belgium

I think the modern phrase 'human Resources' just about sums it u
Heather Cooke, Cambs/Lincs Border
I think the modern phrase 'human Resources' just about sums it up. We all need everybody else and the jobs they do or things fall apart. It is the workers at the bottom that make the people at the top rich and the people who do the actual hard graft usually get very small slices of the cake. I think the unions have lost too much power.
Heather Cooke, Cambs/Lincs Border

What rights? You have the right to agree to work for a company or the right to leave and get another job. No-one is owed a job, let alone a good job.
Richard Read, London, UK

Workers' rights? Ha! As in most of the free market these days large corporations have realised they don't have to employ workers anymore, the trend now is to hire people on a 2 year contract so they don't have to pay for benefits and some public holidays. The pay is usually very low and overtime does not kick in until 44 hours have been worked. At the end of two years you are replaced.
Peter, Toronto, Canada

Workers' rights in places like India are regularly crushed. That's why it's cheaper to outsource to India, any company outsourcing to countries where it's cheaper is clearly not interested in workers rights. They are simply using cheap workers.
Chris Davies, Chippenham

There is not enough protection for workers. I am not a union member. The profound economic and political changes which are sweeping the globe at many levels are amplified in countless ways by the global media on a daily basis. To understand the shifts which are sweeping the globe and the likely economic conditions we will have to confront, it is essential to understand how the global media influences and shapes the world. The media does not just report on what is happening, but also shapes and defines what is happening and what can happen. I will just highlight the effects because answering this question may make several pages which can bore you.
Darius Ndyomugyenyi, Kampala, Uganda

Let it never be forgotten that May Day is a vital day for millions and millions of workers and people in struggle to unite throughout the world against the obscenity of capitalism and Imperialism, oppression and domination, exploitation and degradation of the planet and fight for a more just, fairer, safer and more sustainable World, a world without nuclear weapons and war, a world of solidarity and hope.
Patrick Black, York

Bank holidays, weekends and 9 - 5 don't exist
Richard, Leicester, UK
I work in management for a logistics company. We serve many clients, a lot of them in the retail sector. Bank holidays, weekends and 9 - 5 don't exist and have not done so for a long time in our industry. I think workers (in Europe) have enough rights, some too many. We can't honestly say we're hard done by and the increase in rights always leads to some people 'trying it on'. All we ask for is more recognition of the hours worked by people working behind the scenes to keep people with a ready supply of mdf and water features.
Richard, Leicester, UK

I can understand the strong link between Mayday, workers' rights and anti-globalisation. Look at this site. So many posts from Europe and the US dismiss workers' rights as irrelevant in this day and age, and as forcing countries to move jobs abroad. On the contrary, many posts from Africa, South America and so forth say how much their workers need (and often fear) to unionise. This and so many other factors make it look like the capitalist/worker distinction is now between and not within nations.
Alex, Leicester, UK

Workers day most be recognized and kept always. One day holiday and off work helps me to enjoy and celebrate my birthday with Friends on every 1st May.
Plato Owulezi, Nigeria

In India there are more, primarily city based unions than need be, the most powerful are unions of bank officers/employees, teachers and government employees. But Trade Unions in India have lost their credibility because of the presence of a large number of central trade unions facilitated to different political parties; some owe allegiance to WFTU and some to other world organizations. Corruption, unnecssary belligerence resulting in closure of factories and lack of concern for the interests of workers and dominance of politics have played their roles. It is true that workers' rights are ignored but not because there is any obstruction in forming unions in towns. Rich peasants do however oppose formation of unions by agricultural labourers who are ignored by traditional trade union organisations as well.
Nirmal Chakrabarti, Kharagpur, India

Managers end up with the unions they deserve. Management sets the terms and the workforce reacts. Example - the received wisdom is to blame obstructionist unions for much of the decline of heavy industry. I have recently spent 3 weeks on the Tyne on a job that should have taken 10 days. The workers attitudes were clearly the result of their fathers' experiences, reinforced by the modern agency/sub-contractor insecurity. The management was disorganised and set an example of skimping and reneging on agreed standards and procedure.
Ralph Metcalfe, Durham, England

If you're in a non-unionised, private sector workplace, don't be resentful towards those in well-unionised workplaces - start a union where you work instead! Know your rights and stand up for yourself. Remember, in the UK banking and financial sector there are lots of union members, including many managers. It's a fact that union members have better pay and conditions on average so don't moan, join up.
Bethan, London, UK

People slave away earning a pittance while corporations rake in vast profits
Edd Almond, London, England
People slave away earning a pittance while corporations rake in vast profits. Workers rights should be emphasised as being human rights, it's about time companies around the globe bore the social responsibility that comes with the power that money gives them. Workers rights are not just the sole property of communism, they should concern even the most strident capitalist, if he/she considers themselves human.
Edd Almond, London, England

I fear a long bank holiday. The company I work for is making billions yet sees the need to cut costs by shedding staff and replacing them with low-cost Indians who spend their whole life in the office. I cannot compete with somebody who exists for nothing else but work. The result is going to be local people signing on the dole whilst their replacements send every spare penny back home and contribute very little to the local economy. It's time the government imposed caps on this short-sighted business behaviour.
Steve, UK

Workers' rights? I didn't know we had any. Yes there are a few bits of legislation but they don't amount to much. I'm not much of an economist but even I can see that globalisation is purely for the benefit of big business and the governments it controls.
Worker, UK

