What are the big issues in Europe on 1 May?
Much has changed since 1889, when Europe’s trade unions and workers’ parties decided to take to the streets on 1 May to campaign for an eight-hour day, better working conditions and higher wages. Europe’s media outlets present a kaleidoscope of issues that are relevant in their countries on Labour Day.
Italian government only exacerbating precarity
The government in Rome chose May Day to pass new labour market measures and a cut in the "citizen’s income". Avvenire criticises the measures:
“The Council of Ministers wants to revive employment opportunities and ‘enrich’ workers by lowering the tax burden. ... Instead it now runs the risk of exacerbating the precarious situation by extending fixed-term contracts and making the unemployed even poorer through net cuts in the citizen’s income. The poor continue to be blamed for their poverty and the young are accused of not wanting to work in bars and restaurants. Yet these are the very occupations where inspectors have found irregularities such as illegal employment at 76 percent of the businesses they have checked.”
Everyone wooing the workers
El Español criticises that Spanish members of government participated in trade union demonstrations:
“The government’s support for the UGT and CCOO raises doubts about the independence of a unionist movement that seems less confrontational when the left governs. ... [The far-right] Vox has started applying Marine Le Pen’s strategy and is canvassing for voters in the working-class neighbourhoods of southern Madrid. [Vox leader] Santiago Abascal is blaming irregular immigration for economic insecurity and crime. ... It’s clear that the centre right and far right will vie with the Socialists for the workers’ vote, and not without reason. The fact that the left parties are so shamelessly cozying up to the unions will only reinforce this trend.”
Strolling instead of marching
1 May has changed enormously in Romania in the more than three decades since the fall of communism, Ziarul Financiar notes:
“Back then grandparents and parents were forced to parade before the Communist Party bosses, but today the children and grandchildren take a leisurely stroll along [Bucharest’s main avenue] Calea Victoriei looking at the other people and what they’re wearing. The people who were out and about on Calea Victoriei on the weekend have stayed in Romania and want to stay in Romania. ... A lot of the employees of multinationals in Bucharest and other big cities realise that they get more or less the same here as they would abroad: the jobs at the multinationals are the same here as they are there. The food is the same. And while their wages are lower, they have greater purchasing power.”
You can’t reach the young with battle songs
Collective bargaining agreements giving workers a significant boost in salaries have been reached in Germany in recent weeks. But the unions should not rest on their laurels, the Frankfurter Rundschau warns:
“It’s high time the trade unions came up with a concept for gaining a foothold outside the traditional industrial strongholds, not only in care institutions but also in the growing start-up scene. ... As the strikes at [delivery company] Lieferando show, trade union campaigns can still be effective. But their representatives need to be more modern, there must be more women, and above all they must be younger. Complicated trade union lingo, burning oil barrels outside factory gates, blowing whistles and singing workers’ songs won’t do the job nowadays.”
Are Bulgarians just victims of history?
Before 1989 the low productivity and efficiency of Bulgarian workers compared to those in Western Europe was blamed on communism, but what is the excuse now? news.bg asks on 1 May:
“We can no longer claim that we are weighed down by Soviet boots and unable to develop our skills. ... Now we say: the Ottoman Empire slowed us down for five centuries so we had to catch up with industrial Europe, then communism slowed us down by another half century and now we’re catching up with the democratic world. We are victims of history and the international situation!”