World Economy

Workers Hold May Day Rallies

Workers Hold May Day RalliesWorkers Hold May Day Rallies

Millions of people around the world were staging protest rallies, waving banners and chanting slogans to mark International Workers’ Day on Sunday, aka Labor Day.


Thousands in Berlin and Hamburg participated in the demonstrations. The protests were relatively peaceful, with police reporting some minor incidents of violence.

There were reports of sporadic violence in Hamburg, where rally participants hurled bottles at police. The protesters also set a government vehicle on fire. The police arrested a 24-year-old suspect.

Overall, the Labor Day rallies were more peaceful than previous years, said police spokesman Timo Zill.


Some 30,000 people took part in the May Day rally in Tokyo’s central Yoyogi Park, protesting against the controversial TPP trade deal among other issues, national work unions’ federation Zenroren said in a statement.

The main slogans of the demonstrators concerned higher wage demands and improvement of workers’ living standards. The protesters also criticized the government’s economic policy, in particular Tokyo’s decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

South Korea

Tens of thousands of South Koreans joined protests against labor reforms pushed by the government, and called for a higher minimum wage.

Labor activists say a bill being pushed by President Park Geun-Hye and her conservative Saenuri Party will make it easier for companies to sack workers.

“Let’s fight together against the evil bill!” activists and unionized workers chanted in unison during a protest in Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall.

About 30,000 unionized workers took part, according to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions.

Messages on banners included “Down with easy layoff!” and “Protect our rights to work!”

Protesters chanted: “Fight against (President) Park’s administration that suppresses labor rights!”

Many also waved giant flags reading “Minimum wage of 10,000 won ($8.73)!” South Korea’s current minimum wage is 6,030 won per hour.


Fearing France’s worker protections are under threat, unions, students and others marched through Paris and other French cities on Sunday.

The traditional May Day rallies took on greater weight this year as parliament is debating a bill that would allow longer working hours and let companies lay workers off more easily.

The bill has prompted the most violent labor-related protests in a decade, with small groups of angry youth repeatedly smashing storefronts and baton-wielding police clearing crowds with tear gas. Most of the demonstrators have been peaceful.


Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons Sunday to disperse dozens of May Day demonstrators in Istanbul.

Small scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators trying to reach Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square. Taksim has symbolic meaning as the center of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

In the Istanbul districts of Sisli and Bakirkoy, police fired tear gas and water cannon to scatter other protesters. They also rounded up at least 36 demonstrators, according to Anadolu Agency.

May Day marches were held elsewhere in Turkey without incident but were cancelled in the southern city of Gaziantep after a car bomb attack on a police station.

In the coastal city of Izmir, some demonstrators stripped down in protest over police body searches at a square where people were allowed to gather, according to local media.


In Manila, about 2,000 left-wing protesters scuffled with riot policemen, who used shields and water cannon to try to prevent the flag-waving demonstrators from getting near the US Embassy. Labor leaders said 20 protesters were injured.

Some of the protesters managed to break through the police cordon. TV video showed some of them punching a retreating police officer and using wooden poles to hit a fire truck.

Police made no arrests and the protesters dispersed after about two hours.


In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, labor unions took to the streets with a march to call on the government to reduce working hours and increase wages.

Many among the Taiwanese public have been concerned that outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou’s push for closer economic ties with China has benefited just a few. Young Taiwanese have seen wages stagnate and good full-time jobs harder to find as the export-led economy has slowed.

Chen Li-jen, a protester with the Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union, said that while companies were seeing their earnings per share grow every year, workers’ salaries were not rising in tandem. “Hardworking laborers are being exploited by consortiums,” Chen said.


Indonesian workers called for higher wages to improve the quality of their lives, as worries mount over a slowing economy and competition from neighboring ASEAN countries.

There are almost 110.8 million workers in Indonesia, according to the National Central Statistics Agency data gathered in August 2013, but almost half are low-skilled laborers.

With the regional minimum wage in Jakarta set at $238 a month, workers said they are having a difficult time trying to make a comfortable living.


Tens of thousands of people marched across Moscow’s Red Square in a pro-Kremlin workers’ rally. The protesters were carrying the Russian tricolor and balloons.

As is typical for rallies organized by the ruling United Russia party, the May Day rally steered clear of criticizing President Vladimir Putin or his government for falling living standards. The slogans focused on wages and jobs for young professionals.

Left-wing Russian groups held their own rallies. This year the May Day coincided with the Orthodox Easter in Russia.