Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 13:08:59 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: "P. K. Murphy" <bi008@FREENET.TORONTO.ON.CA>
Subject: May Day In Asia
Workers vent anger at economic collapse
From The Irish Times,
Saturday, May 2, 1998
Violence and mass protests replaced traditional Labour Day
celebrations yesterday as Asia's workers took to the streets to vent
their anger over rising unemployment and food prices.
In Seoul, thousands of workers and students fought with riot police
after a May Day protest march degenerated into violence. Reports said
at least a dozen protesters and several riot policemen were injured
during the violence which broke out when a crowd of 20,000 workers and
students marched to protest against massive layoffs.
Some two million workers staged rallies throughout Japan, amid growing
public anger and fear over the record unemployment rate of 3.9 per
cent and the nation's worst post-war slump.
Japan's largest union held a demonstration march for the first time in
seven years to vent its fury.
"Employment is the most important matter for any workers," the
chairman of the Japan Trade Union Confederation, Mr Etsuya Washio,
told 100,000 people near Yoyogi park in Tokyo.
Taiwan saw its biggest ever trade union rally when some 20,000
slogan-chanting protesters marched through Taipei to demand more job
protection and equal educational opportunities.
"This is to demonstrate our determination to join the forces of the
country's labourers to press the government for the rights we
deserve," said Mr Fang Lai-chin, leader of the "Dream for a New
Society" event organised by National Enterprises Association,
representing 250,000 people.
China's commemorations were more muted. Newspapers called for workers
to support economic reforms and there were no public rallies for fear
of spontaneous demonstrations by the disgruntled working class.
More than 20 million Chinese state-sector workers are expected to lose
their jobs by the end of the year as the government attempts to make
loss-making and heavily over-staffed state enterprises fit for
In Malaysia, badly affected by the economic woes, trade union
officials warned that unemployment may get worse.
"Workers are worried. There is anxiety among them. The fear of being
unemployed is growing," the secretary-general of the powerful
Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Mr Govindasamy Rajase karan, said.
Malaysia has reduced its growth rate forecast for 1998 and the economy
is preparing for more corporate failures, which are expected to rock
The Prime Minister, Mr Mahathir Mohamad, in his workers' day message,
appealed to workers to be patient.
"We have to tighten our belts a bit to ensure our country continues to
develop," he said, adding the future was not as bad for Malaysians as
for others in the region.
Thai authorities used May Day to begin a crackdown on the estimated
one million illegal workers.
About 5,000 people gathered in central Bangkok for a ceremony presided
over by the Prime Minister, Mr Chuan Leekpai. In his speech he urged
workers to face the fact that the economic crisis would result in
major bankruptcies for the private sector and unemployment would
The economic slump has sent Thai jobless levels to almost two million.
In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, an opposition-led march swamped
a pro-government rally as more than 3,000 Cambodian workers took to
The marchers, chanting and carrying banners calling for wage increases
and paid holidays, were led by the prominent dissident, Mr Sam Rainsy.
Throughout East Asia, millions of workers have been laid off since the
regional economic crisis started in mid-1997, and millions more could
lose their jobs this year if the recession continues.
Hong Kong marked its first May Day under Chinese rule without official
fanfare, but 40 members of a pro-China group handed a petition signed
by 170,000 people to the government demanding more jobs. - (AFP)
Copyright: The Irish Times