Workers' rights in Spain are a joke. Half your money on your payslip and the other half cash in hand, so lousy unemployment benefits and pensions. Also contracts where you're on trial for a few months and which then inevitably don't get renewed. Are you a head waiter? Your contract will say you're a washer-upper so the bosses' costs are lower. Even with a socialist government employers are free to systematically cheat their employees with impunity.
J Wright, Mataro, Spain

When Henry Ford started paying his workers a living wage, other industrialists questioned the wisdom of it. Mr. Ford said that his workers should earn enough money to buy the cars (the Model "T" Ford) they made. I believe that philosophy still makes sense today.
Robert, El Prado, USA

Yes, employees are simply numbers to their employers, there to make them money. But who of those out there that finds this distasteful are willing to put their own house/money/life into a venture and spend the sort of hours working any standard employee would baulk at. These 'fat cats' are the reason we have the standards of living we can expect in our country and their entrepreneurial spirit highlights how motivated people can achieve anything. Yes the worker needs rights (e.g. ridding the world of lowly paid sweat shop environments) but if they only treat it as something 'to pay the bills' then they will not receive any special treatment.br />Graham, Hudds, UK

A Bank Holiday is good for the morale of workers
Kate, West Midland
I, for one, am in support of May Day. I think a Bank Holiday is good for the morale of the workers who slave to make fat cats richer. The odd day off is nothing in the scheme of things.
Kate, West Midlands

It is fair to consider the rights of the employer, but not to the point that we forget it is the worker who buys the goods the employer sells. If the worker is not provided the wherewithal, including a liveable wage and time to spend it, to purchase the goods produced by the employer, the employer would be out of business.
John Hage, Parker, Colorado, USA

Workers' rights have gone far enough. See France for details.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK

Having worked in the oil industry on most of the continents of this planet, I can say with a degree of comfort that people are generally worth nothing in the eyes of the "Company". As a wiser man than I once said; "If you wrote a book no one would believe it". The term "business" sends a shiver up my spine these days. You're being farmed people.
Andy, Scotland

The worker should also consider the rights of the employer
Peter W Pearce, USA/UK
It is plausible to consider workers rights. However, the worker should also consider the rights of the employer, the real reason why the worker has a job. The German unions used, in the past, a simple philosophy - "Milk the cow, but remember, never overmilk the cow." Too often the workers have an idea, that they are worth more than they really are! The worker must earn their rights!!
Peter W Pearce, USA/UK

Currently in New York City, the government workers make a higher living than those in the private sector. They also receive higher pensions when they retire. Needless to say, most of these jobs are unionized. As a paralegal, I do not have a union representation. I work in a medium-sized law firm where everyone gets paid commensurate with experience and degree. I have a 4-year Bachelor's however I make less than many blue-collar workers and government workers, who have less education than myself. Why should I support this May Day extravaganza event for people who are already overpaid ?
Steven, New York, USA

The multi national companies and other private firms in India which follows western style of industrialization, do not encourage workers' union. I think this is a proactive measure taken by top management to ease termination procedures against a chunk of employees, in case of any mergers or acquisitions later on.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India

We need an effective Workers International Organisation
Andrew Casey, Australia
Globalisation has helped to decrease workers' power. Just look what is happening at this very minute to textile workers across the globe. Jobs being sucked off into the sink hole of China where there are NO rights to form independent democratic trade unions. It is even hurting service workers now - not just manufacturing workers. We need an effective Workers International Organisation to match the global reach of the multinationals.
Andrew Casey, Australia

A capitalist has a duty to shareholders to get the maximum return on their investment and use their control over the means of production to negotiate with their workers. A worker has a duty to earn enough to support themselves and their dependants. The power of the unions came from their ability to organise a mass withdrawal of labour. When there was a manufacturing based economy, this gave the workers some control over the means of production and therefore, a strong negotiating position.

The trend from the industrial revolution onwards has been to replace humans with more efficient machines. Now that we have a services based economy, it is much easier for capitalists to move their means of production to anywhere in the world that can offer the best return on investment. Workers have no bargaining power left and the concept of unions has become just an interesting historical footnote.

With the political power structure based at national level and capitalism functioning internationally, there is little way to impose moral values on amoral capitalism except that capitalism always needs consumers to pay for its products and services. Perhaps the future will be organising consumers rather than workers to counter-balance this.
Anthony, Fareham, UK

Many employers don't seem to accept that their workers should have any rights at all
Bob Cant, London. UK
I used to be the secretary of my trade union branch and the issues that I had to deal with were basic human rights. Things like maternity leave, holiday pay, pensions and being free from harassment at work. The union was the only body that took these complaints seriously. Many employers don't seem to accept that their workers should have any rights at all. They are too busy lining their own pockets with ill-deserved pay rises.
Bob Cant, London, UK

May 1st to me is associated with lots of people protesting under the banner of anti-globalisation but not telling us how the world would be better without globalisation. Capitalism results in inequality, and socialism is good in the sense that it can produce a more equal distribution of wealth. However, the amount of wealth distributed is frequently a lot smaller under socialist societies, and wealth creation is lacking as these societies strangle business, entrepreneurship and success.
Nathan James, Liverpool

Workers' rights has become a major political and ethical issue here in Nigeria. With the decline in a credible opposition party to check the alarming excesses of the ruling government, the Nigerian labour congress has been providing alternative opinions to government policies. This has generally been welcomed by the majority of Nigerian workers. Naturally, as in all parts of Africa with weak democratic structures, the ruling government has tried all manner of legislation to weaken the labour union. This has been systematically designed to intimidate workers and violate their rights. With a dwindling economic fortune, workers in Africa are not given their rights, but rather they are made to think that without the generosity of the government, they are doomed.
Victor Udoyoh, Kaduna, Nigeria

