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Thousands of Swiss take to streets to mark May Day

A May Day rally in the centre of Basel in northwest Switzerland on May 1, 2018
A May Day rally in the centre of Basel in northwest Switzerland on May 1, 2018 Keystone

Workers and activists have been celebrating May Day in Switzerland with rallies in numerous cities urging their government to address employment issues, such as equal pay.

Around 50 rallies and events are planned across Switzerland. On Tuesday morning, 13,000 took part in a demonstration in Zurich city centre. Other major rallies were held in Basel in the morning, and in Bern and Geneva in the afternoon.

Swiss unions came together under the slogan of “Equal pay. Period”, to demand equal salaries for men and women. In 2017, women in Switzerland earned on average CHF600 ($607) less per month than their male counterparts. 

+ Read how Swiss unions want to convince employers to respect equal pay

+ Workers’ rights in Switzerland

To mark May Day, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga traveled to Ennenda in canton Glarus, where she visited a chocolate factory and met employees. Meanwhile, Swiss President Alain Berset gave speech in Sion, the capital of canton Valais, at the invitation of the Federation of Valais Trade Unions. 

“Unequal pay] is one of the biggest scandals in our country right now,” he told the audience. 

Global event 

International Workers’ Day is a public holiday in many countries. In Moscow, over 100,000 people came out on the streets to march in the traditional May Day parade. In Istanbul, police detained dozens of demonstrators during May Day events, most of them protesters who tried to march toward the city’s symbolic main square in defiance of a ban.

Elsewhere, some 340,000 people are thought to have participated in almost 500 May Day events across Germany. In Greece, thousands of people marched through Athens in at least three separate May Day demonstrations. More than 70 cities across Spain held May Day marches calling for gender equality, higher salaries and pensions. In Indonesia, 10,000 workers from various labour groups rallied near the presidential palace in Jakarta to voice their demands.

Meanwhile in Paris French riot police used water cannon and teargas against hundreds of hooded protesters after they smashed shop windows and hurled petrol bombs at the start of an annual May Day rally in the capital.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR