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.
Seven trade union federations representing customs workers are coordinating a day of strike action on 10 March. The unions are angry about the lack of investment and cuts in jobs across the service. They have produced evidence in a survey of workers that found over nine out of 10 employees concerned by the incessant reforms and restructuring and just under nine out of 10 complaining of a deterioration in the quality of services provided. The seven unions have a broad range of demands including the end to job cuts and the need for urgent and significant recruitment. They are also looking for
With no response to their demands from the government, the health workers’ strike planned for 16 February went ahead. EPSU sent a message of solidarity. The health unions are calling on the government to stick to its commitment to negotiate on pay levels and job rankings that was part of an agreement signed last year. The unions want to see pay levels across the health sector adjusted to ensure fairness across the public sector and are protesting at the government’s unilateral decision to negotiate a separate pay rise for doctors and dentists.
Service union ver.di organised warning strikes in the statutory health insurance providers, AOK and BARMER on 8 February. The aim was to put pressure on the employers during negotiations that cover around 75,000 employees in the two companies. For workers in AOK ver.di is demanding a 5.9% increase and a minimum rise of €200 in a 12-month agreement. The employer wants a 24-month agreement with only a lump sum of €800 in March 2022 and a 1.2% in January 2023. Ver.di is also concerned that there are moves to exclude one AOK region from coverage of the agreement and is challenging the unilateral
Planned industrial action on 16 February by 500 hospital pharmacists, members of the Fórsa trade union, was called off as the dispute was referred to the Labour Court. The workers had voted overwhelmingly in favour of action in a dispute over pay and improvements in the hospital pharmacy service which had been put forward by the union but blocked by the public service ministry. The changes would deliver estimated cost savings of €55m per year, a figure validated by the Department of Health and the Health Services Executive.
The Eurofound research agency has published an analysis of collective labour disputes. It found that collective bargaining was the context for over a third of disputes, with grievances over company-level policies making up another quarter and grievances over public policy accounting for a further 18%. More specifically, problems over pay accounted for over 40% of disputes, employment problems for 20%, other aspects of working conditions for 16%. In a period when the pandemic raised serious problems in terms of safety and staffing it wasn’t surprising that health and social care was among the
EPSU has sent solidarity greetings to its affiliate, the Industrial workers federation of Lithuania, which began an indefinite strike in the fertilizers and industrial chemicals company Achema on 8 February. This is thought to be the first strike in the country in the private sector in 30 years and the union reports that the 600 strikers have been put under considerable pressure by the company. The union is demanding an end to labour rights violations, a collective agreement, pay increase, and the creation of a climate of dialogue and information and consultation.
Ver.di achieved safe staffing level for health workers through a successful strike at Charité Hospital in Berlin
On the 7th of October 2021, the German public services union ver.di claimed an important success in collective bargaining negotiations with Berlin’s Charité University Hospital.
The GMB and Unite trade unions have negotiated a major boost to pay for lorry drivers working in waste services for Plymouth City Council in the South West of England. The re-classification from unskilled to semi-skilled means that the workers will be moved up the pay scale resulting in pay increases of 12.6% for some. The two unions argue that this should have major implications across the sector and are trying to win improvements to pay and conditions for waste workers in other local authorities but are having to resort to industrial action to make progress. A 48-hour strike in Coventry in
The FSSHK health workers’ union suspended strike action planned for 20 December to allow for talks with the health ministry and prime minister. The union has already taken action in its campaign to ensure the 2022 budget includes funding for higher pay for health workers. The union is aiming for a 50% pay increase. However, it has proved difficult to bring the government to the negotiating table and the union says that it has only suspended the action and it will set another date in January if talks with the government don’t deliver. The prime minister has attacked the leadership of both the
The CGIL and UIL confederations have announced joint actions on 16 December with an eight-hour strike and demonstrations in Rome and four other cities. The unions are concerned about the direction the government is taking particularly with regard to taxation, pensions, schools, industrial policies and combating restructuring and job insecurity, especially for young people and women. The unions argue that resources are available to allow for a more effective redistribution of wealth, to reduce inequalities and to generate balanced and structural development and stable employment.
The JHL public services union has successfully defended the pay and conditions of workers employed by the Arkea municipal company that provides catering and other services to the Turku local authority. The company had sought to change collective agreements that would have meant significant changes to pay rates with some workers potentially losing out by as much as 30% of their earnings. The strike action led to negotiations with the company which will now stick with the current agreement which is due to be re-negotiated next spring.