The right to organise in independent trade unions is an essential part of any modern democracy
Ian Graham, Orp-Jauche, Belgium
Humans are not just resources, and the right to organise in independent trade unions is an essential part of any modern democracy. Nationally, the more enlightened employers recognised that a long time ago, and they are beginning to take the same point at the world level. Some multinationals have already signed worldwide framework agreements with the global union federations. More companies will do so soon, and the agreements will become more detailed as time and globalisation go on.
Ian Graham, Orp-Jauche, Belgium

Workers have rights? I am a worker. I employ myself. And I grant myself no rights. Yet others expect I should grant them rights? Not on my planet.
Des Currie, Umdloti, South Africa

I work for an Indian IT company that has been the face of Indian IT for the last decade. I do 60-hr weeks, work on weekends, all for a salary that hasn't changed much in the last 3 years. When I am sent overseas on work, I am expected to provide 24/7 support and have no say in deciding when to come back. In India, my leave applications stand at the whims of my superiors, and even if I get lucky, I have to be available over my cell-phone. When I raise a voice against poor management decisions in open forums, I get subtle warnings about being replaced by a keener person, or sometimes, I get a pay cut for 'poor performance'. This is what happens to my friends in other Indian IT companies as well. I get a 5 figure salary, but is it worth what I go through? And we don't have trade unions in IT.
Rajesh, India

I asked my colleague at the call centre I used to work at what she thinks, but the paper bag she was holding over her face to control her anxiety attack meant I couldn't hear her reply. (This was the same place that asked us to sign a piece of paper promising that we would never say anything bad about the company, even after we no longer worked there. Their knowledge of their own culpability, on many fronts, was obviously as great as their estimation of their employees' intelligence was low.) In 2005, 'workers' rights' is an oxymoron.
Nick Swift, St. Catharines, Canada

Here in Italy workers can be divided into the "haves" and the "have nots". The "haves" are the unionised workers - often working for the government or big businesses, who have all the bells and whistles (pensions, lay off pay, etc) including more often than not, job permanency. The "have nots" are all the rest, who can live in a state of job impermanency, for the whole of their lives with very little right to state welfare with it. Everyone, however, is covered for health.
Laura, Florence Italy

If you are a unionist, you lose your job alone and go to prison alone
Shawn Mupani, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
A global organisation should be set up with branches in every country to prevent intimidation and victimisation. We have unionists who gets worried about their personal and their families future if they become too vocal about workers concerns. I was a student leader, and there were flaws in our rights. Soon, what used to be rights became "privileges". I spoke out and discovered I was by myself. My constituents disappeared because there was no competent group to stand with us in the event that we got in trouble with the authorities. The same thing is happening with workers. If you are a unionist, you lose your job alone and go to prison alone...
Shawn Mupani, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

What has capitalism done for anybody? It has done nothing for the vast majority of humanity (unless one is a rich corporate executive or lawyer). It makes people little better than slaves. People have to work so much and they have no time for family or themselves anymore. Capitalism has become worse than even communism in this respect. Capitalism, with its demand that work be the only thing people have in their lives has now become a totalitarian system. As with communism, we all know who the totalitarian-buster is: Pope Benedict Help!
Dietrich Tormohlen, Munice, IN (USA)

A farmer has to be in the field now however hot the weather; the luxury of a celebration is forbidden. The agricultural worker provides food produced by hard labour for long hours in all weathers; no eight year, five day-a-week job in an air conditioned office. Here is a short list of demands of a peasant: Give me land to till; water and pump to irrigate it and fertilizer to improve the yield. Give me the help of a soil tester to decide on the crop to best grow and a way to know what the level of ground water is. Educate us and our children on new agricultural techniques. Give us bank credit when necessary; we are known to be net financier. And do not permit any imports if our production is adequate to meet the needs.
Jharna Banerjee, Calcutta, India

One must have work to assert one's rights
Samiran Bhattacharya, Midnapore, India
One must have work to assert one's rights. The manufacturing sector in India shed 64,626 jobs last year; those shed will probably stay cool at home. The assertion and widely held belief that labour unions ensure protection of the rights of workers ,their security in the workplace and economic benefit ,have been found hollow in India. There was a single all India Trade Union Congress till mid-forties. Now every political party has its own trade union wing. Often a factory has several unions affiliated to different political parties, to obvious advantage of a management which wishes to play divide and rule.
Samiran Bhattacharya, Midnapore, India

Workers here in Pakistan are in a totally pitiable state of affairs. They work under low standards and are paid insufficient for their survival. Privatisation of government organisations has also badly affected the economic conditions of the country.
Imtiaz Indher, Hyderabad, Pakistan

Work has become an expression of life. It is no longer something one reluctantly does to live but is part and parcel of the life experience itself. Therefore it should be made bearable for all. Reading these comments reminds me how uncivilised, miserable, and tension ridden it is for so many of us. Surely it's about time we all grew up, especially those who have so much more than they really need.
Jacqui, Preston, UK

Quality of life is also a basic right
Paula, Boston, USA
The only reason Western countries have reasonable government protections for workers is because of the existence of trade unions in the first place. Since Reagan broke the power of the unions back in the 80's, the American worker has been steadily losing pensions, holidays, cost of living increases and working longer hours. Quality of life is also a basic right.
Paula, Boston, USA

