Madrid Desk, May 1 (efe-epa).- Workers’ Day is celebrated around the world on 1 May but this year the usual marches and events in Europe were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Spain the cities were empty of workers marching through the streets for the first time in 125 years.
Unai Sordo and Pepe Álvarez, general secretaries of the country’s two main unions CCOO and UGT respectively, paid tribute to the more than 24,000 people who have died from Covid-19 in the country, one of the worst affected by the outbreak.
In online speeches they also thanked medics and essential workers who have risked their own safety and that of their families during the crisis.
Both leaders also demanded improvements in working conditions, saying that many employed in these sectors are paid “very low wages”, work part-time and with high levels of instability.
Álvarez dedicated the day to essential workers and said: “From this pandemic you have to come out with stronger and more thoughtful public services to respond to the needs of citizens.”
Spain’s labour minister Yolanda Díaz said: “This May Day is going to make history, the streets are empty but the workers are more present than ever: they are the ones who are saving us.”
In neighbouring Italy the main unions also cancelled their annual rallies and instead issued a series of demands to guarantee the safety of workers amid the outbreak, which has devastated the country, also one of the worst affected in the world.
Italy, which has reported more than 205,000 infections and 28,000 deaths from Covid-19, recently began the gradual process of easing restrictions.
Maurizio Landini, secretary-general of national trade union Italian General Confederation of Labour, said: “It will work only with security conditions, otherwise the activity will be suspended. It is the moment of responsibility.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged that workers are being subjected to a “hard test” by the virus.