Workers Struggles: Europe, Middle East & Africa

11 October 2013
Europe

Thousands march through Warsaw to protest government austerity

Thousands of workers marched through Poland’s capital Warsaw, Wednesday, in protest against government labour policy, pension system reform and to demand higher pay.

The march was the first of four days of protests planned in the city by Solidarity, the OPZZ union and various smaller labour organizations.

The Associated Press reported: “City officials said 10,000 marched from various ministries, where they left lists with their demands, to parliament, where they rallied and set a tire alight.

“Organizers said about 18,000 union members from across Poland took part, while they expect a total of 100,000 marchers on the final day, Saturday.”

From growth of 4.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, the Polish economy slowed to just 1.9 percent growth last year. Unemployment is officially at 13 percent.

The 40-hour work week is among the longest in Europe, while average monthly wages of about 3,700 zlotys ($1,150) before tax are among Europe’s lowest.

French air traffic controllers strike against “single European sky”

A strike by French air traffic controllers yesterday caused major flight cancellations, delays and other problems for all planes flying over French airspace.

The action which started at 5 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. impacted all French airports. The strike opposed plans to create a single European air traffic control system, which could cost jobs.

A previously mooted pan-European stoppage has not materialised as unions elsewhere in the European Union decided against industrial action.

Lisbon subway workers strike

Workers on the Lisbon subway struck Tuesday against austerity measures linked to Portugal’s €78 billion ($105.7 billion) bailout.

It was the fourth time this year that the Lisbon subway has been shut down due to industrial action. Workers at the Metropolitano de Lisboa are opposed to cuts in their overtime pay and subsidized lunches, as well as government plans to privatize some transport companies.

Workers walked off the job eight times last year, joining other workers at public transport companies in the fight against the government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, which is preparing an additional €4.7 billion in cuts for next year.

Irish doctors strike

Junior doctors carried out a one-day strike Tuesday at all of the Republic of Ireland’s public hospitals against dangerously long hours and budget cuts. It was the first such action in 25 years by doctors.

Pay and pension cuts have been imposed on more than 300,000 public-sector workers since Ireland’s bankers and corporations were bailed out by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

About 3,000 junior doctors took part, with non-emergency procedures affected, and leading to 3,000 postponed operations and the deferring of 12,000 out-patient appointments.

Limerick retail workers continue strike action

Staff at women’s clothes retailer Wallis remained on strike this week at Limerick, Ireland after talks broke down over workers facing redundancy from the Arcadia-owned chain.

The dispute at Wallis has entered its third week.

The Mandate trade union says the company is reneging on a previous agreement to give workers five weeks redundancy pay per year of service, offering less than three weeks per year instead. According to the Limerick Leader, seven workers are facing redundancy after Wallis closed its store in Cruises Street, and told workers based at Childers Road to reapply for their jobs.

Aer Lingus cabin crew threaten strike ballot

Irish cabin crew at Aer Lingus have threatened to ballot for industrial action in a dispute over crewing of new transatlantic services from Shannon commencing in January.

Eighty-six cabin crew based at Shannon face threats to their jobs as a result of outsourcing of more frequent flights using smaller Boeing 757 aircraft.

In July, Aer Lingus announced that it was almost doubling the frequency of its transatlantic services from Shannon from January 2014, using Boeing 757s. The airline said its original plan was that the aircraft would be leased from external provider ASL Aviation, but would be operated with a crew of four Aer Lingus cabin crew staff per flight.

Bulgarian miners strike

Workers of all units of the Otkrit Vagledobiv Mines in the western town of Pernik—Bulgaria’s biggest coal mining company—went on strike last week in a dispute over unpaid wages.

The Republika and Obedinen mines ceased production. According to reports of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency the coal mining company has a workforce of around 800.

The miners say that they have been fined 20 percent of their wages for a third month in a row as a penalty for the failure to meet production targets stipulated in their contracts.

Dutch Grolsch workers in two-hour strike

Workers at brewing group Grolsch planned a two-hour strike for Wednesday as pay talks stalled.

Grolsch plans to introduce variable pay rises for its 800 staff. The company has offered its workforce a 2 percent rise, but says 1.25 percent of that will only be implemented if its targets are met. Grolsch also wants to cut the extra holiday allowance of workers by three days.

