Europe-wide general strike on Sept. 29

general strike poster

"No to Austerity! Priority for Jobs and Growth"

Perhaps for the first time in many years, a Europe-wide general strike will be launched against the austerity measures recently adopted  by many European countries, and to demand recovery plans in favour of decent and quality jobs. The general strike is the culmination of a series of workers’ demonstrations rocking many parts of the region as European governments impose spending cuts on social services and new tax measures as proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Major unions and federations are expected to participate in the 24-hour all-Europe strike, including the European Trade Union Confederation, UK’s biggest public sector union Unison, and Portugal’s 750,000-strong CGTP union. Millions from other sectors are also expected to join the mass rallies across Europe. Around 80 percent of European flights will be on standstill on the day of the strike.

The International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), a broad global anti-imperialist front, has expressed its support and solidarity for European workers in connection with the Sept. 29 Day of Action.  It also called its member organizations and allies in Europe to participate in the general strike. In a statement, ILPS said the Sept. 29 massive protest is “aimed at protesting the rising rate of unemployment, the lowering of wage levels, the attack on pensions and the cutting back of social services as a result of austerity measures being imposed by the European governments.”

Below is a quick glance on previous and pending mass actions by various federations/ workers’ organizations from UK to Spain and to Poland (Source: Reuters):

* FRANCE:

June 24 — French unions held nationwide strikes in which thousands of workers protested against pension reforms, challenging Sarkozy who has vowed not to back down.

Sept 7 — French trade unions mounted a show of strength with strikes and massive street protests against pension reforms raising the retirement age to 62 from 60 by 2018.

Sept 22/23 – Union-organized strikes disrupted rail and air traffic and schools, forcing airlines to cancel 40-50 percent of flights and halving intercity rail services. The union action was in protest against plans to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60.

* GREECE:

May 4-5 — Public sector workers staged a 48-hour nationwide strike. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence in which demonstrators fought police and three people were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a bank.

June 23 — Communist trade unionists prevented travelers from boarding ships at Greece’s largest port, stranding tourist ferries as part of protests against austerity measures.

June 29 — Police fired teargas at rioters shouting “burn parliament” in Athens. About 12,000 people joined marches during a 24-hour strike against drastic pension reforms.

July 8 — About 12,000 people took to the streets to urge lawmakers not to vote for a drastic pension reform which would raise the retirement age to 65 for all. It was the unions’ sixth 24-hour strike against austerity measures.

Sept 11 — About 20,000 people marched through the city of Thessaloniki to protest against austerity measures.

Sept 21 – About 2,000 truck drivers chanting “Thieves, thieves, thieves” marched in Athens to protest against a bill which would open their sector to greater competition.

— Public sector union ADEDY called a 24-hour strike on October 7 to protest against government austerity policies, including wage and pension cuts to slash deficits.

— ADEDY, which numbers half a million civil servants, asked the country’s highest court to nullify the memorandum the government signed with the European Commission and the IMF in exchange for emergency funding. Sept 22 – Lawmakers voted to open up road freight to competition, prompting angry truck drivers to block the two main roads to Athens and clash with police in front of parliament.

Sept 23 – Communist group PAME and smaller unions representing workers, retailers, farmers and students held a protest rally against the government’s austerity measures, at Omonoia Square in central Athens.

Sept 29 — Greek workers plan to rally in collaboration with other unions planning rallies and strikes across Europe.

* SPAIN:

June 8 – The two largest unions called a one-day protest strike against planned labor reforms and said that up to 75 percent of the 2.3 million public sector workers stayed away from work.

June 22 – Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s minority government won approval for its labor reform bill in parliament after opposition parties abstained.

June 30 – Underground rail workers walked off the job for a third day causing traffic jams in Madrid. The halt affected 2 million commuters.

Sept 29 – Spain’s two biggest unions, traditional supporters of the ruling Socialist party, announced a one-day general strike against austerity on September 29, in coordination with other unions in Europe.

— Spanish trade unions agreed after talks with the government to provide a minimum of between 20 and 40 percent of international flights during the general strike.

* ITALY:

June 12 – Thousands marched in Rome to protest against austerity measures such as cuts in funding to local authorities and a freeze on public sector salaries.

June 25 – The CGIL, Italy’s biggest union with 6 million members, held rallies in Rome, Milan and other cities to try to force the government to redraft its austerity package.

October – Italian unions plan a nationwide demonstration in early October to press for tax reforms and economic growth, but Italy’s relatively smooth passage through the financial crisis has contained labor discontent.

