Public service trade unionists from across the Mediterranean region met online last week (14-15 September) to discuss the challenges they face in asserting their fundamental rights to organise, negotiate and take strike action.
On 27 August the KESK public services confederation organised a national strike in protest at the collective agreement signed by the government and the Memur Sen trade union. KESK has a range of key demands which the agreement fails to address and is angry that it was shut out of the negotiations. The confederation argues that the pay rises foreseen in the agreement are inadequate to ensure protection against inflation and it doesn’t include any measures to deal with employment security, workplace democracy or the right to proper collective bargaining. EPSU sent a solidarity message.
The four main unions in the waste sector - Fp Cgil, Fit Cisl, Uiltrasporti and Fiadel – will be consulting with their activists on 16 September in the lead up to the next sector negotiations due on 20 September. The unions will discuss mobilisation across the sector if the employers fail to respond to the unions’ key demands for the renewal of the collective agreement that expired 26 months ago. The unions are looking for a number of key improvements including extension of the sector agreement to cover recycling plants, strengthening of the industrial relations system, better health and safety
The ver.di services union has welcomed the decision of the Berlin labour court to reject an application for an injunction to block a planned strike in the health sector. Ver.di members at the Vivantes and Charité health providers in Berlin had been waiting 100 days for management to respond to calls to negotiate a collective agreement, planning strike action at the end of August if the employer missed the union’s deadline. The union had established a clear plan to prepare for the strike and the workers that would be involved but had to postpone the action for a day in order to attend the
After two days of rallies and protests by waste workers, Tbilisi city council agreed to increase the salaries of employees of the Tbilservice waste management company from January 2022 and to solve a range of other issues by the end of August. The trade union of services, banks and utilities negotiated a number of measures relating to the inviolability of the protesters; cancellation of planned changes to work schedules; granting of employee insurance from 1 January 2022; additional paid leave to 24 working days; update of special clothes provision; and upgrading of vehicles.
The Hungarian government has issued two decrees removing the right to strike from air traffic control staff. An appeal court judgement of 20 July clearly confirmed the union’s legal right to strike. However, six days later the two decrees were published which not only dismiss the decision of the Hungarian Appeal Court but also violate Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) has condemned the Hungarian government and strongly maintains that collective representation and collective bargaining are basic labour rights
The vpod/ssp public services union has launched an initiative to support its local activists in mobilising to win better pay and conditions for health workers across the country. The strike at the CHUV University Hospital in Lausanne was the starting signal for the union’s “Road to Strike” organizing campaign. Vpod/ssp argues that the situation in health establishments has worsened due to the pandemic with many workers facing burnout and leaving the sector. The persistent staffing shortages undermine working conditions and further pressures come from private health companies’ search for profit
The ver.di services union has called a three-day warning strike from 23 August in the hospitals in Berlin run by the regional government’s Charité group, including its Vivantes subsidiaries. The union gave the employer 100 days to initiate collective bargaining to tackle overwork by hospital employees and trainees and to bring pay in line with the public service collective agreement in all Vivantes subsidiaries. The strike will go ahead if the deadline of 20 August is missed. Ver.di says that Charité has failed to make any serious offer and it has called on the employer to conclude agreements
The five national trade union confederations sent a solidarity message to the MESZK chamber of healthcare professionals in support of its protest march in Budapest on 31 July. The demonstrators called for pay increases for nurses in line with those already awarded to doctors and argued this was crucial to help stem the migration of nurses to western Europe. Earlier this year the five confederations also came together to file a complaint with the International Labour Organisation over the government’s imposition of new legislation which removes the rights to negotiate and take strike action
Forty-eight countries are now covered in EPSU’s library of factsheets on the right to strike. Information on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan was recently added to the EPSU website. Each factsheet sets out the main legal provisions covering strike action, including who can call a strike, procedural requirements and any limitations on the right to take action. There is also a section on international case law. The factsheets were launched jointly with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) in 2019 with the ETUI coordinating production of factsheets on 34
The SINTAP public service trade union has negotiated a new collective agreement with the Inova company that provides waste, water and other municipal services in Cantanhede in the Coimbra district. The union highlights in particular the progressive reduction of working hours in 2022 and 2023 to 35 a week; changes to the timing of night work; additional holiday entitlement – an extra day for each 10 years of service and general increase in annual leave to 25 by 2023. There will also be increases to meal and other allowances as well as higher pay. In contrast, the STAL local government union
The STAL municipal union has joined with the FIEQUMETAL industrial union in a series of public “tribunals” to denounce the EGF/Mota&Engil waste and construction company. The unions’ aim is to expose the poverty wages paid by the company and its failure to enter into a proper process of collective bargaining. The joint action started in Coimbra in central Portugal on 12 July, moving on to Guimarães in the north of the country on 20 July with further events planned for 26 July and 2 August. The two unions argue that the company is denying them the right to collective bargaining while maintaining
The GMB energy and general union declared an end to the long and bitter dispute with British Gas over its aggressive policy of firing and rehiring workers. GMB members voted three to one to accept a new deal. Around 7,000 British Gas engineers staged 44 days of strike action after the company threatened to sack them if they didn’t sign up to detrimental changes to their terms and conditions. The new deal offers improvements to overtime rates and unsocial hours payments, places limits on the amount of unsocial working undertaken, reverses the decision to close the defined benefit pension scheme
Trade unions in the electricity and waste sectors reported very high levels of support for their industrial action and protests on 30 June. The unions want article 177 of the procurement code to be deleted as they argue that it requires widespread outsourcing across their sectors, posing a major threat to jobs and working conditions. They say that if the article is not deleted there will be increasing fragmentation of these industries and it will undermine initiatives towards a circular economy and low carbon energy sector. Meanwhile, the three main confederations have also been mobilising to