May Day Message: Worker power is in the union

30 April 2020 19:09

This International Workers Day, the BWI recognises all frontline workers among them are building, construction and forestry workers playing an important role to support essential services. There are many workers that are going out every day, risking exposure to COVID-19 and some paying the ultimate price with their lives, to keep vital production and supply chains running, including medical supplies and food.

Today, we recognise the workers around the world and the value they contribute to our society. Feelings of solidarity, even with social distancing, have grown with an understanding of the need to improve wages and safe working conditions. But increasingly, workers are without employment relationships, many do not have any job security and many of them in the informal economy. There are millions of workers that make up the working poor that are highly dependent on daily wages. Women construction and wood workers will suffer greater from the loss of livelihoods. Migrant workers are at greater risk of infection as they are often crowded at work and in their lodgings. As the crisis grows, many of these workers are unable to survive and it is not just income that they are missing, but also health care, social protections, and other basic security.

Workers, on their own, have little power, but together, in the union, they can progress. Workers that are organised in trade unions are safer and able to defend their rights. Trade unions have been able to negotiate with companies, and in particular multinationals, that workers keep their jobs and that their income is secure. The fact that organised workers change the balance of power, helps them and their communities. It also underpins democracy.

The power of Workers Day is that it extends beyond borders; that as workers take to the street in one country, they know there are other workers all over the world doing the same. But this year will be different, for the first time in over a century, workers will not take to the streets. The COVID-19 pandemic might keep us off the streets, but we need not be silenced.

For International Workers Day on 1 May 2020, the BWI sends out a call to action. Today, let us commit ourselves to fight for a world where we put life before profit. A world free of exploitation, hunger and misery. A World with equality and dignity for all.

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