Unions are destroying Britain's businesses. They tend to have such poor understanding of the economy and environment and their demands are so selfish that often business suffers. They will not accept that sometimes for a company to survive, sacrifices must be made. It's either a small sacrifice now, or the whole lot goes later! Look at Rover!
Jilly, Aberdeen

In supposedly liberal California, every attorney advertisement for representation in Worker's Compensation injury lawsuits must say that filing a false claim is illegal and may result in fine or imprisonment. There is no criminal punishment whatsoever for employers who refuse to honour valid claims and make employees wait years for payouts which are rarely more than one-third of lost pay. "Worker's rights"? HA!
Christian Leopold Shea, Hollywood, California, USA

Many young graduate teachers here have to sign for salaries that they don't receive so that they get "points" to qualify for a permanent teaching position in the 'graduatoria' system here. It's the equivalent of extortion.
Avril, Giarre, Sicily, Italy

In Third World countries unions could be beneficial if not necessary
Mark
In the west, there is little need for unions. Industry has evolved and laws now protect workers. However, in Third World countries, unions could be beneficial if not necessary. Protection from hazardous materials, decent wages and pensions would all greatly improve living conditions and quality of life in these parts of the world.
Mark

About a few days ago a garment factory suddenly collapsed killing an unknown number of people. It's not the government who is to be blamed, but the owners of the factory who take the chance of making money out of these poor neglected people. Shame on them!
Raad, Dhaka , Bangladesh

Workers' rights world wide have deteriorated (or have never existed) so that we now have a situation where many of the world's people live in a state akin to slavery. If the best that free market capitalism can offer the bulk of the world's population is a choice between starving to death or working for ridiculously low wages under bad conditions, then we certainly need either the protection of unions or the intervention of government. The latter seems to have sided with big business in most cases, so I guess we need unions.
Tom Hunsberger, Canada/Mexico

The only represented workers in Texas are most federal employees (Bush's Department of Homeland Security are forbidden to unionize), most utilities, and a few big employers, like General Motors and Lockheed Martin. I've seen people walked out (fired) for trying to unionize a workshop. It's sad because these are the same people who live on two jobs, have no health insurance coverage and yet still vote for a government that does not act in their best interests.
Joe Chasse, Ft Worth, Texas, USA

Unions are not necessary. An employee should retain the right, as owner of the company, to pay its employees what they wish. If the employees do not like the pay, the working conditions or the benefits, they have the right to leave and take a job elsewhere. If the employer is truly unreasonable, the constant turnover will be an indicator to them that they must meet the demands of the employees if they wish to retain them. Likewise, employees need to treat their employers with more respect and not expect that companies must turn over all their profit to employees in constant pay raises.
Allie

As I live in Dhaka, the abuse of the workers is not a foreign sight to me. Most of the workers here are ill informed about their rights and, being the neglected community of society, are left unheard.
Raad, Dhaka, Bangladesh

A worldwide workers' union should be set up
Mohammad Tahir Qadiry, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan
I am a resident of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. There are no rights for workers here. Workers are treated as badly as slaves. A large number of them get sacked without any specific reasons or prior notices. Even the government treats the workers as beggars. A worldwide workers' union should be set up to defend the workers' rights and protect their welfare.
Mohammad Tahir Qadiry, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan

Of course they are being ignored - the point of business is to make a profit. We need to empower unions so they counterbalance big business.
Jack, Essex

I'm not sure what unions do other than strip companies of their competitive edge and push for common pay bargaining, thus removing the incentive for top performers to continue working hard. Why bother to work harder or improve things if you're just going to be paid the same as everyone else. Unions have completely decimated any industry they've gained a foothold in and are a relic of the past.
AB, Edinburgh

If you've never seen how worker are badly treated, come to Cameroon and go to a banana plantation. The workers spraying insecticides are truly 'dying to make a living' and in fact they're being killed and permanently incapacitated for life.
Chi Primus, Buea, Cameroon

We are truly on a rush to the bottom just for the bottom line of corporations
Don Saxton, Portland

It is dismaying to see the outright rush to eliminate workers' rights around the world. In the days of large union membership, both the employee and the company profited. In turn, society as a whole benefited too. If it weren't for unions the 40-hour working week, paid vacations, workplace safety standards, etc. would not exist throughout the workplace. We are truly on a rush to the bottom just for the bottom line of corporations. The loss of middle class jobs spells a real loss of quality of life for all of us (Rich included!)
Don Saxton, Portland, Oregon, USA

India, a Third world country, has a very strong trade union culture thanks to communism. So strong that they are often militant in their demands and behaviour. In the state of Kerala where trade unions are extremely strong they are so difficult that no-one dare start any labour oriented industry there. A union to protect the owner's rights would be more in keeping in the state. Trade unions should also remember that when demanding and implementing their rights they should also not forget their duties to society and their country.
Mary Cherian, Cochin, India

The current trend in Canada is to get rid of the full time staff and replace them with temps or casual.
Jim, Halifax Canada
The welfare of the workers should be protected by the current government in power. - instead the politicians cater to big business. In the US you have lobbyists, in Canada we have corporate welfare (low business taxes as well as subsidies to supposedly help the corporation hire additional people). The current trend in Canada is to get rid of the full time staff and replace them with temps or casual. So much for workers rights.
Jim, Halifax Canada

