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Belgian private sector general strike against 0.4 percent pay rise cap
On Monday, private sector workers across Belgium took part in a one-day general strike against a law preventing average wage increases from exceeding 0.4 percent.
RTBF reports the strike affected public transport in multiple cities, and seven in 10 technology companies. The FGTB union reports the manufacturing industry in Wallonia was “practically at a stop.” Workers at Liberty Steel in Tilleur, Liège, picketed a plant which is threatened with closure, putting 761 jobs at risk.
The strike was called by the CSC and FGTB unions, with a combined membership of three million, who have complained that profitable sectors of industry could offer more than 0.4 percent. In the face of massive opposition in the working class to stagnating wages after working through a deadly pandemic, the Liberal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo floated the possibility in an interview with RTBF of allowing wage increases above 0.4 percent in sectors of the economy such as logistics, which have profited through the pandemic. The president of the Socialist Party, which forms part of the coalition government, also backed the strikes.
The pseudo-left opposition called for minor reforms of the pay law. A spokesman for the Stalinist Workers Party of Belgium (PTS/PVDA) proposed a feeble amendment to make the pay restriction indicative rather than mandatory.
Bus drivers at depot in Liège, Belgium walk out after another violent attack
On Wednesday morning, Belgian bus drivers in the largest bus depot in the city of Liège walked out after stones were thrown at a bus. According to RTBF, the driver was uninjured, but this is the fourth attack on Liège bus drivers in five days by customers refusing to wear masks. The drivers are demanding the presence of guards to protect drivers and conductors from aggression.
Wednesday’s stoppage follows a similar strike in Lille, France last week, after a driver was attacked, and is part of a pattern of increasing violence against drivers throughout the pandemic, tragically leading to the death in July of the French bus driver Philippe Monguillot.
Amazon workers in Germany strike for pay rise
Around 2,000 workers at Amazon in Germany took four days of strike action starting Monday, to demand the company adhere to regional collective agreements made with the retail and mail order sectors, including a 4.5 percent pay rise, according to Le Figaro and Reuters. The strike affected sites in Werne, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Koblenz and Bad Hersfeld.
The Verdi union issued stated the company made massive profits while coronavirus outbreaks spread through its warehouses but has called for no action to close down these unsafe workspaces, instead directing workers into limited and isolated struggles. Orhan Akman, the union representative for retail and mail order, told press “No company has ever perished because it pays workers according to the retail collective agreements or because it talks to unions.”
Miners at coal mine in Bosnia and Herzegovina begin indefinite strike over unpaid wages and poor conditions
Over 2,000 miners began an indefinite strike on Friday at the Kreka coal mine, near the city of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The workers were due to be paid on Thursday, after months of inconsistent payment of wages. They walked out indefinitely after they were not paid yet again.
The unions involved in the strike are quoted by Raport describing “inhumane” conditions in the mines. The Kreka mine is run by EPBiH, the government’s electric utility company, and production of coal there underpins the stability of the country’s energy system. The strikers declared that they will remain out until their demands for regular payment of wages and a modernised and humane production process are met.
French primary school teachers in Paris to strike over school openings during third wave of pandemic
A one-day walkout of French primary school teachers in Paris was called for Tuesday in the face of the government’s opposition to school closures, after the Education Minister boasted that France has kept schools open longer than any other country in Europe throughout the pandemic.
Reuters reports that the limited action has been called by the SNUipp-FSU union, but it follows a wave of refusals among teachers to work in unsafe conditions, with several schools being shut by strike action.
The union called the one-day strike to gain control of teachers’ opposition and prevent it from becoming a wider movement in the working class. Throughout the pandemic, the unions have opposed the closure of schools. When strikes broke out against reopenings in November, the unions prevented their extension and eventually managed to shut the strikes down.
Strike planned at French national electric company EDF against partial privatisation and “reform”
A strike is planned April 8, at the French state-owned electricity company EDF. It has been called against Project Hercule, the plan to split up the company and privatise the more profitable distribution and renewables parts of the business.
The French government, EDF management, and the European Commission are calling for the breakup of the company, according to Le Figaro, but strikes against the plan have been called by major union federations representing workers at EDF. In each of the previous five days of strike action against the plan, around a quarter of EDF workers walked out.
