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Workers Struggles: Europe, Middle East & Africa


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Organising group winds up Danish nurses’ 10-week one-hour wildcat strikes for now

Last Wednesday’s one-hour wildcat strike by Danish nurses was the last for the time being, the national organising group announced. It concludes a 65-day series of strikes against a government-enforced collective bargaining agreement, held in defiance of the orders of the Danish Nurses Council (DSR) union.

The wildcat stoppages continued since the shutting down of a union-approved national strike of 6,000 nurses in August, when the government imposed a pay deal twice rejected by DSR members. Nurses organised the strikes through Facebook.

The labour court ruled that nurses can be docked 86 kroner per hour for the unsanctioned strikes. The nurses received widespread support across Denmark and internationally, with workers joining their picket lines and donations to help pay the fines.

To recover its reputation, the DSR called on members to refuse overtime. Members already began this before the union’s call. The DSR also said it will not renew an overtime agreement which expires in January.

The union ignored nurses’ complaints of irregular shift patterns in its demands. Conditions led many nurses to quit, with a DSR survey last month revealing one in ten nurses have applied for jobs outside the sector.

On Monday and Tuesday nurses, at Odense walked out for an hour ahead of Wednesday’s national strike. Lucas Pristed, an Odense nurse on the strike organising group posted that this was to draw attention to conditions across the whole healthcare system. Recruitment and retention are critical, and salaries and conditions must be improved across the board.

Announcing that Wednesday’s national strike would be the last “in its current form,” Pristed said nurses were “at the forefront of the fight for better working conditions, sustainable wages and recruitment, better quality of treatment and better patient safety.”

Indefinite strike at Laval A&E highlights lack of resources in French hospitals

Staff at Laval hospital, near Lyon, are continuing their indefinite protest strike at lack of resources. The crisis was revealed in the first week of November, when the hospital’s A&E department was forced to close for four nights due to a shortage of doctors.

Caroline Brémaud, head of A&E, said there were not enough doctors to treat all the patients coming to the emergency room. “It is not only the emergency room in Laval, but the entire public hospital service in France that is collapsing,” she told Le Figaro, “With increasingly difficult emergencies in many municipalities.” Without recruitment, she warned, A&E was at risk of closing five nights a week.

This situation is occurring across the country. Bailleul Hospital closed its A&E at night until November 8, while Ambert hospital’s A&E was closed from October 27 because there was no interim doctor.

French GPs continue to shut down home visits demanding modernisation of pay rates

French General Practitioners in the SOS Médecins association are continuing to shut down home visits. They demand the payment for home visits, the same for 15 years, be raised.

They are calling for the current rate of 35 euros be raised to 57.60 euros, and an increase in their travel allowance, which remains capped at 10 euros. Home visits account for 60-70 percent of the daily activity of the association’s 1,300 members—around three million home visits each year.

The protests began with an action on September 29, but there has been no response to their demands. Fabrice Massoulard, president of the Limoges regional association of SOS Médecins told press “We feel despised by authorities.”

Massoulard said that “Until further notice we will continue the total shutdown of visits.”

French national road haulage strike over pay and conditions extended

A one-day protest strike action by French road hauliers announced for today has been extended into November 13.

The Sud-Solidaires union originally called the action to pressure the annual national agreement negotiations, begun November 10, to reassess pay scales and raise drivers’ wages.

The negotiations discuss pay scales for all grades under the national collective agreement. The companies argue their margins are tight and the price of road transport is low. Critics say for several years some drivers earned less than the minimum wage, depending on seniority.

The original call noted pay was not the only issue, pointing to pensions and conditions, especially the right to early retirement remunerated by the company (CFA). Facing labour shortages, employers are trying to end the right to CFA and further extend working life, disregarding the physical demands of the job.

Although Sud-Solidaires originally specified only a one-day strike, drivers’ enthusiasm for the action forced the union to extend it for a second day.

Union suspends bus and tram wages and conditions strike in Montpellier, France

The Workers’ Force (FO) union suspended a month-long transport strike in Montpellier, France. The strike of workers on TaM 3M buses and trams was to begin with a protest today, then run from November 15 to December 31. Today’s protest will take still place.

The strike was called to demand a wage increase under compulsory annual negotiations, an improvement in working conditions, and the compulsory allocation of Saturdays to drivers on their fourth and fifth week of annual leave.

When the strike was announced, FO said they would lift the action if agreements were reached. Announcing the suspension of the strike, FO said they had reached a wage agreement below their demands. Today’s protest will continue because the union admitted it had not received enough concrete answers on working conditions.

Nantes, France baggage-handlers strike against “blackmail in employment”

French baggage-handlers employed by Aviapartners at Nantes airport called a one-day strike Monday, protesting at “excessive flexibility, the decline in social gains and “blackmail in employment.”

CGT members held a one-day strike at the company in July over the same issues. The union noted the company benefited from public money during the pandemic, and shareholders were “doing very well,” and only workers were expected to pay.

Greek seafarers’ 48-hour nationwide strike over pay and conditions

Sailors on Greek passenger ships began a 48-hour nationwide strike on November 10 and may escalate it. No boats are travelling between the mainland and the Greek islands.