People demanding protection for workers in the UK can only have that if we are forced to subsidise people producing overpriced products that we do not want. The only reason jobs move to the far east is because we demand to much money in the UK and are rich enough to not have to take the poorly paid jobs. The movement of jobs to China today is no different from the movement of jobs from skilled craftsmen to factories that we went through in the 19th Century, and while that was painful, overall everyone gained.
Andrew, London

I am a Liberian Living in Accra, Ghana. My company sacked workers without notice all because of the absent of workers union. We didn't have the chance to air our problems - if you do you will be laid off. Recently, hundreds of workers were laid off without benefits. I think the governments of every African nation must come in to rescue their workers from this act of not allowing workers to form Unions.
James, Accra, Ghana

Capital flows freely on an international scale. It tends to flow to where labour is least expensive. Unions within a single country cannot control wages, because if they do the capital and thus the jobs go where labour is less costly. The future of single country unions is further membership shrinkage.
Brian K Johnon, Jupiter, FL, USA

I'm the CEO of an IT company in the UK. When times have been bad, I and my fellow shareholders have foregone our salaries in order to be able to pay our employees. We have loaned the company money with no hope of ever seeing it back. We have worked 100 hour weeks trying to win new customers. I think that over the years we have done a good job of looking after our employees, but reading some of the misinformed, jealous and downright insulting comments about managers in this forum, I wonder why I don't just shut down my business, go somewhere where entrepreneurial spirit is valued, and start again.
John, England

To John, England. You are an exceptional person, one to be admired but a rarity nevertheless. Many of the comments expressed here are perfectly true. Many employers have no concern for their employees and are interested only in maximised profits. It is perfectly true that, in the US, companies are going more and more to part-time workers so as not to be required to provide benefits.As a result, the number of people without medical coverage and pension schemes is rocketing. Meanwhile, CEOs are being paid ever-increasing sums in the millions.
Peter, Conway, USA

The wish to exploit those on low wages and desperate working conditions is frightening. "Pull the ladder up I'm on board" appears to be the motto of many of the UK population.
Ed Smith, Nottingham

People don't get it. CEOs worry about dividends more than they care about disposable workers. It's a fact that profit-at-all-cost minded CEOs routinely move production to places were labour unions and workers rights are pliable.
Joe Chike, Nigeria

Let's go back to the good old days before unions and employment law. We could all work twelve hours days, six days a week with no holiday entitlement or sick pay. If we are lucky our employer might let us have Christmas morning off. Our pay could be cut without notice and we could be charged for the tools and materials we used to perform the job. We wouldn't have to worry about our pensions as we would have to work until we were too old or sick to do so. Then our employer could dismiss us without notice.
M, London

It is so sad to see people here write about the rights of the employer
Beverly, Boston
It is so sad to see people here write about the rights of the employer or the CEOs. In the end, they will have their millions and a secure future, after years in a comfortable job. Their stress and risk can not compare to that of the simple worker at the bottom - who has to make the choice between food for the children and rent. It is so sad to see so much greed, even in one's own neighbourhoods.
Beverly, Boston, USA

Many people in the 1930s looked up to Nazi Germany because they did away with the petulant union leaders. Today the same tactics are used in developing countries to deal with what they see as troublesome unions.
Robert Fawkes Jenkins, Cardiff, Wales

If a worker does not have the right to withhold their labour (i.e. strike) surely they are nothing but a slave?
Martin, Bromsgrove, UK

The company I work for reported profits in the hundreds of millions, yet average annual pay rises only matched inflation. I am worse off this year because my rent has increased and I am paying higher council tax on behalf of a person that can afford to own a house they don't live in. My contract bars me from joining a union. I am forced to sell my labour at a fraction of its worth - so the shareholders can receive their dividend. I'm not a communist, but the fall of communism discredited any system which may empower the individual as opposed to the owner of the means of production.
GB, Oxford

While I do not like the anti-globalization fest that May Day has become, it is far better than what was before. The very last thing we need is any form of socialism or communism. If you look at a list of powerful successful rich countries, how many are communist or socialist? China is a major power and is supposedly communist, but if anything it is an more extreme example of capitalism than anything in the West.
Gregor, UK

It's crazy, here you have people saying we need more unions to look after employee's rights. How long is it since the last major UK car manufacturer went to the wall? The demise of the car manufacturing industry in the UK is largely due to the trade unions and the inefficiency that trade unions bring with them.
Mark Gillespie, Weymouth

The empowered worker is a myth
Larry Stout, USA
Wall Street has all the money and therefore all the power. The empowered worker is a myth. Billionaires are people who have expropriated the fruits of other people's labours.
Larry Stout, USA

The decline of wages and benefits for low skilled labour is not surprising. With major advances in automation as well as more workers available from the Third World, production costs are free falling. The problem today is not that labour is exploited, but that what it produces is basically worthless.
AM, Cincinnati, OH

Unfortunately many British managers seem to be under the misconception that making the workforce work longer hours for as small a reward as they can get away with will improve the quality of their goods. The decline in British industry is testament to the fact that this style of management does not work.
Mike, Ipswich

May Day is an excuse for Rent a Mob inc. to dress up and cause random acts of violence and vandalism under the banner of anti globalisation - a generic phrase that dose not mean anything.
Mike, UK

The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century has ushered in an era of massive exploitation of labour on a global scale - glorified as globalisation. Unfortunately, we have to start all over again from the drawing board to protect the interests of labour.
Mohansingh, India

Why can't the employer go on strike when they're unhappy with the employee?
Tom Franklin, London

I always laugh when unions bleat about better working conditions which seems to be a phrase automatically added to any press statement. All this means is they want more money. Workers' rights don't need strengthening, in the West it is the employer's rights that need protecting. A worker is permitted to withdraw labour and go on strike.

