Sunday 7 May 2017

Aberdeen May Day March calls for human rights for all and an end to poverty

Blue skies and sunshine greeted the hundreds of trade unionists, politicians and community activists as they turned out to celebrate International Workers’ Day.

The May Day March and Rally in Aberdeen,  held on Saturday 6th May, was organised by ATUC. As always, it was a colourful sight as the procession of banners and flags made its way down Union Street behind the stirring beats of the Guarana Drummers, to call for an end to poverty in one of the world's richest countries. And a celebration of the basic human and workers' rights workers and their families deserve, including decent wages and health and safety standards.

The rally in the Castlegate was co-chaired by ATUC co-Presidents, Kevin Hutchens and Tyrinne Rutherford. Kevin roused the crowds with a poem that he had written for the occasion.

Kevin Hutchens & Tyrinne Rutherford
Kevin Hutchens & Tyrinne Rutherford
Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,
Theresa's in Number Ten,

Unions under attack,

Workers rights betrayed,

Low wages the norm,

Brexit a cloak,
Social rights destroyed,
Pension promises uturned,

Poverty the order of the day.

But what of this,
Mayday not Theresas day,

International workers on the march,

Justice pursued,

Living wage rights sought,

Foodbanks not the solution,

For nurses or otherwise,

Fair deal for all.

For the unions are on the march,
The people leading and following behind,

Familys seeking rights,

No more poverty pay,

Starvation benefits,

Threats of deportation,

For Maydays here to celebrate,

New workers rights found,

The dignity of the people restored.

So let’s all cheer the people,
Heroes everyone,

Fighters to the core,

All worthy of a mansion,

The Peoples Palace,

For the peoples champions,

All marching,

Workers  rights to restore,

On this, the most beautiful Mayday.

Kevin Hutchens poetry ©2017

Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy, Vice President  spoke on behalf of the ATUC, condemning the impact of Tory cuts on Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and deploring the fact that “food banks are now the “norm” here in Europe’s oil capital.

“Yet the Tories are elected in this area. Why?” asked Kathleen.

She told the gathering that she is a low paid, disabled worker in Aberdeen and said that she lives in fear of losing her benefits that she depends on. 

“If I lose my benefits I lose my car. If I lose my car I can’t work. If I can't work my income is cut.

“Disability benefits are removed or cut and people are penalised more. Because I can tell you,” said Kathleen, “It COSTS more money to live when you are disabled. That has to be recognised!

Gemma Clark
Gemma Clark
“This government cares nothing for people. It must be stopped and stopped soon,” she urged.

17 year old Gemma Clark then addressed the rally. She spoke of the importance of trade unions to young people and how they are being hit so hard by the policies of the Tory government.

She spoke about her own political background and the impact that the Unions into Schools programme and made. She called for such initiatives to be widened out to more young people. 

Gemma said, "Not all teenagers have had the chances or opportunities that I've had. I'm the youngest community councillor, the youngest member of Unite the Union, I'm a member of Aberdeen City Youth Council.

"I couldn't have done most of these things without the help and support of Unite the Union.

"My worry is that on 8th June people will not turn out to vote saying it is a waste of time. Well it's not a waste of time.

She condemned the Tory Party "which is trying and has tried to rip the heart out of trade unions," and has ended up becoming the opposition in the Town House. 

"At Westminster they try and work out ways to take away our workers rights. Please don't let that happen," urged Gemma.

"We deserve to have the best workers' rights we possibly can."

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden
UNISON’s Kate Ramsden slammed the record of the Tory government over the past 7 years when they have “hammered ordinary folk.”

“How can anyone think that the Tories have anything to offer anyone but the richest. The richest who have doubled their wealth in the same period the rest of us have got poorer.

“And that’s the ones who did vote. Almost 2/3 didn’t vote at all. Didn’t see that they could make a difference.”

But that’s our challenge, said Kate. “We need to cut through the bias of the BBC and other media outlets. We need to cut through the soundbites which distort the reality of Tory policies.

“To reconnect people with their values - the values of care and compassion and community, the values of dignity and respect. The values that founded the Welfare State and the NHS.