Steel workers at Spanish company continue struggle against job cuts
Around 800 steel workers at Spanish company Tubacex are continuing their strike, begun February 11, against plans to cut 129 jobs. The company has already announced a reduction in working hours to 60 percent, citing reduced demand.
The workers have staged multiple protests. On Tuesday they protested in front of the Basque Parliament in Vitoria, stopping tram and road traffic in the regional capital, reports El Correo.
At a picket at one Tubacex plant, workers clashed with police who used armoured vehicles and rubber bullets to break through pickets and barricades. Joint demonstrations were arranged between workers at Tubacex and PCB, where 80 jobs have already been lost, and there have been multiple signs of support from the working class for the steel workers. Europa Press reports that thousands of people attended a demonstration called by several unions on March 25 to demand the repeal of labour reforms, which “allow collective dismissals to be made without a practical justification.” The workers expressed their determination to remain on strike indefinitely until the threat of dismissals is withdrawn.
Indefinite strike called by Spanish workers at SEG Treto auto plant
On Tuesday, the 750 Spanish workers at the SEG Treto auto plant will begin an indefinite stoppage against restructuring, affecting 275 workers, and a 19 percent pay cut, reports Europa Press.
The works council at the plant called the strike after negotiations with management broke down. The five unions represented in the council agreed to a reduction in pay and working hours, but the company was not satisfied with the level of concessions.
SEG management threatened to close production entirely at the plant, claiming the Treto works council is being unreasonable. Management cited the fact that in Germany it has been allowed to cut most of the jobs at its Hildesheim factory, and the Stuttgart workers’ council agreed to lose 30 percent of all jobs. As an alternative to the restructuring, the Treto works council has proposed selling redundancies in a different way, suggesting that job cuts be ordered by age.
March in support of dismissed Spanish metal workers in A Coruña
Thousands marched through the streets of A Coruña on Saturday, calling for an “industrial future” and protesting against the dismissal of workers by the Spanish aluminium manufacturer Alu Ibérica.
Workers at the A Coruña plant began an indefinite strike in December, after a colleague was fired and members of the works council were disciplined for what management alleges was a “brawl” when the dismissal was announced, reports El Español. Four members of the works council were later fired.
The demands at Saturday’s demonstration included support for the dismissed workers. After Alu Ibérica announced the sale of its plants at A Coruña and Avilés, the CIG union called for the government to step in and nationalise the plants, reports EFE.
Spanish auto parts workers strike over possible plant closure
Workers at the Barcelona plant of Delmon Group Ibérica, which produces rubber parts for the auto industry, began a strike on March 20, after news emerged that production may be moved elsewhere and the plant closed, reports El Español. The strike was planned to last until March 31 and may be extended indefinitely. The CCOO union called for management to clarify the future of the 35 workers affected.
Strike at Spanish Public Employment Service offices
A strike called by the USO union at the Spanish Public Employment Service (SEPE), which processes unemployment claims among other services, took place Monday and Tuesday.
The stoppage was called over understaffing amidst a spike in unemployment applications during the pandemic. According to Catalan News, applications made in August had still not been processed three months later. The service also suffered a cyberattack at the start of March, leading to an even longer queue of applications.
The unions representing workers at SEPE were divided over the strike. The USO called for strike action to demand raised staffing levels, but the larger CSIF union called this “inappropriate,” stating more negotiation should occur. The USO estimates around 30 percent of workers walked out, although the SEPE claims it was 2.8 percent.
Delivery riders strike for national contract in 31 Italian cities
Delivery riders in 31 cities across Italy took another day of strike action on March 26. The riders rejected a deal signed by the UGL union federation a few days before with the AssoDelivery group (including Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats).
The UGL-AssoDelivery contract contained a minimum fee of €10 per hour worked, bonuses for performance, night work, holidays and poor weather conditions, and some extra safety measures and insurance, according to La Stampa. The Rider X i Diritti (Riders for Rights) network confirmed that its planned strike would continue despite the deal, reports ANSA. The Riders Union Roma condemned the contract as a “leash” and called on AssoDelivery to return to the negotiating table.
