Health and social care unions in the Basque region have been involved in a series of protests and strikes. Mobilisations in public health during December and January will culminate in a day of strike action on 28 January. The unions are angry about the failure of the public health system to honour basic rights to information and collective bargaining. They are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the system and the way that management have responded by taking unilateral decisions on working conditions, health and safety and precarious employment. Two days earlier, on 26 January unions
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 41 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.
Around 9000 employees of British Gas were due to begin a five-day strike from 7 January in protest at the company’s decision to fire all workers and rehire them on worse pay and conditions. British Gas’s parent company Centrica claimed the measures are necessary in response to the impact of the pandemic. However, the GMB trade union, representing engineers and call-centre staff argue that the initiative is excessive particularly in view of the company’s latest reported operating profits. 89% of the union’s members in the company voted for the strike action.
The mobilisation of workers in the EGF waste company on 18 December, reported in the EPSU Collective Bargaining Newsletter last month, was followed up with a 48-hour strike on 28 and 29 December. The action is part of a campaign by the STAL trade union to secure an increase in pay, payment of a supplement for risky and arduous work and a collective agreement. Meanwhile, in the public sector the SINTAP trade union has welcomed the inclusion in the 2021 state budget of provisions to allow for arduous work payments for waste and other workers in local government. However, the government has left
The Fp-Cgil, Cisl-FP, Uil-Fpl and Uil-Pa public service federations are mobilising for the national strike on 9 December. The unions say that years of recruitment freezes have created staff shortages and mean that public services need around 500000 extra workers. The unions are also calling for action to increase permanent employment with around 170000 workers on precarious contracts. Health and safety are also vital with unions wanting action on personal protective equipment, reduced workloads and measures to tackle harassment. Finally, the federations are calling for a renewal of the
Workers in the Liebenau Leben im Alter (LLA) non-profit eldercare provider, part of the church-based Caritas network, have taken strike action for the first time in a campaign to get a collective agreement. There are around 1.8 million workers in church-based health and social care providers where pay and conditions are set by the employer rather than by collective agreement. Last year just four ver.di members began to organise in LLA but the union now has 240 members in the organisation who want their employer to recognise the work they have been doing during the pandemic and bring their pay
Social care workers in Kerry and Cork have voted for industrial action in what is set to be a national campaign of strikes across what are called Section 39 organisations. These are non-government, publicly funded bodies that provide health and social services. In 2018 there was an agreement that employees in these organisations would, in line with the public sector, get pay rises to compensate for the cuts imposed during austerity. They are still waiting for this pay restoration and as many as 250 organisations across the country could be hit by strike action over the coming weeks. SIPTU
The OZZPiP nurses' and midwives' union looks set to declare disputes in different regions across the country in a process that could lead to a national strike. The union is angry that legislation on bonuses for work with COVID-19 patients has been amended and could see many nurses lose out if they work with COVID-19 patients but in hospitals that are not designated as COVID-19 facilities. Furthermore, the union is calling for allowances to go to all nurses and midwives that come into contact with COVID-19 patients and not just staff who are specifically assigned to care for these patients
The FSC-CCOO public services federation is organising a series of two-hour strikes in state museums and theatres in October and November. The union is protesting against the fact that workers in the sector are not properly covered by the collective agreement for the state sector. In particular, the union wants to ensure professional status for these workers and reduce the extent of temporary contracts. The strikes will begin on 25 October and will take place on 10 different dates up to 24 November with specific dates for different institutions.
Public service unions may be involved in new industrial action in two long-running disputes unless the government intervenes. The Forsa trade union has already set dates for strike action to try to resolve the two-tier pay system affecting school secretaries. Following the announcement of the action the government has made a commitment to address the problem but the union wants to see concrete proposals before it calls off the action. Meanwhile, Forsa is joined by SIPTU and INMO in considering a campaign of targeted action across non-profit providers of health and social services - Section 39
The three main trade unions - CGSP/ACOD, ACV/CSC and SLFP/VSOA - organised a 48-hour national strike from 6am on 24 September in protest at proposals to relax the rules on prisoner visits. The unions are extremely concerned that the proposed changes come at a time of increasing infection and pose a serious threat to staff and inmates.
The three public service federations - Fp Cgil, Cisl Fp and Uil Fpl - reported fantastic levels of support for the national strike in the private health care sector. In many facilities all workers not providing minimum services joined the strike action. This shows the level of determination of workers to secure the first new collective agreement for 14 years. The Aris and Aiop employer organisations refused to ratify the agreement in June after three years of negotiations and after initially indicated their backing for the deal. The negotiations cover around 100000 workers.
Service union ver.di has launched warning strikes across federal and local government to put pressure on the employers following the second round of bargaining. The union reports that the two-day meeting was a waste of time with no offer from the employers and no real appreciation or recognition of the work done by public sector employees. The employers have indicated that they will come up with an offer before the next round of negotiations which are due on 22-23 October. However, ver.di is not expecting much as on one key issue - equalisation of working time between Eastern and Western
EPSU has just published new factsheets on the right to strike in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia taking the total number of countries covered in this series to 41. This follows the addition of factsheets on Moldova, Russia and Ukraine earlier this year. Each factsheet sets out the main legal provisions and highlights any recent cases taken to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and/or the European Social Committee (ESC) of the Council of Europe. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have all been the subject of ILO and ESC cases. The ESC has ruled that all three are not in conformity with
The FSC-CCOO and FeSP-UGT have taken the government to task over the failure to implement a series of agreements. Around 200 FSC-CCOO activists protested outside the public services directorate on 9 July over employment, equality and, pay and other issues. The union wants action over jobs to make up some of the 43,000 that have been cut over the past 10 years. They also highlight the failure to properly implement equality plans and are calling for last year's agreement on pay to be put into effect to partially compensate for the 14% fall in purchasing power since austerity measures were in