Strikes and industrial action
The right to strike is fundamental for trade unions. Although strikes and industrial action are the weapons of last resort, it is crucial that trade unions can use them in the fight to defend workers' rights and get a fair deal from employers. The challenge for many unions, particularly those in the public sector, is that the right to strike is restricted or even completely denied. Information on the right to strike in the public sector is available in over 40 country factsheets that cover the main rules and include information on cases that trade unions have taken to the International Labour Organisation and Council of Europe.
EPSU affiliates in the public, non-for profit and private sector are on strike in Belgium, 13 February. The workers and our unions are fighting for a decent pay increase now profits are high, the economy is doing well and corporate taxes have been reduced.
The right to strike is fundamental for trade unions in underpinning their ability to organise, collectively bargain and represent their members. However, this right has often been restricted for public service workers and in recent years has come under attack.
The right to strike varies considerably across Europe, often with specific rules and restrictions imposed on public service workers. The European Trade Union Institute has produced 35 country factsheets that explain the latest legal situation. EPSU has also begun to add countries outside the European Union and candidate countries and a total of 43 countries are now covered. A further seven factsheets are planned.
With hundreds of thousands of public service workers taking strike action across Europe in recent weeks - in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, the UK, Austria and Germany - it is timely that EPSU is publishing factsheets on the right to strike in 35 countries. The factsheets have been produced for EPSU by the European Trade Union Institute. Some groups of public service workers often face bans or restrictions on their right to strike and these factsheets set out the main rules. They also cover international case law and list international standards, such as International Labour Organisation
Public service unions report very high levels of support for the national strike action on 14-15 February. All sectors of the public services were affected and this gives strength to the unions' claims to end the 10-year pay freeze and to address a wide range of other issues including career progression. Meanwhile, in relation to a separate action the SEP nurses' union has condemned the government for using its power of civil requisition to end a strike. The union argues that this is an excessive measure that undermines the right of healthworkers to take action and will, in any case, do
Teachers, childcare workers and school administrative and other staff began an all-out strike on 8 April following three weeks of negotiations with the government over pay. The negotiations also came after a three-year campaign of demonstrations and protests over low pay in the sector affecting both teachers and other school staff. With the government refusing to come up with a decent pay offer, support for strike action was very high, registering 80%-90% in some areas. The action comes at a time when other groups of public service workers are either taking strike action or pushing for higher
The latest issue of the Journal of International Trade Union Rights features a number of articles examining the extent to which public service workers find their rights restricted in relation to organising, collective bargaining or the right to take collective action. Nadja Salson of EPSU contributed an article highlighting two developments. First, is EPSU's legal action against the European Commission over its failure to put forward the information and consultation agreement in central government to the European Council for transposition into a directive and the second is the loophole in the
Around 10000 health workers are on strike today over the government's failure to honour a job and pay regrading exercise. The strike, initially planned for last week, had been been suspended pending emergency talks.
Around 10000 health workers took 24-hour strike action on 26 June to put pressure on the ministry of health to act on the results of a major job evaluation exercise. Many workers - including those involved in portering, household and catering services and employed as health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians - have been waiting for their job and pay to be upgraded but the government has stalled on implementing the job evaluation. The SIPTU union agreed to further talks on 26 June but said it was still preparing for further
Earlier this year the Council of Europe published its latest assessments of countries' compliance with its social charter and particularly article 6 on the right to strike. The report reveals that many continue to fail to conform with the requirements of the article and this is often related to significant restrictions on the right to strike particularly affecting public service workers. The latest list of countries not in conformity include: Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Malta, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and the UK. Further details can
After three weeks of selective strike action in hospitals involving several public service unions, the government has used its powers to force an end to the action and refer the matter to a national labour tribunal which will meet in October. The strike was over pensions and ensuring that all hospital workers have a right to a pension from the first Krone earned. The government claimed a threat to health when the unions decided to step up the action. It has intervened in this way in the past, most recently in November 2018 in a dispute involving the NSF nurses' union (see epsucob@NEWS 22, 2018