Tens of thousands of people have descended on streets across the world to mark International Workers’ Day.
Colourful protests organised by trades unions and left-wing parties across Asia shared the theme of better pay and conditions, and denunciations of government policy, as living costs increase in fast-growing economies.
Marchers in Europe used May 1, a national holiday in more than 80 countries around the world, to protest against government-imposed austerity measures.
Thousands of May Day protesters in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan demanded raises in pay that they say has not kept up with rising consumer prices, while also calling for lower school fees and expressing a variety of other grievances.
Indonesian workers held Asia’s biggest rally, watched warily by a heavy police and army presence.
Carrying banners saying “raise our salaries” and “stop outsourcing contracts”, more than 9,000 workers gathered at Jakarta’s main roundabout before marching to the state palace.
About 16,000 police and soldiers were deployed to guard the protest, Rikwanto, Jakarta police spokesman, said.
“Living costs have gone up but our salaries remain unchanged,” Muhamad Rusdi, a protest leader, told the AFP news agency.
“We only make enough to eat but there is no money in the bank, no money for our children’s education.”
In the Philippine capital, Manila, about 8,000 members of a huge labour alliance, many clad in red shirts and waving red streamers, marched towards the presidential palace, Alex Gutierrez, Manila police chief, said.
Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine president, rejected their calls for a pay rise, which he said could worsen inflation, result in layoffs and turn away foreign investors.
In Moscow, about 100,000 people, including President Dmitry Medvedev and president-elect Vladimir Putin, took part in the main march through the city centre.
|Maoist supporters rally to commemorate Labour Day in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital [Reuters]|
Trade Unions organised the rally, demanding the rights of workers be respected.
The opposition decided not to attend the rally, having decided to delay their anti-Putin protest for the eve of his inauguration next week.
Big protests are also taking place in other parts of Europe where governments have resorted to austerity measures leading to the loss of jobs and social security in the wake of credit crisis.
A few thousand Greeks gathered in capital Athens’ Syntagma square protesting against government’s austerity measures.
Protests are likely to be held in Spain, which has seen a big increase in the number of unemployed, having risen by about about 25 per cent.
In the US, demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience are planned, including what could be the country’s most visible Occupy rallies since the anti-Wall Street encampments came down earlier this year.