Employees are demanding a pay rise to keep pace with inflation which has reached 2.7 percent. Parent company SABMiller registered a rise in net profit of 14 percent last year.

Workers at Amazon Germany threaten Christmas strike

Workers at the German operations of mail order retail giant Amazon could strike during the Christmas holiday season in an ongoing dispute over pay.

A series of short, uncoordinated strikes have been held in recent months. Amazon claims that previous strikes had not affected deliveries to customers.

Heiner Reimann of services trade union Verdi told Der Spiegel Sunday, “If I were Amazon I would not rely on being able to make all deliveries to customers on time before Christmas.”

Middle East

Workers at Israeli biomedical company take industrial action

Production workers at the Israeli biopharma company Kamada struck last week, after arriving at an impasse during collective bargaining talks.

According to Haaretz, “Kamada, considered one of Israel’s most promising biomedical companies in 2013, is listed on the benchmark Tel Aviv 100 index. It also recently floated stock on Nasdaq. In 2012, it made the prestigious Deloitte Technology Fast 500, a list ranking the fastest growing companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the fields of technology, media, communications, life sciences and cleantech.”

Strike by Jerusalem after-school programs staff

Around 400 educators and assistants working in the 150 after-school programs in Jerusalem went on strike Tuesday to protest worsening working conditions.

Workers complain that the Jerusalem municipality has decided to implement longer days at the after-school centres for the second year in a row, having a negative impact on pay. The educators also said the city refused to take seniority into consideration when fixing salaries.

Africa

Kenyan road construction workers strike

Kenyan road construction workers employed by the Maltauro Road Construction Company on the upgrading of the Eldoret-Webuye highway walked off the job Tuesday. They are demanding payment of nine months’ salary arrears. They are also calling for the removal of the human resource manager David Ndolo, accusing him of illegally terminating workers’ contracts. They picketed the company offices in Mwamba to push their demands.

The strikers are demanding the company pay compensation to workers injured in the course of their work.

Ugandan lecturers strike

Law lecturers at Uganda’s largest tertiary education institution, Makerere University in Kampala, came out on strike protesting the removal of allowances previously paid for taking evening lectures.

Lecturers at the university were on strike in April of this year demanding a 100 percent pay increase. The government refused to fund any increase and the lecturers returned to work after the university paid a 70 percent salary increase funded by the removal of evening lectures allowances, amongst other measures.

South Sudan lecturers strike

University lecturers from South Sudan’s oldest and largest public university at Juba launched a sit-down strike on Monday as part of a broader walkout of university lecturers protesting a 50 percent salary cut.

The strike follows a sharp reduction in lecturers’ pay. For example, the gross salary of a lecturer was cut from about $2,700 to about $1,500.

The head of the South Sudan Workers Union called on lecturers to end their strike, saying the issues should be resolved through “dialogue.”

Namibian retail workers strike

Around 100 employees working for the nationwide retail chain Foschini went out on strike at the weekend. They are members of the Namibia Wholesale and Retail Workers Union and are protesting low pay and pressure of work caused by understaffing.

The decision to strike followed the deadlock of pay talks ongoing since April. They are demanding an N$480 ($48) salary increase, but the employer offered N$305 ($31).

Zambian health workers strike

Nurses at Ndola Central hospital in Zambia came out on strike this week in support of a strike by nurses and pharmacists at Kitwe hospital.

They are demanding a 75 percent pay increase, rejecting the 4 percent offer by the employers. Talks between the Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation and the health minister, Joseph Kasonde, took place on Monday.

Meanwhile, nurses and pharmacists at Kitwe have called off their strike and have begun returning to work.

South African nurses and doctors protest hospital chaos

South African doctors and nurses at Tembisa Hospital in East Rand, Gauteng have held protests following the action of the hospital’s CEO.

Initially, student nurses were forced at short notice to leave their residential accommodation. State security forces were used to enforce their removal. On Monday the doctors due to move into the vacated accommodation held a protest at the hospital casualty department opposing the treatment meted out to the nurses.

South African Breweries strike enters second week

The strike by around 2,000 employees of SA Breweries, members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), has entered its second week. They are seeking a 9 percent pay increase; the employer has offered 7 percent.

FAWU accused the company of paying workers who were strikebreaking by offering a R500 ($50) bonus per day to cover work normally done by the strikers.

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