The 1st of May, International Workers Day, is a time to remember and celebrate the achievements of labour organisations and other social movements. Their sacrifices and struggles have enabled millions of people to have more influence over their workplaces and conditions resulting in restricting child labour, establishing minimum wages, workplace safety, and in some nations the realisation of a 40-hour working week. The legacy of these movements has led, in many places to the development of nation-wide healthcare, education, pensions, the establishment of social services and made consider advancement towards gender equality. Each of these factors is now recognised pillars of healthy social and economic societies.
Social work shares the traditions of social movements advancing rights and continues to co-participate with trade unions and other solidarity activities that advance social rights. In our profession, this is often expressed in the practice of facilitating solidarity at the family, community and societal levels, so that all are heard, all can participate and that diversity is recognised and celebrated. Another commonality between social work and labour movements is our joint focus in working beyond the charity paradigm by seeking to transform the laws, structures and cultures that perpetuate inequality.
There is a long way to go from a global perspective. Acts of workers and other’s solidarity has had a positive impact on about one-seventh of the world’s population. About a billion people can earn and spend $32 or more per day. They have access to public transport, running water, secondary school education and can take the occasional holiday. Six billion people live below these basic standards: Two billion live on between 8 and 32 dollars a day; three billion earn between 2 and 8 dollars a day, and one billion people are living on less than 2 dollars per day.
The answers and solutions are already known by social workers, activists, trade unionists and others from the communities of the 6 billion people who remain with limited rights. In the context of modern globalisation and local economies being controlled by offshore markets, social workers call for international solidarity to end the wealthy countries and multinationals exploitation of low-income country’s resources and cheap labour. They call for a globally-just economic and trade structures founded on human rights, fair pricing, international standards of labour and enforced corporate social responsibilities. They say ‘we do not want aid, we want a level playing field’ where trade agreements should be based on building the capacity of countries that have suffered long-term exploitation and that workers, citizens and communities can participate in setting trade agreements.
IFSW has a crucial objective in the building of partnerships between the profession, people who use services, communities and other like-minded organisations to support and facilitate international solidarity for social justice. On International Workers Day join the vision of elevating solidarity for global social justice and help shape the profession’s capacity in shaping the future.
Contribute here in the consultation process on the Global Agenda for Social Work 2020 -2030.
Statement issued by IFSW Secretary-General Rory Truell and President Silvana Martínez.
Poster by Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio