Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

3 July 2009

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Europe

Greece: Air traffic controllers take strike action

Air traffic controllers took industrial action June 25 over communications systems they say are so bad that music from radio stations often interrupts conversations with pilots.

Several strikes have taken place since the start of the year over this issue, as well as over radar systems that are prone to malfunction. 

Panagiotis Hatzakis, a member of the board of the air traffic controllers’ union, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “We sometimes hear hymns or traditional songs in the background.... This is dangerous, especially in the summer months, when air traffic is heavier.”

All flights bar emergency flights were suspended through the first part of June 25. Aegean Airlines cancelled 21 domestic flights and Olympic Air cancelled 32 return flights, including scheduled flights from international destinations such as Germany, Italy and France. 

On average, almost 3,000 planes fly through Greek airspace every day. 

UK: Strike over pay at armoured vehicle plant 

Nearly 100 employees at the armoured vehicle-producing Penman plant at Heathhall, near Dumfries, walked out last week in the first of three planned one-day stoppages over a pay dispute. 

The dispute concerns the details of a previously agreed four-year salary deal, which is now in its second year. 

According to a BBC report June 29, any further industrial action has been suspended pending the outcome of talks with management, to be hosted by the Scottish Engineering Employers Federation. 

Ireland: Strike notice on Marine Terminals in Dublin Port 

On June 30, the SIPTU trade union reported that it had served strike notice on Marine Terminals for July 3 over an attempt by the company to impose compulsory redundancies and cuts in pay and conditions.

Marine Terminals handles at least 25 percent of the traffic in Dublin Port and employed over 70 workers, most of them members of SIPTU. 

The union claims that when the company took the decision to make 19 workers redundant earlier this year it used its own selection criteria, including testing employees on machinery that some of them had received no training to operate.

Five workers were made redundant initially and a further 13 on May 15. On the same day, all other SIPTU employees received written notice that they must sign new contracts agreeing to pay cuts of between 14 and 18 percent, or lose their jobs.

The company has now placed the workforce on a 20-hour week and drafted in workers from Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

According to the union web site, the company “has even insisted that a cleaner laid off earlier in this year with the intention of making her redundant must come to work for one hour each day to make up for wages paid to her while she was laid off.”

SIPTU Group Organiser Oliver McDonagh made clear that the union has no intention of mounting a struggle. He stated, “We remain available to talk about change, including redundancies. I can tell them now that they will get the redundancies they are looking for provided they negotiate and are willing to offer a decent package.”

Russia: Miners in underground strike over unpaid wages

Mosnews.com carried a report June 25 by RIA Novosti that said 34 miners in southern Russia’s Rostov Region holed themselves up in the Chikh coal mine the day before and refused to come out until they were paid their wages. 

This is the second action of this kind at the mine in the past three months. 

The miners claimed they were owed 21.5 million rubles ($689,000) in back pay. They were paid the next day.

The Chikh mine filed for bankruptcy in February this year, blaming the falling demand for coal, rising production and transportation costs, as well as outdated equipment and difficulties in obtaining financing. 

The investigative committee of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has announced that criminal charges have been filed against mine director Oleg Kalyuzhny for withholding the miners’ wages, Infox.ru recently reported. Kalyuzhny has previously faced similar charges.

Africa

South Africa: Striking doctors defy court order

Striking doctors in state hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal are defying a court order issued by the Labor Court in Durban on June 27 instructing them to return to work. They are demanding that the government implements the 2007 Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) agreement. 

A spokesman for the strikers, Dr. Shailendra Sham, told Cape Argus, “We will continue with the strike until our demands are met. We are defying the court order.” He said that they were very angry over the department’s move to suspend some doctors who had taken part in the strike. 

Dr. Eileen Rajaram, an orthopedic intern at Addington Hospital, said she had been served with a letter dismissing her from her job, with immediate effect. “I love my job,” she said. “I studied my whole life for this and to be treated like this, it’s unfair.”

The African National Congress and the trade union federation COSATU, which are in government along with the South African Communist Party, issued a press release condemning the doctors as “unprofessional” and “callous” for striking and urged strike-breaking. 

“As the Alliance [government],” the statement declared, “we therefore support the Department of Health’s decision to take decisive action against those doctors who refuse to return to work...

“We also urge all members of the ANC, COSATU, the South African Communist Party and SANCO who are part of this strike to pull out and return to work with immediate effect.”

Striking Nigerian lecturers get student support

Members of the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU) have been on all-out strike since June 22. They are demanding the government signs and implements an agreement reached two-and-a-half years ago regarding salaries, the funding of education, the democratization of the decision making organs in universities and the reinstatement of 44 sacked lecturers at the University of Ilorin.

On the weekend of June 27/28, a student pressure group, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), organized a conference to mobilize student support for the striking lecturers. The ERC has threatened to organize protests and demonstrations nationwide in solidarity with the striking lecturers until the federal government meets the demands of the ASUU.

According to This Day, the Minister of Education has stated that the government has agreed to implement all the demands being made by ASUU, except on salary matters.

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Nwafor Orizu College of Education have begun a seven-day strike to demand payment of the Consolidated Tertiary Institutions’ Salary Structure (CONTISS) and payment of arrears for leave allowance for the years 2001, 2002 and 2006.

Zambia: Striking nurses call off strike under threat of dismissal

According to the Times of Zambia, the unofficial strike of health workers in Lusaka, Livingstone and Kitwe was called off on June 29. 

The decision was taken at a meeting of health workers from the University Teaching Hospital and other health centers in Lusaka, which was address by the president of the Zambian Congress of Trades Unions, Leonard Hikaumba. He said that the government had promised to set up a special committee to consider their demands, which include allowances for night duty, uniforms and overtime. 

Very soon after, Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao threatened that any health worker who continued to “abscond from work” would be dismissed from employment. Speaking in Lusaka, he said that striking nurses who were still on strike had up to midnight June 29 to report for work or they would be sacked. 

On the morning of the same day, five nurses were arrested, accused of “unlawful assembly.” They had been attending a meeting with other striking health workers at Kansenshi Cemetery after they had been forbidden from holding meetings at government hospitals.

Those arrested were named as Anna Mulio, 54, Nancy Mwila, 35, Matilda Mukobe, 44, Ireen Kunda, 40, all of NCH, and Susan Nampemba, 31, of DHMT. They were picked up at 8:30 a.m. by police in riot gear. They were later released.