Thursday 9 May 2019

May day rally calls for protection of hard won equality and human rights

The May Day rally had a focus on equalities as speakers recognised that austerity and injustice hits hardest the very people who already suffer discrimination because of difference, be it in this country or across the world.

ATUC President, Sasha Brydon chaired the rally and opened with a call for justice which must be fought for every day, not just on the 1st May.
"We must resolutely reject attacks on our very humanity by governments and capitalists both at home and abroad," said Sasha.

DJ, an organiser of Grampian Pride told of the event which takes place in Aberdeen on 25th May.  This follows on from last year's inaugural Grampian Pride which was immensely successful. 

"Grampian Pride aims to provide a safe space for all LGBT+ individuals and their straight allies," said DJ, thanking all supporters and urging people to get along to what promises to be a great event.

Unite's Tommy Campbell then read two powerful poems. Click here to read them in full. 

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign's Karolin Hijazi called for international solidarity.

"As we celebrate our long fought right to decent working conditions, we must not forget comrades worldwide, who are still suffering from brutal exploitation, often facilitated by trade agreements and economic support of our own government to human righ abusers around the planet," urged Karolin, reminding us of the suffering still endured by Palestinian workers and their families at the hands of Israel, with whom our government still trades arms.

"We must fight the callous inhumanity with which the Palestinian people are treated, but clearly our own government will not do it for us," said Karolin, urging us to support the BDS campaign, "to push Israel to comply with international law, just as the international solidarity movement defeated apartheid South Africa."

She ended with a quote from anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu."If you are silent in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Saoirse from the Living Rent Campaign in Aberdeen then spoke of the achievements of the Living Rent Campaign in the Central Belt and the setting up of the campaign locally.

She explained that the Living Rent Campaign is  a democratic organisation run by and for tenants, which aims to provide tenants with a voice.

“We are there for tenants having problems with repairs, illegal fees, taken deposits or bad landlords.”

Saoirse added that Living Rent has three main aims it hopes to fulfil – ensuring that homes are for people and not solely for landlord profit, redress the power balance between landlords and tenants and to ensure all people have decent housing.

"Tenants' rights are workers' rights," said Saoirse.  "The two cannot be separated."

UNISON's Kathleen Kennedy spoke on disability rights, pointing out that the cuts impact on all workers but hit disabled workers even harder.

“There have been £500 million of cuts since 2010 and this has affected disabled people more than others, with the closures of day centres, the loss of access to work supports and cuts to home care.”

She told those gathered that one in five people have a disability in the UK and of those, half are out of work.

“Not because they don’t want to work,” slammed Kathleen, “But because they can’t access work.”

She added that those in work live in fear of more job cuts, and even if they keep their jobs it adds more stress.

“Stress affects everybody,” said Kathleen, “But it affects disabled people disproportionately, leading to more sickness absence.”

ATUC Secretary, Fiona Napier called for support for the Kurdish hunger strikers, some of whom have now been without food for more than four months, in a bid to end to the solitary confinement of Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan in a Turkish jail.

Fiona had visited some of the hunger strikers in Strasbourg in January 2019 and spoke of her very real fears for their well-being after so long without solid food.

 "As the situation of the hunger strikers gets more and more desperate, and the world continues to look away, the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) has sent out an appeal for people to write to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and ask them to perform their fundamental purpose."

Fiona called on those present to support this appeal and to write in support of the hunger strikers and to do all we can to publicise their plight and that of Abdullah Ocalan. Click here to find out how you can support them

ATUC consultative member Kevin Hutchens paid tribute to Unite full time officer Tommy Campbell in a humorous poem and also spoke of STUC research in the North East of Scotland.

Guy Ingerson, of the Green Party, threw the spotlight on environmental issues, saying that the future of the planet has everything to do with May Day and workers' rights.

"Our planet is dying," warned Guy. "We’ve seen our young people striking from their schools in protest. Trying desperately to make the so-called ‘adults’ wake up and listen."

He pointed to the civil disobedience on our streets and in our Parliament as those who are fed up with the slow pace of change finally take action.

"Because it's the workers of the world that are affected by climate change. From Mozambique to Scotland. Lives destroyed by increasingly common ‘freak’ weather events, commuters gouged by profiteering  private bus companies and working class communities like Torry used as a dumping ground.

"We cannot afford to burn our life support systems, we cannot afford to allow corporate giants to horde the wealth that WE create or for our politicians to ignore to voices of workers. It’s time for change," slammed Guy.

"In Aberdeen we’ve seen that the oil industry is no guarantee of job security. Food banks have been needed across our city. That is a scandal," said Guy, calling for a new economy built for our generation and generations to come. 

In a sombre moment, Labour's Callum O'Dwyer spoke of long-time ATUC, trade union and Labour Party activist, Harry Bygate, who died recently. He paid tribute to all the work that Harry had done to improve workers' rights for his members in the National Union of Seafarers.

"As we prepare to once again fight to keep our hard-won rights, we must never forget that they were won for us by the likes of Harry and his comrades.

"We should take courage from that and resolve that we will do whatever it takes to keep them."