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#MayDay2020: The system is broken, together we will build a new normal

news 01 May 2020

International Workers’ Day message from ITF president Paddy Crumlin and ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton

This year for the first time, we can’t march on the streets for International Workers’ Day, but that will never stop us demonstrating our strength and solidarity.

This crisis, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, has shown the world what we have always known – transport workers keep the world moving. We have always known the critical role that our members play, the pandemic has just opened the rest of the world’s eyes to this. We must translate this into power.

Leaders across the world are talking about getting back to ‘normal’. Brothers and sisters, as trade unionists we all know that a return to ‘normal’ isn’t good enough. The workers who today are ensuring that hospital staff can get to work, the sick can get the medicine they need, and that supermarket shelves are stocked with food, are also the same workers who for years have been fighting against declining wages – often poverty wages, increased outsourcing, social dumping, insecure models of employment and worsening working conditions and protections.

We’ve seen the criminality of ‘normal’ during this crisis – hundreds of thousands of workers laid off without work or pay overnight, and millions compelled to work without adequate protections leading to the death of thousands of workers on the frontline.

The system is broken, and we must campaign collectively to change it.

When this crisis ends, we cannot allow the world to forget the workers who kept people safe, healthy and fed. Transport workers played a major role in ensuring that.

This May Day, we have to bring to the forefront stories of the critical work that transport workers do every day. Stories of how we keep the world moving, and how unions are campaigning collectively for dignity and respect. 

We’re calling on the entire ITF family to join with us on social media, using the #MayDay2020 and #WeAreITF hashtags, to tell our stories:

  1. We call on our sisters and brothers on the front lines to tell the world what it means to be a transport worker right now. The job we’re doing. The risks we’re facing. And the demands we have for better protections.
  2. For unions, let’s tell the world what transport workers have been fighting for through their unions, and our collective fights for access to adequate PPE and health and safety, an end to labour abuse, social dumping and a race to the bottom in global supply chains, and to protect the lives and livelihoods of workers feeling the real impacts of this current crisis.

By telling both these stories – whether it’s a video, a photo or simply sharing your thoughts – we want to highlight the hypocrisy of a system that both depends on transport workers for its survival, while simultaneously seeking new ways to erode our working conditions and employment. These stories will lay the foundations for campaigning to ensure that workers aren’t the ones to pay the price for the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the moment we are in the eye of the storm, but we must take the opportunity that International Workers’ Day gives us to remind ourselves that we will get through this together.

We must pause today to take pride in what we do, celebrate our values, demonstrate meaningful solidarity across borders, and collectively commit to each other to campaign, organise and fight for a new normal that puts the working class first.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin

ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton


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