Friday 29 September 2023

Europe overwhelmed by strikes and mobilizations due to the increase in the cost of living

Demonstrations, strikes, work stoppages that have been taking place in different European cities for several months, are beginning to form a coordinated struggle by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) which could lead to a social crisis and generalized policy throughout the continent at the end of a winter intensified by economic and energy shortages.

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29 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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Q REPORTS (AFP) Belgium – The sharp drop in the purchasing power of wage earners in a scenario of high inflation-fueled national strikes in Belgium and Greece on Wednesday, has mobilized unions in Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

Strikes, protests, paralysis of transport, workers on the street throughout Europe, warn of a foreseeable outbreak of social discontent due to the economic crisis resulting from the sanctions against Russia.

The entire region faces an exponential increase in energy costs at a time when the boreal winter is approaching, and also lives with persistent inflation of 10%, in an explosive scenario that generates impatience and concern in the population.

Thus, the trade union centrals that convene these measures of force coincide in affirming that salaries currently do not allow facing the rising cost of living.

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On Wednesday, Belgian unions called for a national strike to protect the purchasing power of wages, with train service suspended and supermarkets closed.

At the capital’s main airport, Brussels-Zaventem, 60% of scheduled flights have been canceled due to lack of personnel on operational platforms.

Meanwhile, the Charleroi airport (the main hub of the Ryanair company on the European continent) remained closed, with all its takeoffs canceled.

The national strike was called by the country’s largest trade union confederation, the Belgian General Federation of Labor (FGTB, socialist), with the support of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC).

François Reman, spokesman for the CSC, stated that the unions demand “to be able to negotiate salary increases when possible”.

In Brussels, barely a quarter of rail service was running on Wednesday.

Claims in Greece

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Meanwhile, Greece was also moving in slow motion on Wednesday in the wake of a nationwide protest over rising consumer prices.

Wednesday morning, Athens, a city where traffic is usually heavy, seemed like an abandoned place, as buses, trams, subways, suburban trains, and taxis were totally suspended.

Maritime connections between mainland Greece and islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas had also been suspended, as the union that operates those lines also joined the strike.

Called by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), the main promoter of the strike, some 20,000 people gathered in the capital, Athens, to protest the dramatic effect that these combined crises have on wages.

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“The increase in the cost of living is unbearable,” denounced the GSEE, which also called for “a rise in wages and social protection for all.”

The Greek government announced that it has prepared an aid plan so that the population can face the high energy rates, but the unions affirm that it is just a pre-election measure, eight months before general elections.

General dissatisfaction

Simultaneously, in the UK, the Royal College of Nursing (RNC), which represents nearly half a million nurses, is due to announce the first national strike in its 106-year history at any time.

Other workers linked to the public health area (such as ambulance personnel or hospital porters and even cleaning personnel) also participated in an RNC consultation that could lead to a stoppage.

The British government has said it has emergency plans in place for a strike by paramedics, but the announcement has not allayed fears about the strike’s impact on a sector still struggling to recover from the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In France, several union centrals called for Thursday a one-day national strike that should paralyze transport in the capital Paris, in protest at the rise in prices.

In principle, seven subway lines will have interrupted service, and another seven will operate only during peak hours. Only two automated lines – which do not use drivers – will work normally.

This long-planned strike is being combined with a call for national mobilization by the most influential of the unions, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).

That union core calls for an improvement in the minimum wage and the indexing of wages to inflation.

In Spain, the Platform in Defense of Transport, a group of freelancers and small freight transport companies, called for a cessation of activities for next Monday. This sector had staged a harsh 20-day strike last March.

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