Strike by train conductors at ScotRail, Scotland
Several hundred train conductors working for Scottish rail transport company ScotRail held a one-day strike Sunday. They are also working to rule. The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members are protesting being paid a lower rate of overtime than train drivers. Further strikes are planned for April 4, 11, 18 and 25.
Further Scotland-wide strike by college lecturers
Lecturers at 26 further education colleges across Scotland began a two-day strike Wednesday, following a one-day strike last week.
Educational Institute of Scotland Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) members are protesting plans by the employers’ body, Colleges Scotland, to replace lecturer posts with lower-paid instructor posts. Further two-day strikes are planned after the Easter holiday break, with plans to escalate to three days.
In addition, lecturers at West Lothian college in Scotland voted by an 87 percent majority on a 54 percent turnout to take industrial action short of strike action on the same issue. These instructor posts will be on lower pay, have more contact time, less time for preparation and lower leave allowance.
Occupation by university students in Edinburgh, Scotland
UK students on rent strike at Edinburgh University, Scotland occupied halls of residence on March 26, after receiving letters from university authorities demanding unpaid rent. The rent strike began after face-to-face teaching was replaced by inadequate remote learning with poor Wi-Fi connections. The students were still expected to pay full rent and tuition fees in spite of their inadequate student experience.
Lecturers at Scottish college being balloted over compulsory redundancy threat
Lecturers at Argyll college in Scotland are being balloted for strike action over the threat of compulsory redundancies. The EIS-FELA branch members voted by a 76 percent majority on an 82 percent turnout in a consultative vote to ballot for strike action. Lecturers in the college are also taking part in the Scotland-wide programme of industrial action over the downgrading of lecture posts, replacing lower graded instructor posts. The ballot over compulsory redundancies began on March 26 and closes April 15.
Post workers in southwest England walk out in support of sacked colleague
Around 100 postal workers in the English town of Bridgwater walked out on Thursday over the dismissal of a colleague with 26 years of service. The members of the Communications Workers Union returned to work later in the day. The postal worker who was dismissed was due to retire shortly.
Management had dismissed the postal worker for alleged poor attendance. Colleagues who walked out in his defence say his health problems were not taken into account. Postal workers at the same depot walked out in November 2020 over the dismissal of a young colleague.
Walkout by London United bus drivers
Bus drivers working for French owned RATP subsidiary, London United began a 48-hour strike Wednesday with further action planned for April 7 and 14. The company operates services in south and west London. The Unite union members are opposing attacks on pay and conditions. Drivers face losing up to £2,500 work longer hours.
Drivers at two other London RATP subsidiaries had been involved in strike action over pay and conditions, London Sovereign and Quality Line but the Unite union called off these strikes after pushing through rotten pay deals. Strikes at London United had also been suspended for talks but these broke down and strike action resumed.
Strike by aerospace workers at UK plant escalates
Around 200 workers at the UK aircraft parts manufacturer SPS Technologies in Leicester began all out continuous strike action on Monday, due to last until June 3. They had previously held one-day strikes beginning in March.
The Unite union members are opposing company plans to “fire and rehire,” imposing a new contract which will mean an annual wage loss of between £2,500 and £3,000. SPS Technologies is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, an American conglomerate owned by billionaire Warren Buffett.
Last year 60 workers were made redundant. Many of the workers involved in the dispute have decades of service with the company.
Further strike action by British Telecom engineers
Around 170 British Telecom Openreach Repayment Project Engineers held a three-day strike beginning Monday. This follows a five-day strike beginning March 18 and two- and three-day strikes.
The Communication Workers Union members voted by an 86 percent majority on a 94 percent turnout for action to defend jobs, terms and conditions as a result of regrading.
Strike action by outsourced staff in hospital in northwest England
Around 150 UK hospital staff comprising catering staff, cleaners, porters and switchboard staff at Cumberland Infirmary in northwest England began a two-day strike on March 26. The Unison union members are employed by outsourcing company Mitie.
They are seeking pay parity with directly employed NHS staff. NHS workers receive enhanced pay at time and a half and double time for overnight and weekend work, which the Mitie employees do not receive, leaving them severely out of pocket. They have already held two days of strike action over the last month.
The North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, says it included a tranche of money to cover unsocial hours payments when Mitie took over the roles. Mitie states it never received this payment.
Teachers and support staff at London school strike over sick pay
Around 150 UK teachers and support staff at the Beal High school in the London borough of Redbridge walked out on March 25, the first of six days of planned strikes.
The National Education Union (NEU) members voted by a 60 percent majority on a more than 80 percent turnout for action. They are demanding all teachers and support staff be entitled to the nationally agreed sick pay. They accuse Beacon Academy Trust that runs the school of applying inferior sick pay terms to staff employed after 2016.
Further action by teachers at Leaways School in London
Teachers at the Leaways School in the inner London borough of Hackney were on strike Tuesday and Wednesday this week. It follows two days of strikes last week, and six in December. Leaways is a special school run by the Kedleston group, providing support to children with emotional, social, and mental health problems.
The NEU members are demanding a 2.75 percent parity pay rise as given to local authority teachers, as opposed to the one percent offered. They are calling for additional teaching staff with specialist knowledge to meet the needs of the students and are also protesting the dismissal of two teachers since the dispute began. They accuse the school management of bullying.
Further strike in defence of sacked teacher at three Shrewsbury College sites
UK teachers at three Shrewsbury College sites were on strike Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The NEU members mounted socially distanced picket lines in defence of NEU rep John Boken, who has been charged with gross misconduct and issued with a final warning.
He is currently seeking an overturn of the final warning, and an appeal hearing has been set to begin in April. A petition on his behalf lodged on change.org has so far attracted over 1,400 signatures.
Strike by IT staff at London tenant referencing service
Around 20 UK staff working for Goodlord in London are continuing their indefinite strike, begun March 1. On February 22 they began discontinuous strikes, before escalating on March 1. Goodlord provides checks on potential tenants for estate agents.
The Unite union members, employed by the company on rolling fixed-term contracts, took action after the company cut their pay by 20 percent, a form of fire and rehire. Under the new contract they would see salary cuts of up to £6,000 leaving staff on around £18,000, less than the current London Living wage of £21,157. Unite has called for Goodlord to lose its Living Wage Foundation accreditation, as the pay cut would mean it no longer qualifies.
Bus drivers at Southampton company to ballot for industrial action
UK drivers at Bluestar bus company in Southampton are to be balloted for industrial action. The RMT union members are calling for the reinstatement of union branch secretary Declan Clune. Bluestar sacked Clune after he reported a bus hitting a rail bridge to Network Rail.
An RMT press release noted, “A Director’s Review of the matter of the dismissal has now been granted and our officials will be putting a strong case for reinstatement and to right this wrong. The company should seize this opportunity to reinstate Declan rather than provoking an industrial dispute and action by our members.”
Engineers servicing fighter planes in northern England end their strike
After more than 20 days of strikes, UK engineers employed by Babcock International servicing fighter planes at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire have returned to work.
The Unite union members were protesting a disparity in overtime pay with colleagues carrying out similar duties at RAF Valley in Wales. The Leeming workers say they were around £5,000 a year worse off than their Welsh counterparts.
Workers accepted an offer from Babcock of a £1,500 a year, and a 2.5 percent pay rise backdated to April last year.
Teachers at school in Birmingham, England to strike over redundancies
UK teachers at Starbank secondary and primary schools in Yardley, Birmingham plan to strike from April 20 to 29, after the Star Academy which runs the schools threatened to push through 67 redundancies in April. The teachers are members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. Star Academy says the redundancies will offset a £4 million deficit.
Driver and vehicle registration staff at Welsh site to strike after Easter
Workers at the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency based in Wales will strike for four days from April 6. The strike will involve operational staff. They will also begin an overtime ban and work to rule from April 10. The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members voted by a near 72 percent majority on a turnout of just over 50 percent for the action.
They are protesting that the DVLA forced around 2,000 workers to attend the DVLA office during the last COVID-19 lockdown. Previously they let staff work from home. Since September last year there have been more than 600 cases of staff testing positive for COVID-19, the most in one workplace in the UK. One worker employed there died of Covid.
Union calls off UK passport control staff at Heathrow airport strike
The PCS has suspended a week-long strike of around 450 UK passport control staff at Heathrow airport, planned from April 1, and entered talks with management. This follows a work-to-rule and overtime ban begun March 24 until April 21. In January workers voted by nearly 97 percent on a 68 percent turnout for strike action.
The PCS members are opposed to roster changes imposed on them by Border Force management. Border Force comes under the auspices of the UK government Home Office. The roster changes make it difficult for staff with disabilities or caring responsibilities to carry out their work duties.
Strike vote by staff at UK retail chain
In a consultative ballot of workers at the UK general retail chain Wilko, 88 percent voted in favour of striking. The GMB union members are opposed to cuts in sick pay imposed by the company. Previously staff were entitled to four periods of sick leave with company sick pay per year. However, from February 1 they would lose their entitlement to sick pay after the first period of sickness. Many of the 21,000 workers affected are on low pay and part time contracts. Wilko workers have continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proposed strike by UK Isle of Wight ferry workers called off
In January, workers on the Wightlink ferry route, which operates services between the Isle of Wight and the UK mainland, voted overwhelmingly to strike. The RMT members were opposed to plans by the company to close the defined benefit pension scheme and reintroduce a flexible working roster used in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dates were set for 18 days of strike action in April, covering the Easter period and in May and June. In early March, the RMT announced the suspension of the proposed stoppages citing commitments made by Wightlink. Following this the company tabled re-negotiated proposals on pensions and changes to working terms and conditions. Ferry workers returned a vote of 173 in favour of the re-negotiated proposals, with 21 rejecting them.
Workers at catering company in Portugal strike against collective dismissals
Workers at the catering company Eurest in Lisbon, Portugal took one day of strike action on Friday, after the company announced collective dismissals affecting 146 employees.
The FESAHT union is quoted in Notícias ao Minuto criticising the company for dismissing the workers after having laid off 116 workers recently. The union’s only defence of jobs has been a single day of isolated strike action.
Portuguese manufacturing workers at mould company strike over fixed shifts
Workers at the mould manufacturer MDA in Oliveira de Azeméis in Portugal went on strike on Friday, protesting in front of the factory against changes to shift patterns which left some workers permanently on the night shift. According to JN, workers at the factory previously alternated between early and late shifts but complained that the company’s unilateral change in policy leaves some of them with no possibility of enjoying family life. The loss of the shift allowance means a 15 percent pay reduction.
Russian drivers for construction company in St. Petersburg win wage rise
Drivers at the Petrovich construction company in St. Petersburg, Russia received a pay rise following a strike on Monday morning. According to RIA, several dozen drivers gathered in the warehouse and stopped work to protest their low wages. After management negotiated with them and agreed a higher wage, the drivers returned to work.
Unions end Bucharest metro occupation in Romania
On Saturday, workers at Metrorex ended their protest and occupation which had paralysed the subway in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. The occupation began early on Friday. According to company estimates, around 600 workers and traders took part.
The city had attempted to shut down commercial spaces inside the stations, prompting anger among the traders. In response to government allegations that the USLM union took the action because it had a commercial interest in the spaces, the union cited salary cuts, layoffs and working conditions as causing the anger of metro workers, reports AGERPRES.
Local and national politicians made inflammatory comments, calling the protesting workers “mafia” and “terrorists,” and threatening draconian legal consequences. After a meeting between the unions, management and representatives of the strikers, chaired by Bucharest city prefect Alin Stoica, Stoica announced that “People have understood that it is important to stop the protest.” The lines resumed service on Saturday without any concessions being announced.
Moroccan teachers hold three-day strike
Teachers in Morocco began a three-day strike on March 23. They were protesting the temporary fixed-term contracts of teachers employed since 2016. These contracts offered less security and lower pensions and restrict where teachers can apply for new teaching posts.
Previously teachers were appointed as public servants. Teachers fear the dilution of their conditions is a prelude to ending public education.
Peaceful protests by thousands of teachers in the capital, Rabat on March 16 and 17, were violently attacked by riot and plainclothes police. Teachers have held regular protests in Rabat and other major Moroccan cities.
Demonstrations by Turkish auto workers
Turkish auto workers at the South Korean-owned Hyundai factory in Izmit held demonstrations on March 25 and 26, over an inadequate pay rise for 2021. On March 26, they refused to board shuttle buses to take them home and instead gathered outside the factory. Police with water cannons were called. The company has refused to allow workers to join a union.
Protests and strikes in Lebanon
Lebanese workers held protests on Saturday and Sunday over deteriorating living conditions. On Saturday, protestors gathered outside the presidential palace in Baabda, while on Sunday demonstrators marched to the Economy Ministry in Beirut. The Lebanese currency has lost around 90 percent of its value, leaving those without access to dollars in dire straits.
Bassam Tleiss, president of the general confederation of transport unions, announced a strike by transport workers to take place April 7. Among the issues is the continuing rise in fuel prices.
Ongoing protests by Iranian workers
On Saturday, workers at the southwestern city of Ahvaz’s Water and Sewage Enterprise protested over wage arrears. They have not been paid for the last two months.
Also Saturday, Haft Tapeh sugar cane factory workers held a further protest in their long-running dispute. They gathered outside the factory security office to denounce the sacking of eight workers and reduction in the length of contracts of other workers.
Workers at the state-owned Pars Pamchal factory in Tehran took action over five months wage arrears. The chemical company produces paint products. Workers seized 15 tons of paint to sell off in lieu of their five months wage arrears.
Nigerian doctors strike over salary arrears
Resident doctors in Nigeria began an indefinite strike on April 1 over mounting salary arrears and unpaid COVID-19 inducement allowances.
Other demands include a review of the hazard allowance to 50 percent of the basic salary, and payment of death in service insurance to all health workers who fall victim to COVID-19. Many doctors in state-run hospitals have not been paid any COVID-19 inducement allowance.
Abia State University Teaching Hospitals owe some staff 20 months’ salary arrears, Imo State University Teaching Hospitals five months and University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospitals three months.
Resident (learners and care providers) doctors comprise a large proportion of all doctors in Nigerian tertiary (specialist) hospitals.
Nigeria reported 162,891 coronavirus cases and 2,057 deaths.
Nigerian tanker drivers threaten action over tanker explosions
Tanker drivers in Nigeria are threatening to strike over the lack of action in fitting safety valves to their vehicles, despite a Federal Government commitment to make them mandatory. The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers members are threatening strike action from May 1.
In January this year, a tanker exploded causing the deaths of a woman and three children, and leaving 11 others with severe burns in Agbor, Delta State. In March, a tanker carrying petrol exploded near a filling station in Ogun State causing a fire at the facility.
The lack of safety is combined with deteriorating pay for a workforce considered essential workers.
Teachers in Mauritania stage three-day strike for better pay and conditions
Starting March 22, teachers in Mauritania took strike action for three days to demand improvements in their pay and living conditions. Teachers held large protests at the Education Ministry offices in the capital Nouakchott, as well as in other regions.
The teaching unions in Mauritania formed the Coordination for the Defence of Teachers (CDE) that regularly engages in fruitless talks with the government. The CDE combines four unions in secondary and technical education.
Despite the unions’ best efforts to contain it, there is growing anger over worsening conditions, especially in the public sector.
South African health workers in Limpopo threaten strike over work conditions
Over 50 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers in Limpopo province, South Africa, stopped work and picketed hospitals and clinics on Monday, threatening further stoppages in protest at work rotas imposed on them without consultation.
The seven unions representing the workers, including the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, the National Health, Education and Allied Workers’ Union, the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa and the Public Servants’ Association, reached an agreement with the provincial health department earlier in March, and suspended an intended strike.
The department had warned workers that any strike would not be protected as they provided an essential service. They also threatened to withdraw the COVID-19 vaccine from strikers.
Workers say the health department has reneged on the agreement and are again threatening a stoppage. The unions demanded the removal of the health department head, and the intervention of the provincial council’s member for health to avoid a strike.
South Africa has 1,548,157 coronavirus cases, with 52,846 fatalities.