Sunday 3 May 2015

Hundreds celebrate May Day and march for equality, social justice and workers rights

More than five hundred people from trade unions and campaigning groups, including a number of key local politicians and friends of the ATUC, took to the streets and marched along Union Street on Saturday 2nd March to celebrate International Workers’ Day and to call for an end to austerity.

Led off by the Guarana Drummers, the march was both colourful and noisy as banners and placards were held aloft and marchers moved to the beat of the drums. Passersby stopped to watch, wave and to take photos, and to show their support for the marchers. Somewhere along the route, the sun came out and the weather stayed fine and Springlike as marchers gathered for an outdoor rally at the Castlegate.

For more photos go to the ATUC Facebook page

Kate Ramsden
Remembering the Nepal earthquake victims and our own Hilda Meers
Compering the Rally, ATUC Vice-President, Kate Ramsden told marchers that the trade union movement has a proud tradition of standing up for equality, social justice and for the rights of ordinary people.

Kate said, “I am proud to stand with you all today. We are here to oppose austerity, the austerity which has pushed so many people into poverty whilst the rich amass more and more of the country’s wealth.

“In one of the richest countries in the Western World the money is there, it’s just in the wrong hands,” slammed Kate, urging people to vote the Tories out at the election next week.

Kate called for a minutes silence in memory of all those who had lost their lives, homes or family members in the terrible earthquake in Nepal, which had happened just a week ago. And also for Hilda Meers, peace activist, political campaigner and friend of the ATUC, who died recently and who will be sadly missed.

Barney Crockett
Labour councillor Barnet Crockett thanked the Aberdeen Trades Union Council for organising the march and rally and commended all those who had come along for their tireless work to oppose austerity and to fight for the rights of workers, here and around the world.

“We have a proud history of international solidarity in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and we need to keep these links strong."

He condemned the policies of this government which have attacked the poorest and most vulnerable and have undermined workers' rights and urged us to continue the fight against the unnecessary austerity  that the Tories have imposed.

Solidarity against bigotry and racism
Amanda from Aberdeen Anti-fascist Alliance ((AAA) warned us that when people suffer the ordeals of austerity many will look for someone to blame. “Let’s never forget that it is the bankers, the bosses and government cuts that brought austerity, not migrants.”

She exploded the myth that migrants cripple our public services. “Migrants are up to 60% less likely to receive benefits and contribute 37% more to public finances than the cost of the services they use.”
She exploded the myth that migrants take our jobs and reduce wages. 85% of new hires are British and research has shown NO impact on wages.

She warned that UKIP and the National Front are the two main threats locally in this General Election and AAA are campaigning hard to make sure that racism doesn’t divide our communities.

Amanda called on us all to challenge their bigotry and racism and “unite in solidarity to show that these prejudices have no place in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire.”

Sam Lowit
Stand up against TTIP or lose our hard won rights
Sam Lowit from Aberdeen Against TTIP warned of the terrible consequences if CETA (the comprehensive economic and trade deal) and TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) is ratified.

“These two deals will give faceless global corporations the power to sue our governments in secret courts with judges of their own choice often on their own payroll.

“CETA and TTIP will make all privatisation irreversible by law and will open up things like the Scottish NHS to privatisation regardless of whether or not any party in Scotland pursues this as a policy.”

But the worst bit is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – a separate, secret legal system that will operate above the sovereign rule of law and allow Companies to sue the government for anything, warned Sam.

“CETA and TTIP threaten our daily lives from the safety of the food we put in our mouths to protection at work.

“Looking at how far the trade union movement has come in the last one and a half centuries; looking at all that we, the people have won – our welfare state, our NHS, our labour rights, we must stand up now as one and say NO!” said Sam. “We must say to our governments, these things are not for sale and no, we’re not going to give them back!”
Lewis Macdonald

Let's get the change this country needs
Lewis Macdonald, MSP welcomed the opportunity to speak "at such an important time, only a few days away from an election when there is an opportunity to elect a Labour government and bring to an end five years of Tory rule."

