The first of May symbolizes the struggle of the international labour movement. In 2014, International Workers’ Day, May Day, is as relevant as ever. Six years of austerity and neo-liberal policies washing over entire continents have left trade unions struggling for fundamental freedoms and rights at work all over again. Twenty-five years after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain, the world is engulfed in another ideological and economic battle. Public service workers from Canada to Paraguay, Algeria to Botswana, South Korea to Thailand and Turkey to Spain, are fighting for their rights and against anti-worker policies, often risking their lives.
Governments are not only challenging social dialogue, but democracy itself by forbidding protest actions and criminalizing social conflicts. A model that incorporates privatisation of public services, clawing back on public spending and reducing the size and role of the state is the package presented as an answer to the current crisis. Jobless economic growth, zero-hour contracts and social dumping create an environment that is conducive to exploitation, leading to an increase in precarious work and generations of working poor. The “trickle-down” economic growth approach to development promoted through globalization has failed to alleviate poverty and instead increased inequalities between and within states as well as between men and women.