Workers Across Asia Rally for Rights, Higher Wages – Voice of America
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Workers across Asia called for higher wages and better working conditions Sunday in observation of the international day to honor laborers, while Turkish police and protesters clashed in Istanbul as several dozen people tried to reach the capital’s Taksim Square, where festivities were banned.
International Workers Day, also known as Labor Day, is celebrated May 1. The holiday honors laborers and the working class and is promoted by the international labor movement, socialists and communists.
In South Korea, tens of thousands of people protested the government’s labor reform plans.
Labor leaders said a bill being pushed by President Park Geun-Hye and her conservative Saenuri Party would make it easier for companies to lay off workers.
Cambodian garment workers hold banners during a gathering to mark May Day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 1, 2016. The workers staged a rally to demand higher wage and better working condition.
“Just as workers of previous generations fought for the right to an eight-hour day at the risk of their lives 120 years ago, we are here to share the pain of workers in the Republic of Korea,” said the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) spokesman Kim Jun-young.
Many protesters also called for a higher minimum wage.
Police said more than 10,000 officers were deployed for the protests but no clashes were reported, unlike last year when dozens of people were injured after police used water cannon and tear gas.
Malaysian trade union president Abdullah Sani criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, saying unions fear its effects on workers.
The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement, led by the United States, and signed by 12 countries on February 4. It is currently undergoing a two-year ratification process.
In Indonesia, workers called for higher wages to improve the quality of their lives.
Indonesia has nearly 111 million workers, but almost half of them are low-skilled laborers, according to National Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data from August 2013.
Indonesian workers shout slogans during a May Day rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 1, 2016. Thousands of workers urged the government to raise minimum wages and improve working condition.
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.
In Taipei, Taiwan, thousands of protesters from different labor groups called for raising the minimum wage and shorter working hours.
Many young Taiwanese have seen wages stagnate and have had a harder time trying to find full-time jobs as the export-led economy has slowed.
Garment factory workers also rallied in Cambodia.
And protesters in the Philippines said President Benigno Aquino’s government has done little to resolve work issues.
The Philippines will hold elections May 9, and many laborers hope the elections will bring about better wages as well as help lift people out of poverty.
Many countries in Asia ramped up security efforts Sunday to ensure May Day rallies remained calm.
Turkish riot police use pepper spray against protesters as they attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, in Besiktas neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2016.
In Turkey, where protesters and police regularly clash during labor day festivities, the Istanbul governor’s office said Saturday that it would have nearly 25,000 Turkish security forces on duty in the city in order “to provide for the security of citizens.” Numerous roads were also closed.
Authorities had arranged with union members to hold International Workers Day rallies in a designated area near the airport, but Turkish police firee tear gas and scuffled with dozens of protesters who attempted to reach Taksim Square..
The U.S. embassy had warned of the “potential for violent confrontation between demonstrators and security personnel” Sunday.
On May 1, 2015, Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse May Day protesters in Istanbul, while police and demonstrators engaged in pitched battles in some areas.
Tens of thousands of people, carrying the Russian tricolor, marched across Moscow’s Red Square Sunday morning in a pro-Kremlin workers’ rally.
May Day coincided with the Orthodox Easter in Russia this year.
A cease-fire was set to begin Sunday in Ukraine, which also celebrated the start of the Orthodox Easter and May Day holidays.
Martin Sajdik, the special envoy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said after talks Friday in Minsk, Belarus, the cease-fire was to go into effect at midnight Saturday (2100GMT).
The conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops has killed nearly 10,000 people since it began in April 2014.
And in the United States, thousands of people are expected to rally at events from New York to Los Angeles for immigrant and worker rights. They also planto speak out against what they see as hateful presidential campaign rhetoric.
The annual events have become a rallying point for immigrants and their supporters in the U.S. since massive demonstrations in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.
Material for this report came from AP, Reuters and AFP.
PHOTO GALLERY: Related photos of International Workers Day events
Workers Across Asia Rally for Rights, Higher Wages – Voice of America}