The Panhellenic Maritime Union (PNO) members are calling for salary increases and collective wage agreements. A union statement explained the reluctance and negative behaviour of employers in drawing a new collective bargaining agreement for 2020-21. The problems faced by seafarers continue to accumulate, with permanent violation of collective agreements on working hours and payment of accrued salaries.

The strike is also raising demands over poor working conditions, sailors’ health and the granting of pensions.

These attacks are part of a series of anti-labour laws introduced under the pretext of the pandemic. Workers at the port of Piraeus, near Athens hung a banner reading “All out to fight, abolish laws against workers’ [rights].”

Armenian ambulance drivers strike in capital over pay to compensate increased workload

Ambulance drivers in the Armenian capital Yerevan walked out on November 2. They are demanding more pay to compensate for their increased workload as a result of the pandemic.

Drivers complain their pay has not risen, but they are being called out to 30-40 calls every day. One driver told press he regularly conducts twice as many emergency calls in a 24-hour shift as the number specified in his contract. Drivers say they do not even have time for meal breaks.

Drivers told News.am they are struggling to live on their wages. Each driver works every three days and receives 11,700 AMD per working day. One driver, Serzhik Gasparyan, said “I have 111,300 ADM per month. On the days that we go to work, we are busy all 24 hours and there is not a minute of time for rest.”

Another protester explained drivers must find other work to support their families. “The first day we are ambulance drivers, the other two days we are taxi drivers. But how long can you maintain such a schedule?”

Ambulance director Taguhi Stepanyan defended the wages, saying “these are the prices in general in this area.” She acknowledged conditions are the issue because of the pandemic, but said the workload was even greater in 2020, “so ultimatums in this case are inappropriate.” She said any salary increases would require negotiations and planning.

On October 16, Minister of Health Anahit Avetisyan said Armenia’s health system was overloaded due to an increase of coronavirus cases and a low vaccination rate. Mandatory mask-wearing was introduced on November 1. The country, with a population just over 3 million, recorded 325,521 cases and 6,867 deaths to date

Transport workers in Faro, Portugal strike over pay

Workers in Portugal at transport company PXM (Próximo) Transportes Urbanos de Faro, part of the Barraqueiro Group, came walked out for four days last week.

The Union of Road and Urban Transport Workers of Portugal (STRUP) members are demanding an increase in basic salary to 750 euros, the revision of maximum unpaid rest time from three to two hours and full integration of the sole agent allowance into their salary.

Since ticket collectors were abolished, drivers received a subsidy as compensation for the collection of tickets. They want to see this subsidy integrated into their salary, and “not just 5 percent of the 25 percent of the normal working hour,” according to STRUP regional coordinator Paolo Afonso.

Metro and bus workers in Portuguese capital continue partial strikes

Transport workers in Lisbon, Portugal continue partial strikes over wages and conditions.

On November 4, Lisbon Metro workers closed the network in a 24-hour strike over a wage freeze, and to demand the immediate hiring of operational staff. Earlier in the week, a partial strike by metro workers coincided with the latest 24-hour strike by bus workers at Rodoviária de Lisboa (RL), who are demanding a salary increase to 730 euros this year and 750 euros in 2022.

The average RL salary is around 700 euros (gross), while the national minimum salary is 665 euros.

The metro strike by members of the Federation of Transport and Communications Unions followed a series of earlier strikes on the same issues in May and June, and again in October.

The union restricted these to partial strikes as far as possible. On November 2, most workers were on strike between 5 and 9.30am, with administrative workers striking between 9.30 and 12.30.

On Monday the union began a 10-day overtime ban that is renewable. RL workers are also on an overtime ban.

The November 2 strike coincided with the latest RL 24-hour strike. João Casimiro, of the Independent Union of Lisbon Bus Workers (SITRL), told Lusa the strike was observed by 70 percent of bus workers. Management claim it was only 55 percent.

SITRL has announced a 48-hour stoppage for December 2-3, along the same lines, “until the administration listens to us.”

Dutch metalworkers to begin stoppages over pay

On November 15, Dutch metalworkers will hold the first 24-hour strike in a series of work stoppages planned to last until November 22. Workers rejected the company pay offers made under the national collective agreement, and the companies failed to meet an October 28 ultimatum issued by the CNV, FNV and De Unie unions.

The collective labour agreement covers some 320,000 workers in companies in the small metal industry, the installation and insulation sector, bodywork construction and gold and silversmiths.

Employers’ body the Federation of Employers’ Organisations for Technology (FWT) says it offered an average wage increase of 2.8 percent for 2019-22 and a gross monthly increase of 42.50 euros. The FNV is demanding a five percent increase and a minimum gross hourly wage of 14 euros, while the CNV is demanding a 110-euro gross monthly increase.

The CNV says that after adjustment the pay offer only amounts to 1.4 percent. Inflation is rising, and prices have recently risen by 3.4 percent.

Belgian oil sector unions to strike over pay rise

Workers across the Belgian oil sector will strike on November 15. The sector employs around 6,700 workers. The unions already issued an indefinite strike notice, which still stands. Andrea Della Vecchia of the ABVV union told press that “perhaps more actions will follow” after Monday’s strike.

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