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).
Government intervenes to end hospital strike
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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 have reacted angrily to the decision by the government to curtail debate over pension reforms by using a constitutional mechanism to pass legislation by ordonnance rather than the normal parliamentary process. Some unions organised demonstrations across the country at short notice to underline their continuing opposition to the reforms. Others were concerned about the method used to close down debate when there are still major issues still to be resolved, particularly in relation to pension for workers in arduous occupations.
Trade unions in many sectors took strike action and joined protests across the country on 5 December against proposals to reform the pensions system. There is widespread concern that the reforms will lead to later retirement to get decent pensions or retirement on lower benefits. Workers in the transport and education sectors are particularly concerned but the actions, including an 800,000-strong demonstration in Paris attracted wide support. Further action took place on 6 December and is planned for the coming weeks.