Thousands gather in Swiss cities for May 1 demonstrations

This is the first major May 1 demonstration since the pandemic started in 2020. © Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Traditional May 1 celebrations have drawn thousands of demonstrators to Swiss cities. The situation in Ukraine was a key focus of demands this year.

This content was published on May 1, 2022

Demonstrations were planned in 50 locations across Switzerland on Sunday. The largest of which was in Zurich where some 12,000 people marched in the streets according to media agency Keystone-SDA.

In Basel, about 1,500 people gathered for a May Day demonstration, which attracted trade unions as well as campaigners for undocumented migrants, gender equality and climate protection.

Several arrests and a few acts of vandalism were reported by police. Local branches of UBS and Credit Suisse were the target of vandalism in Basel. In Zurich, police used tear gas and rubber bullets during an unauthorised demonstration of a few hundred people following the main march.

Key demands

Under the slogan “peace, freedom, solidarity”, the war in Ukraine was a key topic of speeches. Union leaders called for Switzerland to do more to support the Ukrainian people and refugees who have come to Switzerland.  

"It is the promise of a life, education, work and retirement with dignity for all, as well as the right to the protection of health and security,” said Pierre-Yves Maillard, president of the Swiss Trade Union Federation, speaking in front of the federal building in Bern. All of this, he said, should not just be for a portion of the population.

Classic trade union demands were also reiterated during the day including better wages and pensions.

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