* GERMANY:

June 12 – Thousands protested against Germany’s biggest austerity drive since World War Two after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet unveiled plans for 80 billion euros ($96.30 billion) in budget cuts and tax rises over four years.

Sept 20 – German steelworkers sent a message to employers announcing the start of limited work stoppages. The move, intended to strengthen the hand of 85,000 workers in wage negotiations, suggested German unions were emboldened by sinking unemployment and faster-than-expected economic recovery.

* CZECH REPUBLIC:

Sept 21 – Around 40,000 nurses, police officers and clerks marched through Prague to protest against a plan to cut public sector wages, but the government was determined to push on with its deficit-cutting program. The protest was the first test of the new center-right cabinet’s resolve to narrow the budget gap to 4.6 percent of GDP in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2010.

* PORTUGAL:

May 29 – Thousands marched in Lisbon against government austerity measures. The leader of the biggest union vowed to intensify resistance but stopped short of calling a strike. The rally was the first display of popular discontent since May 13, when the government announced a package including tax rises and cuts in pay and spending.

Sept 29 – Portugal’s largest 750,000-strong CGTP union said it would intensify labor actions starting this month. Together with other unions in Europe, the CGTP plans to hold strikes and rallies in various sectors on Sept 29.

* POLAND:

Sept 22 — Around 5,000 public service workers, including policemen and firemen, protested in central Warsaw against plans to freeze their salaries in 2011 as part of a government drive to cut state spending. Protesters marched to parliament and handed in a petition demanding a repeal of austerity measures planned in the 2011 draft budget.

* BRITAIN:

Sept 7 – A 24-hour strike by workers on London’s underground rail system disrupted much of the network, slowing the journey of millions of commuters. The stoppage was called in protest against 800 job cuts driven by austerity measures. Underground staff plan further strikes on Oct 3, Nov 2, Nov 28.

Sept 12 – The coalition government defended plans to cut the welfare bill and warned that failing to reduce spending would profoundly damage the economy as it recovers from the worst recession since World War Two. The head of the Trades Union Congress, an umbrella group, said the public would not accept “eye-wateringly unfair” measures, and one transport union leader called for coordinated industrial action and civil disobedience.

Sept 29 – Britain’s biggest public sector trade union, Unison, has called workers to join a Europe-wide day of action and protest against the government’s austerity plans.

* SLOVENIA:

September — Public sector trade unions have threatened to strike on September 27 if the government proceeds with a plan to freeze public sector wages until the end of 2011 because the recession has reduced its income.

— Trade unions have warned that they will protest against the government pension reform plan which raises the retirement age to 65 for all from 57 for women and 58 for men at present.

* LITHUANIA:

Sept 29 — The Lithuania Confederation of Trade Unions, an umbrella organization representing 26 unions, plans to strike on September 29 as part of pan-European union action.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)

* FRANCE:
June 24 — French unions held nationwide strikes in which thousands of workers protested against pension reforms, challenging Sarkozy who has vowed not to back down.
Sept 7 — French trade unions mounted a show of strength with strikes and massive street protests against pension reforms raising the retirement age to 62 from 60 by 2018.
Sept 22/23 – Union-organized strikes disrupted rail and air traffic and schools, forcing airlines to cancel 40-50 percent of flights and halving intercity rail services. The union action was in protest against plans to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60.
* GREECE:
May 4-5 — Public sector workers staged a 48-hour nationwide strike. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence in which demonstrators fought police and three people were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a bank.
June 23 — Communist trade unionists prevented travelers from boarding ships at Greece’s largest port, stranding tourist ferries as part of protests against austerity measures.
June 29 — Police fired teargas at rioters shouting “burn parliament” in Athens. About 12,000 people joined marches during a 24-hour strike against drastic pension reforms.
July 8 — About 12,000 people took to the streets to urge lawmakers not to vote for a drastic pension reform which would raise the retirement age to 65 for all. It was the unions’ sixth 24-hour strike against austerity measures.
Sept 11 — About 20,000 people marched through the city of Thessaloniki to protest against austerity measures.
Sept 21 – About 2,000 truck drivers chanting “Thieves, thieves, thieves” marched in Athens to protest against a bill which would open their sector to greater competition.
— Public sector union ADEDY called a 24-hour strike on October 7 to protest against government austerity policies, including wage and pension cuts to slash deficits.
— ADEDY, which numbers half a million civil servants, asked the country’s highest court to nullify the memorandum the government signed with the European Commission and the IMF in exchange for emergency funding. Sept 22 – Lawmakers voted to open up road freight to competition, prompting angry truck drivers to block the two main roads to Athens and clash with police in front of parliament.
Sept 23 – Communist group PAME and smaller unions representing workers, retailers, farmers and students held a protest rally against the government’s austerity measures, at Omonoia Square in central Athens.
Sept 29 — Greek workers plan to rally in collaboration with other unions planning rallies and strikes across Europe.
* SPAIN:
June 8 – The two largest unions called a one-day protest strike against planned labor reforms and said that up to 75 percent of the 2.3 million public sector workers stayed away from work.
June 22 – Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s minority government won approval for its labor reform bill in parliament after opposition parties abstained.
June 30 – Underground rail workers walked off the job for a third day causing traffic jams in Madrid. The halt affected 2 million commuters.
Sept 29 – Spain’s two biggest unions, traditional supporters of the ruling Socialist party, announced a one-day general strike against austerity on September 29, in coordination with other unions in Europe.
— Spanish trade unions agreed after talks with the government to provide a minimum of between 20 and 40 percent of international flights during the general strike.
* ITALY:
June 12 – Thousands marched in Rome to protest against austerity measures such as cuts in funding to local authorities and a freeze on public sector salaries.
June 25 – The CGIL, Italy’s biggest union with 6 million members, held rallies in Rome, Milan and other cities to try to force the government to redraft its austerity package.
October – Italian unions plan a nationwide demonstration in early October to press for tax reforms and economic growth, but Italy’s relatively smooth passage through the financial crisis has contained labor discontent.
* GERMANY:
June 12 – Thousands protested against Germany’s biggest austerity drive since World War Two after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet unveiled plans for 80 billion euros ($96.30 billion) in budget cuts and tax rises over four years.
Sept 20 – German steelworkers sent a message to employers announcing the start of limited work stoppages. The move, intended to strengthen the hand of 85,000 workers in wage negotiations, suggested German unions were emboldened by sinking unemployment and faster-than-expected economic recovery.
* CZECH REPUBLIC:
Sept 21 – Around 40,000 nurses, police officers and clerks marched through Prague to protest against a plan to cut public sector wages, but the government was determined to push on with its deficit-cutting program. The protest was the first test of the new center-right cabinet’s resolve to narrow the budget gap to 4.6 percent of GDP in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2010.
* PORTUGAL:
May 29 – Thousands marched in Lisbon against government austerity measures. The leader of the biggest union vowed to intensify resistance but stopped short of calling a strike. The rally was the first display of popular discontent since May 13, when the government announced a package including tax rises and cuts in pay and spending.
Sept 29 – Portugal’s largest 750,000-strong CGTP union said it would intensify labor actions starting this month. Together with other unions in Europe, the CGTP plans to hold strikes and rallies in various sectors on Sept 29.
* POLAND:
Sept 22 — Around 5,000 public service workers, including policemen and firemen, protested in central Warsaw against plans to freeze their salaries in 2011 as part of a government drive to cut state spending. Protesters marched to parliament and handed in a petition demanding a repeal of austerity measures planned in the 2011 draft budget.
* BRITAIN:
Sept 7 – A 24-hour strike by workers on London’s underground rail system disrupted much of the network, slowing the journey of millions of commuters. The stoppage was called in protest against 800 job cuts driven by austerity measures. Underground staff plan further strikes on Oct 3, Nov 2, Nov 28.
Sept 12 – The coalition government defended plans to cut the welfare bill and warned that failing to reduce spending would profoundly damage the economy as it recovers from the worst recession since World War Two. The head of the Trades Union Congress, an umbrella group, said the public would not accept “eye-wateringly unfair” measures, and one transport union leader called for coordinated industrial action and civil disobedience.
Sept 29 – Britain’s biggest public sector trade union, Unison, has called workers to join a Europe-wide day of action and protest against the government’s austerity plans.
* SLOVENIA:
September — Public sector trade unions have threatened to strike on September 27 if the government proceeds with a plan to freeze public sector wages until the end of 2011 because the recession has reduced its income.
— Trade unions have warned that they will protest against the government pension reform plan which raises the retirement age to 65 for all from 57 for women and 58 for men at present.
* LITHUANIA:
Sept 29 — The Lithuania Confederation of Trade Unions, an umbrella organization representing 26 unions, plans to strike on September 29 as part of pan-European union action.
(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)

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