Yet the employer is not allowed to fill their place to continue running their business and are expected to take that employee back when they have felt they've striked enough. Why can't the employer go on strike when they're unhappy with the employee? Business fuels the world, and it is the entrepreneurs and business leaders who are the motor. Not the workers.
Tom Franklin, London, UK

Workers rights are being ignored all over the world, even in such advanced countries such as the USA. Shareholder profits seem to be more important than paying workers enough to live on. The wages paid in some branches do not even allow people to feed their children properly - and I am not talking about the Third world. There are enough stories about Americans having to hold down a second job just to make ends meet. So instead of blubbering something about 1st May being some communist invention, Americans should stand up for their rights and demand fair pay on the first of May.
Daniela, Berlin, Germany

Those on this forum who are sneering and sniping at people who believe in socialism and workers rights should remember that business leaders would have you put making money for them before your family and friends and would have you at their beck and call 24/7, 365 days a year with no health and safety protections and no right to ever refuse a management request, however unreasonable. You apologists for capitalism are conspiring to bring this about.
Rik, Halifax, UK

We have just undergone an exercise called job evaluation carried out by external consultants who claim to be experts in our field, which evaluates the worth of our positions related to pay. The idea being we all get paid fairly. To me this is just another example of corporations hiding behind statistics and proceduedures, one more excuse to justify high salaries for the wrong people. I'm now resigning on May 1st.
Peter, Wales

I work for a Japanese company that is non-union - we do not need them because our company structure is that of a progressive meritocracy. The Japanese know that happy, content workers with a real chance to better themselves and earn promotion are very productive workers. If I have any sort of problem - personal or work related, I know that I can go to my manager and tell him the problem and know that it will be actioned and that the company will bend over backwards to help. Japan's economy will rise again, and I am sure that their attitude towards an all inclusive merit driven company structure will have a large part to play in it.
Roger, England

We also need to stop pandering to the developing world and realise the damage that we are doing to our own economy
Rory Macgregor, Perth

It is not workers rights that are at risk. It is British industry. I work for a fine chemicals/pharmaceutical company in Scotland that is in dire straights because we simply cannot compete on cost with the Chinese and Indian competitor, even though it is proven that our quality to date is far superior to the competitor which seems to make no difference. In the meantime, we are swiftly becoming a nation of call centre operatives and even these jobs are relocating East. With the potential loss of 6,000 jobs at Rover and a further 18,000 in related industries, this government should feel ashamed.

It is a sad, sad day for Britain. My question is this, when exactly are our government and media moguls going to stand up for Britain, and British industry? If the French and German governments can prop up their industries then why cannot ours? We need to support our products and only government can start that process off with the help of some positive reporting from the media. We also need to stop pandering to the developing world and realise the damage that we are doing to our own economy
Rory Macgregor, Perth, Scotland

Jealousy is what May 1st is all about. Wanting things for nothing, wanting things that are not earned, demanding rewards for which there has been no sacrifice, enforcing an unnatural and immoral notion of equality across a mass of individuals who do not all perform the same and who do not have the same capabilities. May 1st is about irrational beliefs that if one exchanges one's labour for a wage that this is not enough - for returns that are beyond this with no risk and no investment of time or energy.

May 1st should be renamed Business Day, where we should applaud the drivers of business, the people who risk it all to create something amazing, the fat cats that are derided so much yet who earn every single penny of their large salaries as everyone else's job depends on their ingenuity. They can't switch off at 5pm and go home, they carry the burden of the company around with them and are the face of it 24/7. The only struggle is workers and their own feelings of inadequacy and jealousy.
Patricia, Henley, UK

I work in a factory, the work is low paid and physically demanding. We are not paid by the company if we are ill and many people have recently been bullied onto a new contract leading to a loss in pay and a seven day rota system. Whilst all this goes on the unions stand by smiling and take the monthly subscriptions from the workers. Whilst the unions should be more active than ever before to ensure proper treatment of workers and the defence of basic rights, they stand idle. Unions in this country have no power or no wish to stand up to industry or the government.
Stewart Bradshaw, Pickmere, England

As long as the supply of labour force far outstrips the demand, the employers can get away with any humiliating terms they set
Deborah Chan, London

My mum worked in Hong Kongong where there is an abundance of labour force. She didn't dare to ask for her rights stipulated by law because as she put it, "if you don't like it, there are hundreds of people queued up to take your job". When she retired, the company was so short of skilled staff that they asked my mum to stay. She ended up working full time at part-time wages (less than half of what she used to get) and without all the benefits like pension and healthcare that the company provided for full-time staff. As long as the supply of labour force far outstrips the demand, the employers can get away with any humiliating terms they set. That's the sad reality.
Deborah Chan, London, UK

What the world needs is more unions to protect workers. Only unions can look out for the common worker as large companies continue to exploit at will. The unions provide the necessary checks and balances against their greed.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