“And we need to reconnect people with their democracy however flawed, their fundamental right, yes their duty to vote. And help them to believe that it will make a difference.

“That’s what our movement is for. It’s never been needed more!”

Amanda Murray
Amanda Murray
Amanda Murray from Aberdeen Anti-fascist Alliance warned us that the far right uses poverty as a propaganda tool, “exploiting the poor as a means to fuel their divisive, hate-filled agenda.”

“Solidarity is our weapon against the attacks of the far right,” said Amanda welcoming the fact that the far right candidates in Aberdeen were sent packing through minimal support at yesterday’s council elections.

“We tackle racism partly by tackling poverty. We tackle poverty partly by tackling racism,” said Amanda, calling on us all to unite behind that.

Anne Begg
Anne Begg
Dame Anne Begg spoke on behalf of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign and called on everyone gathered to support the campaign for a fair transitional pensions arrangement for women born in the 1950s. They are losing out because of unfair changes and many have not even been told this.

“This is not just an issue for women of a certain age,” said Anne. This is an issue for all of us. If the government can treat these women like this then they can treat anyone this way.”

She urged all individuals, trade unions and community groups to go on the website and support the campaign.

Mike Arnott
Mike Arnott
Mike Arnott brought greetings on behalf of the General Council of the STUC  and also from Dundee Trades Union Council who are celebrating their 150th Anniversary this year as ATUC will celebrate ours next year.

“Our presence here is a mark of our joint celebration,” said Mike.

“Our two cities have always shared our struggles.Our hunger march; our International Brigaders together in Spain; our solidarity with Palestine, and with the ANC and Nelson Mandela; our struggles against fascism, whether the blackshirts, the National Front or the SDL.

“And over 299 combined years of fighting for workers both here and across the world.”

Lewis MacDonald
Lewis MacDonald
Lewis MacDonald MSP also spoke of the challenging times ahead for our country.  He spoke of the key importance of keeping workers’ rights at the forefront of the Brexit negotiations to make sure that hard won rights are not sacrificed at the altar of big business.

He condemned the Tory’s refusal to safeguard the position of EU immigrants. “They are not bargaining chips, they are people,” said Lewis.

He acknowledged that not everyone gathered will vote the same way in the forthcoming election. “But it has never been more important to think very very carefully about who you cast your vote for,” urged Lewis.

Fiona Napier
Fiona Napier
Fiona Napier from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign reminded us that we are here to mark International Workers Day, “but we should also give thought to those who have been robbed of their right to employment, along with the other rights we take for granted – including  liberty.”

She spoke of the over 1600 Palestinian political prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails. This is their 20th day without food.

Fiona said, “The Freedom and Dignity strike is a protest against the inhumane conditions and treatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails – a protest against the IPS policy of medical neglect that causes immeasurable uneccesary suffering, even death,  against the use of administrative detention that sees Palestinians detained indefinitely with no charge or trial – currently 500,  a protest against the denial of family visits and against the deliberate use of solitary confinement and isolatio; and  restrictions on education.
“This hunger strike is the prisoners response to an unfair legal system which administers their arbitrary detention and represses their voices. It allows them to have their voices heard, and they are asking for our solidarity and action.

“Today is a response to that call – an international day of action for the hunger strikers, and Aberdeen is standing with thousands around the world,” said Fiona. She then read out the statement below.

Tommy Campbell
Tommy Campbell
Tommy Campbell brought the rally to a close. He spoke about all the very brave Trade Unionists around the world  who have stood up for workers’ rights and been imprisoned, including the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, then read out a beautiful poem by Eva Gore-Booth, an Irish poet and dramatist, and a committed suffragist and labour activist.

The peaceful night that round me flows,
Breaks through your iron prison doors,
Free through the world your spirit goes,
Forbidden hands are clasping yours.
The wind is our confederate
The night has left the doors ajar;
We meet beyond earth’s barred gate,
Where all the world’s wild rebels are.
Eva Gore-Booth

We ended the May Day March Rally by standing in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, highlighting their plight and calling for justice!

Standing in Solidarity

For more photo's from the event, have a look at our album on Facebook here: