Workers Struggles: Europe, Middle East & Africa

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National public transport strike in Italy against privatisation, insecure employment and low wages

On February 17, public transport workers throughout Italy joined a strike called by the “grassroots” union USB, calling for equal pay in the public and private sector, improvements to salary and working hours, and an end to outsourcing, insecure contracts and privatisation, Contropiano reported.

USB, which has attracted support by calling for an end to arms shipments to Ukraine and criticising the traditional union federations, reported large numbers joining the strike. In many cities at least half of transport workers and in a few cities upwards of 80 percent came out on strike. ANSA reported that services were reduced in Rome. In Italy’s second most populous city, Milan, three out of five underground lines were closed and almost all trams and buses were cancelled.

Greek healthcare workers strike over staffing levels, underfunding and privatisation

Healthcare workers held a national strike in Greece on Tuesday, demanding pay rises and adequate funding for health.

The Panhellenic Federation of Employees in Public Hospitals, one of the unions whose members walked out, denounced the government for spending only five percent of GDP on health, while the European average is 7.5 percent, and said “This is how the quality of services degrades, the system is privatised slowly but surely and citizens put their hands deep in their pockets to buy health services,” Alfavita reported.

Striking healthcare workers also denounced the planned conversion of the oncology departments of two children’s hospitals, including the largest in the country, into a separate legal entity, which would be the first step towards privatising it.

Two wildcat strikes in Turkey against union-backed pay deals

Workers at two factories in Turkey held wildcat strikes in the past week against below-inflation pay deals signed by their unions without their consent.

At GAMAK Motors in Istanbul, which employs nearly 1,300 workers, members of the Özçelik-İş union protested on February 17 and denounced it as a “bosses’ union” after it signed off on a 22 percent pay rise, Evrensel reported. This is below even the 57.7 percent inflation rate claimed by government statistics, although the independent Inflation Research Group estimates actual annual inflation at 121.6 percent. Workers called for a 90 percent pay rise, an end to job losses and for GAMAK to pay for private health insurance.

Workers at the Ünal synthetic fabrics factory in the city of Antep also walked out during the afternoon shift change on Tuesday, against the acceptance of a 58 percent pay offer by the company’s recognised union, Öz İplik İş, according to Evrensel. Like Özçelik-İş, Öz İplik İş is a member of the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions.

Joint strikes by health and education workers in Northern Ireland

Thousands of health and education workers in Northern Ireland walked out on Tuesday, fighting for improved pay.

Health workers at the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service were involved. GMB, Nipsa, Unison and Unite union members oppose the government offer of four to nine percent. RPI inflation is at 13.4 percent.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, NASUWT, NEU and the Ulster Teachers Union members were also on strike over pay. The Northern Ireland NEU say that in real terms teachers’ pay has fallen by around 40 percent since 2010.

The striking teachers and nurses held a joint rally outside Belfast City Hall, attended by thousands. Three feeder marches from hospital picket lines headed to the rally. A rally of striking workers also took place outside the Guildhall in Derry.

In England, the Royal College of Nurses called off planned strikes on Tuesday, ahead of talks aimed at a sellout.

UK junior doctors vote to strike over pay and conditions

Around 40,000 junior doctors (doctors below consultant level) in England voted by a 98 percent majority on a 77 percent turnout to strike over pay and conditions.

The British Medical Association (BMA) members rejected a two percent pay rise offered by the government. Junior doctors had agreed to a four year pay deal in 2019 giving them a two percent rise each year, but the sharp rise in inflation eroded the value of their pay.

The BMA press release announcing the ballot result this week explained, “We have had real terms pay cut of more than 26 percent since 2008. This year we were offered an insulting two percent pay, which means with inflation at over 10 percent we are working more than a month for free.”

It went on to say that the low pay and poor working conditions were driving many doctors to work abroad.

The BMA says it will hold a 72-hour strike by the doctors in March, but has not yet announced a date for walkouts.

In January, UK junior doctors belonging to the smaller Hospital Consultants and Specialist Association (HCSA) union voted by 97 percent majority on a 75 percent turnout to strike over pay. The HCSA has around 3,500 members. The HSCA announced its members will walk out on March 15, the first such action in its history.

Additional strike date announced by UK health union

UK National Health Service (NHS) nurses, ambulance workers, health care assistants, cleaners and porters in Unison will walk out over pay, staffing and patient care on March 8.

The Unison union announced the further strike of around 32,000 NHS workers to pressure the government into talks. Unison stated its concern at the Tory government’s decision to open pay talks with the RCN to the exclusion of other health unions, including Unison, Unite and the GMB.

In a press release announcing the strike, Unison’s general secretary, Christina McAnea stated, “There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care. Choosing to speak to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse.”

New sections of health workers will be included. The press release noted, “Health workers at NHS Blood and Transplant, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Bridgewater Community Trust will now be among those now walking out for the first time.”

Ambulance staff in all but one ambulance service in England will also strike that day. Ambulance staff working for South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands ambulance services will join the action after a strike vote taken last week.

Planned strikes by UK teachers over pay in danger of union sellout

Next week’s strikes by teachers in England may be called off after the National Education Union (NEU) was invited for talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

The NEU said it was “prepared to recommend a pause to strikes” to its national executive committee as “a sign of goodwill.”

NEU members held an England-wide strike on February 1 in pursuit of a 12 percent fully funded pay rise, after a 90 percent majority vote.

On February 28, teachers in the Northern, North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions plan to strike, with rallies in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

On March 1, strikes are planned in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Eastern regions, with rallies in Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham and Cambridge.

On March 2, teachers in the London, South East and South West (including Wales) regions plan to walk out, with rallies in Bristol, Plymouth, Chichester, Cardiff, Reading and the Oval cricket ground in London.

Teachers in Wales plan to strike on March 2, after rejecting a 1.5 percent extra offer from the Welsh Labour-run government. Following regional strikes, all teachers in England and Wales plan to walk out on March 15, budget day, and March16.

Further strikes by sections of UK civil service workers over pay and attacks on conditions

Sections of UK civil servants are continuing to take strike action. In November, 100,000 workers across 123 government departments voted to walk out over pay, attacks on jobs and pensions and reduction in redundancy terms.


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