Fighting for a decent work environment and a wage you can live on is what the 1st of May is all about
Rebecca Berner, Denmark
In Denmark we have a strong tradition for defending workers' rights. Most people are in unions, and obviously that means that employers can't get away with treating workers badly. In many places around the world workers rights is a non-existing concept, people die everyday because of lack of safety. What we have in Denmark today - 5 weeks holiday a year, high minimum wages and so on - wasn't handed to us on a silver plate, we had to care enough to fight for our rights. Fighting for a decent work environment and a wage you can live on is what the 1st of May is all about. Have a good one!
Rebecca Berner, Ringsted, Denmark

Workers' rights? Where? I work in the US, and I'm not a college grad so I don't qualify for jobs that I could easily handle, I'm left to fight over entry level and service jobs. Ok, I would rather work and I'm lucky to have a job right now. But rights? Employers know how desperate the job market is over here and they play that card to the hilt.
Melissa Thomas, New Haven, CT, USA

Globalisation is the biggest social problem facing the world at the moment. Because of free trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT, large companies are moving their workforces to the Third world, where wage costs are insignificant, workers' rights are non-existent and there are no environmental regulations. Ostensibly this is so that they can "provide a better and cheaper product for consumers". The golden rule of sound economics is: Your workers are also your consumers. Forget that, and you can wave goodbye to a stable economy.
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK

Never mind the developing world - many staff in the West are discouraged from joining unions too! Our 'blue-chip' company frowns on any union association and believes it treats its workers so well they don't need representation. The unions may have become deeply unfashionable from the 80s onward and are associated with stifling British industrstry but from where I'm standing it wouldn't be such a bad thing if we returned to the days of proper representation for workers.
Anonymous

May Day is not a major holiday in the US. The closest thing to it, at least as far as workers' rights are concerned, is Labour Day, celebrated on a Monday in early September. I believe that many see the unions as troublemakers, mainly in existence to further the political careers and influence of their bosses, rather than to support and protect the wage and benefit the rights of workers.
DE Thomas, Concord, CA, USA

Business owners often see workers' rights as not being cost effective. But really, the real issue is our humanity, the health of our psyches, which we must preserve.
David Stephen Ball-Romney, Seattle, USA

We have to protect entrepreneurs and employers as well
Pancha Chandra, Belgium
Workers rights and issues have been blown out of proportion. Of course workers' rights have to be protected but at the same time we have to look at the other side of the coin and protect entrepreneurs and employers as well. There should be a fair system of protection for both employers and employees so that global economy works properly for the benefit of citizens of the world. With globalisation the different corners of the world are becoming more accessible electronically and physically. No corner of the world is an island now and the sooner workers realise that there will be a movement to bond rather than to divide.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

Your earlier writer is quite correct. May 1 as a workers' festival predates communism, capitalism and any other 'ism' you can think of. It is the feast of St Joseph the worker.
Tony Rendall, London

Mayday? That's the International Distress Call isn't it?


Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England

Supporting workers' rights and capitalism are not incompatible. In fact, beyond mere protests, it's the only thing that really will change the condition of workers' rights. If consumers purchase fair trade certified products (and yes, pay nominally more now) producers will begin to supply that demand and begin to change working standards. It is a simple thing all of us can do this May Day on our trip to the grocer.
Alisha, NYC, USA

May Day as a holiday should be abolished and replaced with another day of legally required holiday for people to take when it suits them.
Andrew, London

It has come to mean middle class, public school educated fools harassing working class people
Ian, London
In the past few years it has come to mean middle class, public school educated fools harassing working class people (including my secretary) trying to make a living in the City.
Ian, London

The more free the market, the more free the people. Unions have served their purpose, but now they damage business, creating lower growth and unemployment. The UK economy has done well with lower powered unions and lower membership.
Luke, Basildon, England

Why do we behave as thought we have no power to change the conditions of workers at home and around the globe beyond largely ineffectual protest? We have much power-in our pounds, euros, dollars and yen. We can change the world with our buying power-demand fair trade products and buy more of them. Let your retailers and the large chains know exactly what we're doing. The real test of commitment to these issues is not to show up to a protest or two, but to put your money where your mouth is.
Malte, Harlem, USA

It has become a day when the disenfranchised left show how irresponsibly foolish and naive they are. Capitalism is far from perfect but, if you have ever been to an ex-socialist country like Russia or Romania you will realise the idealistic dreamers are dangerously wrong.
J Karran, Liverpool

We are faced with many companies ignoring the common employee
Leon Molway, Lake Zurich
Indeed we are faced with many companies ignoring the common employee. When a company is in trouble they take away from the workers and pay a handsome bonus to cut our wages, dump the pension so that we can stay in business. I'm loyal to my company and I'm treated right, it's just that I feel we have gone back to a time of the robber barons running some companies and this makes all companies look bad.
Leon Molway, Lake Zurich, USA

Spare a thought for us temps this May Day who, through some creative wording in our contracts, essentially don't get any holiday pay and are therefore losing a day's worth of our meagre wages. What happened to our workers' rights? Maybe I'll use the day off to find a better job.
Chris, Bradford

Workers' rights are not only being ignored but are being scrapped. The Anglo-American employment at will is becoming the new global labour standard. Employers are taking everything away from the workers, from health benefits to private pensions. The benefits of a Third world workforce is coming to a job near you.
Lyell Wilson, Virginia, USA

Yes. The anti-globalizers are demanding that Third world people remain in rural poverty instead of having the opportunity to earn wages. How can unions be organized if there are no workers?
Andrew Walden, Hilo, Hawaii, USA

