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 48 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.
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 GPA-djp private services union has strongly attacked the VKKJ organisation that provides care to disabled children for using an injunction to try to prevent its works councils from organising any kind of strike or protest to secure improvements in pay and conditions. The VKKJ has not signed up to the social services sector agreement and the works councils had successfully campaigned to bring pay at the organisation in line with that agreement but that's when VKKJ took the legal step. The union has offered to go to mediation but the employer has rejected this. The GPA-djp will strongly
EPSU, Europe’s voice of 8 million pubic service unions is supporting the many actions to demand urgent actions of the UN Summit 23 September, from our governments and the European Commission and European Council.
Over 200 staff at the Schildautal hospital in Seesen in Lower Saxony took strike action on 4 October in defiance of threats from management that they would be dismissed. The hospital is owned by Asklepios, the second biggest private hospital group in Germany. The health union ver.di wants to negotiate a collective agreement that would bring pay in line with the public sector. However, the company not only refuses to negotiate but has threatened strikers with the sack and promised bonuses to strike breakers. The recent ver.di congress sent a message of solidarity to workers at the hospital.
Trade unions in the health sector are set to take joint strike action on 24 October unless there are positive developments in the sector negotiations that resume on 14 October. Some demonstrations have already taken place but the unions are concerned about the lack of progress on substantial questions such as funding, worsening conditions, excessive flexibility and overworks and staff shortages.
Care workers in the Basque region are engaged in long-term struggles to secure better pay and conditions and higher quality services for the elderly. Members of the ELA trade union working in residential care in Gipuzkoa province are set to take another 31 days of strike action from 11 November to 11 December, taking the total number of days to 149. Meanwhile the ELA, LAB, UGT and USO unions in Bizkaia province are coordinating action in home care. This follows 27 days of strike action in 2018 and a dozen days in 2017 in a campaign to end a seven-year pay freeze, improve health and safety and
Workers at the Schildautal hospital in Seesen in Lower Saxony are continuing their strike action to secure a collective agreement despite management's aggressive anti-strike measures (see EPSU Collective Bargaining News 19, October). Public services union ver.di has condemned the hospital owners, Askeplios, for failing to agree a minimum service agreement, threatening workers with the sack and offering strike-breaking bonuses. Further action was taken on 1 November despite the employer's intimidation and on the basis of the union's own proposal for minimum service.
Health unions FNV and NU'91 report that very high levels of support are building for the first ever national hospital strike set for 20 November. The unions initially expected action to be organised in around half of hospitals and clinics but the level of anger among workers means that strike action in non-urgent services is being planned in over 90% of institutions. The unions are looking for a 5% pay increase for 2019 and additional payments for workers who are called in to work at short notice (see EPSU Collective Bargaining News 20, October).