May 1, the international day of workers’ struggle, is going to proceed in Sydney with a safe union-led car cavalcade initiated by the May 1 Movement, observing strict physical distancing measures.
The NSW police have now threatened to issue fines in excess of $1000 to any participants in the car convoy, under new powers granted for the pandemic.
Two union-focused car cavalcades have been organised (on March 27 and April 9) by the May 1 Movement, and included the Maritime Union of Australia, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union construction and general division, National Union of Workers, National Tertiary Education Union and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.
Around 60 vehicles joined the April 9 action which had the theme “No worker left behind”. The convoy travelled from the northern suburb of Chatswood across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to NSW Parliament, where it circled the block with horns blaring and lights flashing.
The May 1 Movement respects “social distancing” but argued that no one at risk of transmitting COVID-19 and participants have committed to only travel in cars with those from their household.
It has called on unions, workers and social movement activists to join the May Day protest, or take action at home via social media. The key demands are: an end to job cuts and for climate jobs; the immediate expansion of JobKeeper; for rents and mortgages to be frozen and evictions ended; and for international solidarity.
It is also calling for “safe workplaces” and “special paid leave for all workers affected by COVID-19”.
It wants JobKeeper to be expanded to include casuals, gig workers, refugees, international students and others facing the sack or having their hours and pay cut.
“Don’t bail out essential services — nationalise them”, the May 1 movement said. The airline and private health companies receiving public funding “must be taken into public ownership”.
In keeping with the spirit of international workers’ day, the May 1 action is demanding that economic sanctions on countries be lifted, international co-operation on medical research and an immediate increase in Australia’s aid budget.
The May Day call is also looking to the future where it says public sector climate jobs would “turn around mass unemployment” and “decarbonise the economy”. It wants specific assistance to Indigenous communities and “all communities on the front line of the climate crisis”.
Unions and social justice groups were planning a major stop work rally on May 1. The COVID-19 shutdown has forced activists to come up with creative resistance. Details of the car convoy will be made available soon.
[Join the May Day action. Sign on the open letter demanding the right to be able to celebrate May Day.]