Whatever I associate with May Day is the farce that was the USSR
Mike, Chicago, IL
As a former citizen of the Soviet Union I really recommend for all you sceptics to move to some country where socialism has triumphed. Whatever I associate with May Day is the farce that was the USSR.
Mike, Chicago, IL

May Day is a purely communist tradition. I think the unions and the so-called struggles of workers especially in Europe are pretty ridiculous compared to those in other countries.
Joan, UK

It's sad that many of the American comments regard May Day as a foreign communist celebration, when in fact it began with the Chicago based workers' protest calling for the eight-hour working day. What should be a day of pride and celebration for the American people has tragically been warped by corporate/political propaganda into a fiction of anti-US communist evil.
Prudence Soobrattie, New York, USA

I think the anti-globalisation protests are perfectly in keeping with the modern view of May Day being about workers and ordinary people. The protests are against the increasing globalisation of world trade which can only have a negative effect on all workers and consumers.
Jez, UK

May Day still reminds the working people all over the globe, how they have to continue their struggle for their rights and maintain the pressure on the capitalists who exploit their division on a global scale. Even the most reactionary political parties conduct and participate in rallies in order to maintain their influence among the working class.
Srinivasan Toft, Humleb, Denmark

I wish it would return to its roots of celebrating spring
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA
When I was a young child May Day was a celebration of spring, involving colourful pageants which originated with European traditions. Somehow it got corrupted to mean support of communism, and now feminism, anti-capitalism, or anything else anti-US. I wish it would return to its roots of celebrating spring, then maybe the world would be a more enjoyable place. Let the hate groups have their own day some other time and stop hijacking our traditions.
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA

May Day goes back in history way before Communism or global protest. Frankly, I don't care. It's another day off work! Just go on believing it's important. That suits me.
Vince, Coventry, UK

It means a paid day off just like every other national holiday.
Richard Read, London, UK

Just another day - workers rights - unless you live in the Third world you have nothing to complain about. Think about every great achievement done by man - and it's directly linked to the free market society. Advances in medicine and science were all a result of economic forces. So when all you activists get into your SUVs or on a flight and get on you cell phone to organize your protests - don't forget it was economics that allowed you to do all this.
Mike Daly, Miami, FL, USA

I'm working, so all you people don't phone a call centre. I want a nice easy day.
Phillip Evans, Wales

If I recall correctly, the holiday was introduced by Harold Wilson as a sop to the unions in the silly seventies. It should be got rid of and replaced by a bank holiday in the autumn.
Brian W, Chelmsford, UK

May Day is a day of standing up and being counted for
Matt, London, UK
To me May Day is a day of standing up and being counted for. We've become pretty good at protesting as a nation of recent times, and May day to me means the day where I protest for the workers, amongst colleagues and show capitalism up for what it is.
Matt, London, UK

May Day has always meant springtime to me, and flowers. Labour Day for us is celebrated in September. No matter when it's remembered, it should be a day to mark how far we've come in terms of labourers' rights, and how far we have yet to go.
Sandy, USA

It's a day that shows that socialism and workers' rights are eternal struggles - no matter what the fashionable cynics say.
Callum, Glasgow

It's my birthday! It truly was Labour Day for my mother. I usually go abroad for my birthday as London isn't a nice place to be. This year however I wanted to hang around so I could vote.
Andy, London, UK

To me May Day means a day off school and normally a bond film. Oh and rain of course.
James, Leeds

I like May Day - it is my sister's birthday! It means us having a good time and her having some cool pressies and a nice day off work. Coincidently, my birthday falls on the August bank holiday! Bank holidays and birthdays - they make a great combination - thanks mum and dad!
Meg, UK

May Day reminds me of the days when the Labour Party actually meant something
Chris Simmons, Bristol

May Day reminds me of the days when the Labour Party actually meant something; when they had respect for workers and unions and a future under a Labour government could have been rosy.
Chris Simmons, Bristol, UK

Isn't May Day not supposed the day when all politicians have to tell the truth? If it is then perhaps the BBC would be kind enough to ask Tony Blair some direct questions on May Day? Thank you.
Ralph, Chelsea, London

May Day is Beltane - one of the most important pagan festivals. It's a time for Maypole dancing (fertility rites), getting married, conceiving children and celebrating the beginning of summer.
Francis, London, England

A traditional holiday hijacked for political reasons by people who can't get hold of the idea that society doesn't revolve around them.
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

It's nothing but a day for communists to bring attention to themselves and show everyone how they still cling to a failed philosophy. Pretty sad.
Michael, Chicago, IL, USA

To me, May Day equals a day where all countries should strive for an equal trade. With unfair subsidies and protective barriers, I don't blame the anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist or anti-war protesters for voicing their opinion. What other days we could find people protesting for trade equality and other issues?
Firdaus, Singapore

It usually means witnessing class warriors generally causing mayhem and grief, while the police stand and watch.
Ian, Whitby, England

We have a week-long fair and a horse drawn Royal May procession through the streets. Thousands of people descend on our tiny town and it is brilliant. The kids get to go on the rides and eat too much and the adults get to drink in the local beer gardens guilt free. Anyone near Knutsford on May Day should give it a look in - brilliant, and it all predates the workers, let alone their rights!
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire, UK




SEE ALSO:
The changing face of May Day
01 May 02 |  Europe
Respect for workers' rights grows
20 May 04 |  Business
How do world job rates compare?
14 Mar 01 |  Business
ILO warns against 'casino economy'
15 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Poverty targets 'may be missed'
13 Apr 05 |  In Depth



PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific