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Widespread strikes in European aviation industry continue

Workers at airlines and airports throughout Europe continue to fight to improve working conditions, made unendurable by increasing passenger numbers and record low staffing levels, and to win back concessions made by the unions during the pandemic.

Italian pilots and flight attendants will walk out for four hours on Sunday, as part of a national strike at Ryanair, EasyJet, Volotea, and ENAV, ADN reported. The CGIL and Uiltrasporti unions initially called a 24-hour strike, but a government commission restricted it to four hours. Air traffic controllers and ground crew will also stop work. The following weekend, airline workers at Ryanair in France and Belgium will hold a two-day strike, while Spanish pilots at the company continue a series of stoppages begun in June.

Ryanair aircraft, 2019 [Photo by TJDarmstadt / Flickr / CC BY 4.0]

In France, 200 workers at Bordeaux airport began a four-day strike on July 8, according to Ouest France, and a walkout took place at Lyon airport on Wednesday. A strike at Roissy airport near Paris ended July 8, after workers voted to accept a deal signed by the unions and Aéroports de Paris (ADP). 20 Minutes reported that the deal involves a general pay increase of three percent, while inflation is approaching six percent, and most unions at ADP accepted a pay cut at the beginning of the pandemic.

Pilots’ strike continues at Scandinavian airline SAS

Around 900 pilots at the Scandinavian airline SAS continue an indefinite strike begun July 4. They are demanding a new collective agreement, and opposing the company’s “recovery plan,” which involves vicious attacks on conditions.

Supporting the pilots, 200 mechanics in Denmark began a sympathy strike last week, refusing to service any SAS aircraft until a new agreement is reached. The company was accused by the unions and much of the media of provoking the strike to accelerate its own restructuring plans, as it immediately sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US.

SAS suggested it will break its pattern of negotiating a single agreement across Scandinavia, and take advantage of strike-breaking laws to impose a separate agreement on Danish pilots. While the union representing Norwegian pilots declared that if the company went ahead with the plan, “an SAS plane will never take off in Norway again,” this was an empty threat.

The company behaved ruthlessly towards the strike, briefing the media daily on its claims the pilots will destroy the company, and locking out 650 cabin crew this week. The unions at SAS representing managers and lawyers, economists and senior engineers acted as another press agency for the company, calling the strike “treason” and promoting the “SAS Forward” cost-cutting plan.

Rather than intensifying or broadening the struggle against cost-cutting across the airline industry, the pilots’ unions have offered further concessions. In response to the management union’s attack, the chairman of the Danish Pilots Association told Berlingske they had offered savings to support SAS Forward, saying, “I have done everything I could with the other associations to avoid conflict.” Speaking to E24 after SAS demanded any settlement come with a 10-year strike ban, the head of the Norwegian Pilots’ Union said, “In desperation to avoid a strike on Monday, we threw in six years of peace.”

Workers at Mercedes-Benz in Vitoria, Spain continue strikes after CCOO and UGT unions agree to “flexible working”

On Wednesday, almost all 5,000 workers at Mercedes-Benz in the Spanish city of Vitoria began a three-day strike called by the ELA, LAB and ESK unions against a 1.2 billion euro “investment plan,” which the company said would come with increased “flexible working” and real pay cuts.

Spain’s two largest unions, the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and General Workers’ Union (UGT) both agreed to the plan after the company withdrew its plan to introduce a sixth night shift. Workers will vote on whether to accept the company/union agreement on Monday.

This week’s strike was called after the Basque-nationalist ELA, LAB and ESK denounced the CCOO and UGT for signing up to a plan which does not include a real-terms pay rise and full sick pay. The unions report 95 percent of workers walked out, completely stopping production, and are certain to reject the agreement.

Mercedes-Benz workers in Vitoria are heading for a major confrontation with the company. The plant’s director told Europa Press that a vote against the proposed deal would be “a bet towards the precipice,” and mark “the beginning of the end of the growth of this factory.”

Defeating the company’s plans for increased exploitation and likely attempts to move production away from the plant will require a unified struggle of Basque workers with the working class elsewhere in Spain, and across Europe and the rest of the world, where unions are enforcing attacks on workers’ conditions in a worldwide race to the bottom in the name of ensuring each factory is “competitive.”

Street cleaning and waste collection workers across Spain begin indefinite pay strikes

Throughout Spain, workers in street cleaning and waste collection are fighting for pay rises in line with inflation, and to defend working conditions.

On Monday, workers in the municipalities of Alcúdia in Majorca began an indefinite strike after voting down a proposal to suspend the strikes while the city council and unions negotiated. They were joined by workers in nearby Sa Pobla. The strikers are demanding a solution to the poor state of the vehicles they drive, and want mechanics to check them before they take them out.

In the Galician city of Vigo, around 500 workers will begin an indefinite strike on Friday, calling for a real-terms pay rise from FCC Environment, which operates the city’s street cleaning services. They will be joined on July 18 by workers at Urbaser, which holds the concession in Santiago de Compostela.

Italian taxi drivers begin wildcat strike following revelations about Uber’s lobbying

ANSA reported this week that Italian taxi drivers held a wildcat strike on Tuesday, and large protests following the publication of “the Uber Files” by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Last week, taxi drivers throughout Italy held a stoppage against the deregulation of the sector, which they said would allow Uber to gain a further foothold.

The Uber Files revealed tax dodging and aggressive lobbying by the company for favourable legislation from governments around the world. Taxi drivers in Barcelona also protested on Thursday, demanding the resignation of the president of the National Commission for Markets and Competition, appointed by the PSOE-Podemos government despite having worked as a legal advisor to Uber.

Pay strike of workers at Atışkan plaster company in Turkey continues into third week

Workers at the Atışkan plaster company in the Turkish city of Eskişehir have begun the third week of their indefinite strike. They walked out on June 30, when the Kristal-İş union did not reach a new collective agreement with the company.

Workers at Atışkan are paid only 200 to 300 lira above the minimum wage each month, and Kristal-İş is also demanding an increase in additional payments, such as fuel allowances.

In an interview with the newspaper Evrensel, strikers said they could not afford to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha over the weekend, with one saying, “My wife wants to go to her hometown for Eid al-Adha. She wants to see her family. But unfortunately, we cannot go. We can’t afford to pay for the travel expenses of three people. We can’t go to see our families, we can’t sacrifice [an animal], we can’t buy holiday clothes for children or ourselves.”

The union emphasised its willingness to reach a compromise which would see workers’ living standards fall, telling daily paper BirGün, “Our demands are not very high numbers. We demanded a net 30 percent increase in the salary we received in 2022.” The latest official figure for inflation in Turkey is 78.6 percent, but the independent Inflation Research Group said that year-on-year inflation in June was 175.6 percent.

German Amazon workers begin week of rolling strikes

Amazon workers in several German states began warning strikes last Sunday night, scheduled to last through this week. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that 300-350 workers in Leipzig joined a seven-day walkout, while around 700 workers in Bad Hersfeld were on strike from Monday to Wednesday.

The strikes were called by the United Services Union (Verdi), as part of a long-running dispute calling Amazon to join the collective agreement which applies to the rest of the retail and mail-order sector. Amazon claimed pay and benefits at the company are good, pointing to the wage of 12 euros per hour, but this is equal to the planned new rate for the national minimum wage. Verdi says that as other companies pay holiday bonuses, Amazon workers often earn below the average for the sector.

48-hour strike by German dock workers over pay

On Wednesday, dock workers in Germany’s North Sea ports began a 48-hour strike during pay negotiations between Verdi and the Central Association of German Seaports (ZDS). Workers demand a pay rise which compensates for high inflation.

The media widely reported on a previous pay offer from ZDS as “above inflation,” with the Green Party-aligned taz calling it “a whopping 12.5 percent more wages for the approximately 12,000 employees.” However, the Hamburger Abendblatt wrote that this rate only applied to workers in some companies, while others were offered between 5.5 and 9.6 percent.

Moreover, these figures would be over two years. At the current rate of inflation, prices will rise by 15.8 percent in two years, leaving even the workers offered the 12.5 percent worse off.

Strike in Greek universities against new higher education bill

Workers in Greek universities began a two-day strike on Wednesday, called by the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) to oppose a new “modernisation” higher education bill, being debated and voted on in parliament at the same time, according to Kathimerini.

902.gr reported that one student organisation protesting on Thursday wrote, “This law offers ‘upgrades’ and ‘modernisation’ for businesses. That is why it brings tailor-made curricula, why it brings tuition fees, why it is accompanied by the corresponding model of administration and intensity of repression.”

Workers in higher education also held a one-day strike last week against the bill.

UK rail strikes spread, with workers including train drivers to walk out over attacks on jobs, pay, safety and conditions

UK workers at railway operators and Network Rail, which manages track maintenance and signalling, will walk out on July 27. Network Rail workers rejected a five percent pay offer.

Drivers at eight rail operators also voted to walk out. Aslef members at Chiltern, GWR, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine and West Midlands rail companies voted 9-1 in 80 percent turnouts to strike against a three-year pay freeze. They will take action on July 30.


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