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.
The European Trade Union Federations (ETUFs) representing tens of millions of workers across all countries and sectors in the EU and beyond in Europe strongly condemn the UK government’s draft legislation on minimum service.
The UK trade union movement has been angered by the government’s rushed draft legislation to impose minimum service levels on public service strikers. The government claims it is bringing the UK into line with countries like Italy and Spain but fails to acknowledge the different systems in those countries that guarantee the right to strike and impose no requirements on balloting for industrial action. The UK legislation, if passed, would not ensure that trade unions can negotiate minimum service levels and would allow employers to dismiss workers who failed to comply with the requirement to
The FNV trade will launch a campaign of industrial action across local government on 24 January in response to the employers’ failure to come up with an improved pay offer. The union is looking for an increase of 12% and general compensation for inflation but the employers offered only an increase of 5% in February 2023 and 3% in April 2024. The action will begin with a two-day stoppage by waste workers in Almere near to Amsterdam. Action will also follow in Tilburg and Rotterdam and at the end of the month in Amsterdam. The collective agreement in the sector covers around 187000 workers.
With the government refusing to negotiate on pay, health and other public service workers are set to continue their campaigns of industrial action into the new year. The RCN nursing union has announced two further strikes days (18-19 January) following its historic first national strike action in December. Unions representing ambulance workers (UNISON, Unite and GMB) will also take further action in England (11 and 23 January) and could be joined by colleagues in Wales who have just voted to take action. Meanwhile central government union PCS has a timetable for more targeted action across
Members of the STAL trade union employed by two waste companies – the private FCC Environment and municipally-owned RdN – took strike action between Christmas and the new year. Workers in both companies are seeking a 10% pay rise with a minimum monthly increase of €100 and minimum wage of €850 a month. In addition, the main claim at RdN is for all workers on temporary contracts to be made permanent.
Picketing and strike action by the Dev Sağlık-İş trade union, with support from EPSU and PSI, helped address bullying, harassment and anti-trade union behaviour by management at the Koç University Hospital in Istanbul. Although the dismissed union members were not reinstated, the employer paid increased compensation in recognition of the discriminatory action against union officials. The union also secured the dismissal of the manager responsible for the bullying, the end to harassment and withdrawal of false accusations against union members. Both PSI and EPSU sent protest letters.
The RCN nursing union launched its first ever campaign of industrial action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 15 December and followed up with a second strike on 20 December. The union has said further action may follow in January if the government fails to commit to negotiations on pay. On 21 December, three unions representing ambulance workers – UNISON, UNITE and GMB – organised a first day of strike action in England and Wales over pay with plans for a second walkout on 28 December. Meanwhile, the PCS union launched its targeted industrial action across central government and
The ETUC is calling on its member organisations to press their national governments to provide feedback to the Swedish Presidency on the proposed Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) by 20 January. The ETUC argues that the SMEI must respect fundamental trade union rights and the autonomy of the social partners and that strike action must never be considered as a crisis or be restricted by emergency measures whether under the SMEI or otherwise. Affiliates are urged to get their national governments to push for stronger safeguards for social, workers’ and trade union rights to be included
The STAL trade union is pleased at the high turnout of workers for the strike action on 13 December in the AdP water company and the two-day action on 9-10 December in the Tratolixo company that provides services to the municipalities of Cascais, Mafra, Oeiras and Sintra. At AdP the union is calling for a €120-a-month increase for all workers and a minimum wage of €900 a month in the face of the employer’s offer of an increase of only 1.2%. At Tratolixo the main demand is for a €100-a-month increase. In both cases the union is pushing for proper negotiations and implementation of a collective