Interview: Trade Secrets
Industrial: It’s About Overtime, Stupid
Unions: Full Steam Ahead
Bad Boss: The BBQ Battle Axe
Economics: Different Dimensions of Debt
History: Raking the Coals
History Special: Wherever the Necessity Exists
History Special: Learning from the Past
History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Politics: Regime Change for Saddam
International: World War
Corporate: Industrious Thinking
Review: Jack High
Culture: Duffy’s Song
Satire: A Nation of Sooks
Poetry: Mr Flexibility
The Locker Room
Month In Review
Lessons from History
State Based Organising
Gino on the Gong
The whole continent seems to have become a battleground between a growing militant trade union movement and governments who want to privatise or corporations who want to downsize.
Union members throughout Europe seem to be chanting the old labour slogan: threaten one, threaten all.
There are solidarity strikes, marches and protests being reported everywhere.
The firefighters strike in the UK has become a cause celebre among union activists. Many are darkly talking about it as being the trigger for a historic end to the links between New Labour and the unions.
Last Tuesday was the worst day for strikes in London for two decades with the tabloid Fleet Street press in full-cry about militant unionism rearing its head again.
In France unions this week challenged the recently elected right-wing government's massive privatisation plans. Reports of strikes and blockades and street demonstrations by truckers, railway, subway and bus workers, air traffic controllers, nurses, civil servants, postal workers, telecoms, radio and TV workers dominated the nightly TV all this week. Hundreds of thousands of union members shook the cobblestone streets of Paris and other major French cities.
According to the International Transport Workers Federation, "unions from Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Austria and the Ukraine traveled to the Paris to show their solidarity" with the strikers.
In the UK working-class solidarity will be the theme of one of the biggest ever demonstrations of British union power expected on Saturday week to support the firefighters' strike.
The TUC has organised a huge union protest in the centre of London in support of the FBU - every major union in the UK has thrown their support behind the firefighters.
Many of the big public sector unions are now threatening to walk away from the Blair Labour Government's proposed civil service reforms if the PM does not sit down and do a deal with the FBU.
John Edmonds, leader of one of the UK's biggest unions, the GMB, has told the media: "This is no longer just a dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government - it has descended into a fight between the Government and the whole of the union movement."
At the same time as the firefighters walked out, we have had major teachers' strikes and local council worker strikes in London and the rest of the UK.
An interesting footnote to the industrial turmoil is a strike by a group of 'scab' coal miners scheduled for today. History will be playing in reverse when the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) stages its first strike.
The UDM was formed to "break" the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strike of 1984, with its members crossing NUM picket lines. But when the UDM members walks out on strike today, they face the likelihood of their NUM colleagues - who have never forgiven what UDM scabs did to their leader Arthur Scarbigll - will cross their picket lines.
* In Italy 20,000 workers, including many Fiat employees, marched in Rome against job cuts.
* In Germany: Verdi, the largest union in the country with 2.8 million members, is threatening a wave of warning strikes in December as part of its campaign for a 3% wage hike, which employers are refusing to meet. Private security workers - who are members of Verdi - are joining the strike after their bosses shook on a new union contract, walked out of the meeting and changed their minds. The head of the DGB, the German national trade union centre, has predicted that "it will be a dispute-filled winter."
* In Portugal: The main confederation of unions has called a general strike on 10 December to protest a proposed new labour law which threatens to take away the gains made following the country's 1974 democratic revolution.
These extraordinary developments are not limited to western Europe. The formerly-Communist Eastern European countries are also experiencing a wave of protests and strikes. In the last seven days we reported on these:
- Poland: Several thousand policemen, coal miners, steel workers and nurses have been marching through the cities chanting 'thieves' at the representatives of the government in Warsaw. The original trigger for the protests were government plans to close 'unprofitable' coal mines. But while nurses , police, steel workers and teachers have backed the coal workers, the mine union is backing the public sector workers who are angry at plans to cut back the civil service, the state sector and the contracting out of public functions.
- In Macedonia 500 miners - who have been on strike for a week - have now gone on a hunger strike to demand their unpaid wages.
- While next door in Croatia more than 1,500 angry workers from a bankrupt steel mill scuffled with riot police as they attempted to march towards the capital
to demand unpaid salaries.
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