Solidarity in adversity, solidarity for progress

This year’s May Day is marked under the threat of COVID-19.

In the USA, Afro Americans have suffered a disproportionate number of infections and deaths. In Britain, research indicates that the death rate among black and ethnic minority people is higher than for others. In Brazil, people living in the densely packed favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are angry that they are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak in infections and lost lives from a disease introduced to the country by wealthy fellow citizens returning from abroad. In Qatar and Singapore, infection has spread rapidly among migrant workers living in crowded quarters. In most developed countries, low-waged migrant workers and minorities play a large role in delivering essential services, including healthcare, which has put them at increased risk of falling ill in the present pandemic.

Around the world, the low paid have suffered higher rates of infection, often accompanied by a disproportionate loss of life, compared to other sectors of the population. They have faced greater exposure to infection at work and in their accommodation.

Globally, hundreds of millions of workers whose status was insecure, whether they worked on “zero hours” contracts in developed countries, were employed under jurisdictions with poor labour protections, laboured as migrant workers far from home, or worked in the informal sector, have been the worst affected by job losses and the collapse of their incomes. Even workers who previously felt that they had steady employment and decent remuneration have found themselves feeling insecure and been left wondering how they will pay their bills.

Another infection has accompanied the spread of COVID-19. In a number of countries, there have been expressions of hostility and even acts of violence against individuals on the basis of their national origins. This has been encouraged by some political leaders and media figures.

Every year, May 1st is celebrated as a day of international solidarity among workers. Regardless of colour, religion or gender, this is a time to reaffirm the common aspiration of working people everywhere for a fairer world, in which all honest labour is respected and enjoys its just reward. On this May Day, we recognise that humanity has a common interest in overcoming the COVID-19 infection. We oppose any expression of prejudice based on nationality, which is unjustified and contrary to the spirit of cooperation for the greater good.

While supporting all efforts to overcome COVID-19, we believe that it is imperative that everything that can be done to maintain employment and income for workers globally must be done and should be foundational to recovery from the coronavirus outbreak. Recognising the vulnerabilities that were highlighted by this disease, we favour an effort at the international level to bring all working people into secure employment that provides them with protection against recruitment costs, coercive work conditions and arbitrary dismissal; security should they be unable to work for some good reason; incomes that suffice to enable them to live with all their basic material needs met; and within the historic objective of the international labour movement — a healthy division of time between work, rest, family life and recreation.