He reminded us that the coming election matters a great deal to us all, and hoped that by the end of the week we will have seen the change the country needs.

He commended the trade unions for their campaign against TTIP and echoed Sam’s call for us to keep up the pressure to defeat TTIP and CETA. 

He also welcomed Amanda's call to reject the politics of division.
"That is a particularly strong message here in Aberdeen. This city has the highest proportion of people born outwith the United Kingdom who have come here of any place in Scotland. Look at Aberdeen and see if ethnic diversity means a failing economy; it is obvious the opposite is true.

"That is why it is good today to welcome groups from different countries, from Palestine and from Nepal, which symbolises that our solidarity goes across borders."  

End the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinian working class
Issam Hijjawi from the Association of Palestinians in Scotland, spoke of the terrible oppression that the Palestinian people are living under in the occupied territories.

Issam Hijjawi
Issam said, “The Palestinian working class is under slaughter from the Israeli Government – the slaughter of Palestinian people going to their work; forced off their own land to be refugees and work in the settlements”, alongside the terrible slaughter in Gaza last summer.

He thanked the people of Scotland for their support and solidarity but still the suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people continues and we must keep up the fight to end this and to hold the Israeli government to account for their actions.

We must never forget the sacrifices of so many
Speaking for the Aberdeen Trades Union Council, Tommy Campbell reminded us that our working class’s history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our socialist radicalism and militant trade unionism.

Tommy Campbell
He began by reading a poem by Trevor Raybould.

Chisels and Blades
Pay was frozen as the ground beneath the boots
On winter sites; whilst bosses strolled
Some distant shore where scrooge-like days
Squeezed endless gold from an ever-willing sun.
And now we queue to scribble twice each month....
Somewhere cardboard eiderdowns are clutched
And the chisels and blades do rust.

“We today salute those brave men and women and children who have fought and continue to fight against all kinds of oppression around the world,” said Tommy reminding us of the many thousands of trade unionists, community activists and radical campaigners murdered every year in other countries around the world for no other reason but for standing up and fighting for their democratic rights.

“We understand that here in Scotland our current situation cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the limited democratic rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for.

“The sacrifices of so many people cannot be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again.

“This is why we celebrate International Workers’ Day. NO PASARAN!!!”

Renee Slater
Kate brought a message of solidarity from Renee Slater, Festival of Politics organiser and campaigner for social justice, who was unable to be here today because of her health. The Rally sent our best wishes for a speedy recovery to full health.

Echoing Tommy’s message, Renee’s read,

“Much solidarity from Aberdeen Festival Of Politics and thank you for your continued support! It is important we recognise the struggle that working people and trade unions have gone through over many years to ensure we have the working conditions we have now.

“These conditions are being eroded day by day by an unfeeling and unconcerned Tory/LibDem coalition! Whatever the outcome of the 2015 election, Scottish workers must recognise they are part of an international fight against corporate exploitation. The fight will continue and our trade union & working class history will show the way!

Ian Tasker
Vote the Tories out!
Ian Tasker of the STUC ended the Rally with a call to get rid of this UK Tory government at next week’s election.

“They say they are the party of working people. Well here’s what they’ve done for working class people” said Ian, highlighting food poverty with a rise in Trussel Trust foodbanks from 90 to 445 since 2010; the bedroom tax, leading to the eviction of the most vulnerable; benefits changes for disabled people – “a stressful process made worse by government incompetence.”

He also condemned Tory attacks on workers’ rights with attacks on health and safety law, employment tribunals and unfair dismissal legislation. 

“The Conservatives are not, and never will be a party of working people. They will never be a party of social justice.

“They want to keep the wealth for their own, to restrict opportunities to their own, and they want their own to enjoy privilege at the expense of the rest of us,” slammed Ian. “They need to go!”

More pics from the march and rally

Thanks to Tommy Campbell and Morag Lawrence for these photos and to Colin Jones for the photos on Facebook